Do you realize that addiction is a problem?
Have you admitted this to yourself and others?
Can you leave substance abuse for good to achieve a better life?
There are people who have managed to halt substance abuse, overcome their addictions and move on to lead more productive lives.
You can also do it!
Stopping addiction is possible— take the examples of a few clients who have successfully done so with some help:
“Once I started to drink, I would not want to stop. One drink would lead to 20 drinks, making me a different person— slurring, being mean, making fun of others, vomiting, and passing out… The next day I wouldn’t even remember what happened! My kids started to notice, and that’s when I knew I needed to take control.” Alice, 34 is sober today with the help of psychotherapy.
“I started consuming marijuana with friends to be cool. It helped me to relax, talk confidently and be part of the group. However, after around 6 months, I realised that I didn’t even enjoy my time with them if I hadn’t consumed drugs! Moreover, I became worried as I started to forget things. I wanted to stop.” Ajay, 18 is not consuming marijuana today with the help of psychotherapy.
There are three big steps to follow when managing addiction:
1. Motivate yourself: motivate yourself to leave substance addiction. Get educated about its harmful and long-lasting effects, and look at the bigger picture of a good life without it.
2. Understand addiction: understand that addiction is a disease which rewires the brain’s reward system. The brain’s system becomes dependent upon the addictive substance for reward. Realise that you can rewire it!
3. Manage through moderation: manage the addiction either by putting stops on it or moderating it to minimize side effects. This can be ascertained with help from a trained mental health professional.
Remember, there are mental health experts who can help you along every step of the way.
While recovering from substance abuse, there are mental and physical side effects which one needs to face and take care of in the right way to avoid relapse. These include stress, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and interpersonal problems, all of which can be very exhaustive. Experts emphasise that support and expert help are especially needed during this time. Below are a few tried and tested self-help methods that are supported by research:
1. Distract yourself : look for activities to help you stay away from addiction, as well as people who motivate you and help you manage stress. Explore your old hobbies and develop new lifestyle changes. Studies have shown that engaging in mindful indoor activities like art, reading, cooking, movie watching, sewing, crocheting and more can help distract and destress at the same time. Moreover, physical activities like running, hiking, aerobics, swimming, and dancing release endorphins which help to reward the brain in absence of the addictive substance. Changes in lifestyle habits immensely helps one’s mind to be away from drugs and rewire the reward system.
2. Practice meditation and mindfulness: mediation and mindful exercises can help you stay fit and check on any withdrawal symptoms. By using meditation and mindfulness, one can stay away from both drugs and the people who use them. Participating in yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, or other types of wellness programs and activites can help you release stress, calm down, and stay focused on what’s important in life.
3. Spend time with loved ones: during the recovery phase, one might experience panic attacks or anxiety about not getting drugs. Social support is crucial during times like this, and reaching out to supportive friends and family or joining a community organization or religious group has been proved to be very helpful. Make plans to be with people who understand what you are going through, listen to you, and are encouraging and patient. This may not have to be in-person— WhatsApp groups and other means of social media can be effective methods of communication. Furthermore, consider attending a recovery group such as the 12-step AA. Lastly, many have reported that spending time with their dogs, cats and other pets is very relaxing and emotionally enriching!
For more information on addiction and seeking help, please contact Ms Ritu Verma here. Ms Ritu Verma is a registered clinical psychologist who specialises in areas of depression and anxiety, trauma, substance abuse disorders, and more.