Addiction can be so powerful that we slowly begin to lose the things we most cherish – our relationships with family and friends, our employment and chances of success, even our will to live. Despite wresting us from the things we most love, our body and minds can somehow conspire against recovery and at the root of this resistance, is often a fear of change. There can be no progress without change, yet the fear of failure is often so great that we resist it, clinging to our known habits and ways; ‘better the Devil you know’, we say, though in the case of an addiction to drugs or alcohol, we know, deep inside, that the old adage simply doesn’t apply.

Change is actually not as big an obstacle as we might imagine. One of the ‘gold standard’ therapies in addiction recovery, is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Its aims include highlighting the connection between how we think, feel, and behave. By changing one of these elements, the others can be affected in positive ways. One small change in how we normally behave in a given situation, for instance, can affect our view on a person, group or the situation itself. A trained counsellor can help us set specific goals using CBT, teaching us how to identify our triggers for addiction and revealing useful strategies to deal with tiredness, stress, and anxiety (which are some of the most common triggers for relapse). Often, we seek release from drugs and alcohol because we may have already reached such a high level of stress that our ‘fight or flight’ response is invoked. When it all becomes too cumbersome, a recovering addict can be tempted to choose flight…

Mindfulness is another therapy which is very popular in top rehabilitation centres across the globe. It teaches us how to remain ‘in the here and now’ and as we do so, we build a stronger connection with our mind and body and we begin to recognise symptoms of stress, hunger, tiredness etc., so we can act before these manifest themselves in an anxiety attack or, worse yet, an episode of relapse.

The hardest decision we can ever make, is that of seeking help. Yet under the guiding hand of an experienced and specialised counsellor, we can obtain the very best of many existing programmes and therapies (including the 12-step programme and CBT), so that counselling becomes a big support basis and we never need to feel that we are alone in our journey towards recovery.

Your counsellor will help you comprehend the many influences on your addictive behaviour. Addiction sometimes has a genetic link, but often, it is tied to your childhood and upbringing (including your family life, school life, health issues, cultural values etc.). Where you are at in your life at the current moment is also an issue of vital importance – how do you manage your emotions and how do you deal with failure? What are your life values and wherein lies your personal motivation to change? It is also important to address any trauma or difficult experiences and relationships that may have influenced your addiction, as well as factors such as education, culture, economics, age, etc.

By analysing these factors, your counsellor can work alongside you to identify specific areas you need to work on – these can include self-esteem, anxiety, relationship and conflict resolution skills, etc.

Once the root of your addiction is identified and targets are set, you can then concentrate on specific strategies to avoid relapse – you might be surprised to learn that in addition to counselling, what best works for you, is exercise, yoga, or dance! It is also vital to always have your primary motivation in mind – what factors are most influential in prompting you to change and stay on track? The strongest motivating factors can include holding down a job or working your way up the corporate ladder, building a rich and fulfilling family life, being a good athlete, enjoying your favourite hobbies and activities, etc.

Change can be scary, but it often is just a matter of ‘getting on with it’; of making small yet significant changes, one step at a time, which soon bring benefits and an improved state of mind. Change also enables you to build bonds and establish close relationships. As relationships expert, Dr. Harriet Lerner PhD once said, “Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.”

this is an article by Helen Springer

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