Today, in the world of addiction recovery, there is one big factor in how we perceive addiction’s effect on people. This factor, of course, is our classification of addiction as a mental disease. However, while this is a classification that is taken for granted in the medical world, nowadays, we should always leave room for our suppositions to be challenged, as it can provide a tremendous insight, even if these challenges may be wrong.
Over the past several years, one such professor has been leveling some thoughtful criticism towards the ideology of how we view addiction, as well as the entire addiction recovery industry, in general. This man’s name is Marc Lewis…
Marc Lewis has made an illustrious career as a developmental neuroscientist who studies human behavior and how it is affected by the emotional composure of an individual. He is certainly a voice that demands attention, due to his authority in his field of study. On top of his research positions, Marc Lewis was a longtime professor at the University of Toronto, and continues to be a professor at Radbud University, which is in the Netherlands.
What makes Marc an important figure to listen to on this topic, however, is that he is not just another academic researcher. Marc has his own history with addiction, which dates back to being an Undergraduate at Berkeley. Lewis’ experimentation with psychedelic drugs eventually led him to become addicted to opiates.
His controversial proposal
The radical notion that Marc Lewis is presenting is that addiction should not be viewed and treated as a disease. Indeed, he purports that such a classification is actually harmful for the people involved. Rather than being viewed as a chronic brain disease, Lewis says that addiction is about brain development, and should be treated much more as a behavioral issue. By taking this approach to addiction, he believes that approaches to treatment will improve and that new solutions to fight addiction will start to emerge.
The importance of another perspective
Ultimately, one of the greatest humanitarian benefits for addicts that came from citing addiction as a disease was that it was able to help break some of the stigma that addicts face. However, viewing addiction as a behavioral problem doesn’t necessarily bring the stigma back into it. Instead, addiction can be viewed as a developmental process, one in which the addict must continue to develop beyond the scope of their addiction. Whether or not this concept has weight is yet to be seen. However, it is always important to examine viewpoints outside of your own, especially when the topic is as important as this
Dreams are powerful. They create a world that is so real that we can feel the effects of our dreams even after we wake. It is quite common for recovering addicts to have dreams where they are again using drugs or that they relapse. The dream may be a pleasurable experience or a nightmare, it just depends. These dreams can be very frustrating, as they can create guilt for using drugs, even though it was just a dream.
Additionally, they can untimely remind you of things that you were trying very hard to forget. Your subconscious mind can create very powerful and realistic dreams while you are trying to recover. If you have recently experienced using dreams, read on for a few tips to help you deal with them.
Remember That It Was Just a Dream
While your using dream could have been incredibly vivid and felt superbly real, it was just a dream. Take a couple of deep breaths and relax. Turn on a light, look around at your surroundings, and ground yourself. You have not relapsed, it was not real. Remind yourself how far you have come and what is is real.
Pay Attention to Your Emotions
Were you upset by the dream? That’s good. If you felt frustrated or unsettled by your dream, that is a good thing. It means that you are taking your recovery seriously, and that you are striving to stay sober. Recognize how you feel and how you were affected by the dream, and then move forward. One study about using dreams indicated that it didn’t matter what the dream was about, rather, your response to the dream.
Dreams Can Create Change
Studies show that recovering addicts who have using dreams achieve longer periods of sobriety. Their dreams remind them that they need to be vigilant in their recovery. Studies also show that recovering addicts first have dreams that focus around them using drugs, and then many of them begin to have dreams of them refusing to use drugs. Your dreams can be a way for your mind to rehearse the future.
Be More Vigilant
Use your dreams as a reminder of why you have started along the path to recovery. Decide to increase your efforts to live a sober lifestyle rather than becoming discouraged. Over time, your using dreams will decrease, and you will be strengthened. If for any reason your dreams give you the urge to drink or use drugs again, see a therapist immediately, or talk to someone that you know and trust to help you work through the effects of your dreams.
New Year’s will soon be upon us, and so it is time to think about making a few New Year’s Resolutions. If you have decided to start the year off sober, you have a long but rewarding path ahead of you. While the resolution “To be sober” is a good one, without proper planning, you may find yourself unable to keep it. We have compiled five mini-resolutions to help you on your journey to recovery.
Attend All of Your Meetings
If you have joined a recovery group, or if you are part of an outpatient program, make a resolution this year to attend all of your meetings. Stop making excuses for why you cannot go, and find ways to make your recovery a priority.
Make a resolution this year to be honest in your recovery. Be honest with yourself, be honest with your family, be honest with your recovery group, and be honest with your therapist. You cannot expect a full recovery if you cannot be honest with those around you. If you feel like you cannot reach out to those around you, keep a journal so that you can write your thoughts down and be more accountable for your actions.
Develop a New Hobby
You will find as you begin your recovery that you will have a lot of time on your hands. If you are serious in your recovery, you need to find ways to occupy that time. Pick up an instrument, learn to paint, start stilt walking, learnt to sew, or join an exercise class. Fill your time and occupy your thoughts with positive activities to help you recover.
Change Your Routine
Active addicts have a routine that they follow that enables their addiction. For example, if you drive home along a route that has many bars along the way, you will be tempted to stop by for a drink. Find a different route home. If you watch a certain show or listen to certain music before you used to use, find a different show or a new artist to listen to.
Make New Friends
Some of your friends that you have had during your addiction may be addicts themselves. Resolve to change up your friend circle to help you through recovery. Find new friends who will help you live a sober lifestyle. Join a club or take a class and reach out to the other people around you. If you befriend another recovering addict, you can help each other along the road to your recovery.
One of the most important and unique parts of the 12-step program is the content of part 2: accepting a higher power. The foundation and essence of the other parts of the program are all built upon the belief that a higher power can help restore sanity inside of us, and be used to cure addiction. Without this important step, the rest of the program would be weak, by comparison. You cannot separate the need for a higher power from the entire idea of addiction recovery.
It as an absolute necessity, and here are some reasons why…
Accept something bigger than yourself
The biggest thing that accepting a high power in your life does for your treatment is allows you to step outside of yourself by acknowledging that there is something much bigger than your own life at work. When you can see that there is something bigger than you, it puts a lot of things into perspective regarding how your actions affect other people.
This provides a cornerstone from which to build yourself back up as a stronger and better human being, with something more wonderful to strive towards. Having this spiritual structure early on will give you something to lean against in your journey towards recovery.
Something in your life stronger than addiction
Another way that accepting a higher power into your life helps you fight addiction is that it gives you something that has power and is good. Addiction is a powerful mental disease that can be an immense challenge to fight. To many addicts, it may represent the most powerful force in their lives, and make their situations seem helpless. However, acknowledging that there is a higher power at work puts something in your life that is more powerful than addiction, and having that spiritual backing as an ally is something that can never be underestimated.
Even atheists and agnostics need a higher power
Even if an addict isn’t religious, or even if they don’t believe in God, they are still in need of a higher power in their recovery. Accepting the scope of the universe and acknowledging that it is beyond their control brings them back to reality and sanity, instead of caught up in the devastating mindset that is brought about from addiction. Even those without God in their life will eventually need spiritual fulfillment, as man cannot live on bread for his body and mind, alone, but must also feed his soul.
One difficult part that comes later on in recovery is building your social circle to reflect your new lifestyle. Obviously, for those who have suffered from alcohol abuse, they probably have friends who partake in alcohol, even just moderately.
This may add a certain level awkwardness, and a whole swath of questions about how this will effect the newly formed you. Clearly, you may very well still want to be friends with these people, as nobody wants to say farewell to a friendship.
Here’s some information on balancing friends who still drink…
How badly do they use?
Is this friend of yours also an addict?
Do they feel that they absolutely have to drink when you are around them, sometimes without control? If so, you may feel a strong desire to help them overcome this.
Are they committed to helping you in recovery?
And while this is certainly a noble pursuit for later in, you should probably limit your contact with them early on in your recovery. This type of environment can be very triggering for a recovering alcoholic.
Focus on making yourself the best person that you can be before you try to fix other people. Once you have found your footing, you will be a much more valuable tool in helping a friend find recovery. However, you don’t have to avoid people who drink, as a matter of principle. Being around alcohol use probably isn’t the best idea, but most of those who drink moderately every now and then probably won’t feel compelled to drink while you are around.
While people who still drink aren’t joining in your journey towards a life without alcohol, they can definitely still contribute support. Emotional support and encouragement can be given by anyone, regardless of their personal usage. Keep these people close and let them help you. It does nobody any good to lose relationships that are meaningful and valuable. However, if someone is acting in a way that is detrimental to your recovery, and contributes negatively to your attempts to get sober, there should certainly be a discussion on whether or not it is in your best interest to continue associating with that person.
You don’t have to cut entire groups of people out of your life
Remember, there isn’t always a need to be dramatic and cut people out of your life. Cutting yourself from everyone in the world who drinks isn’t exactly realistic, and is a silly way to approach recovery and life. Recovery is about being stable as your own person, and working to build a better life for yourself and those around you. If there are friends who support and work alongside you to do just that, then they are your true friends, through and through, regardless of whether or not they drink or use.
This week, we’re going to talk about your spouse…
Closest person to you
It is very likely that your spouse is the closest person that you have in your life. Your partner in marriage is going to know you better than anybody else, and is aware of your many eccentricities. This knowledge of you makes it easy for them to relate to you, as they will sympathize for whatever you have to go through. This attachment provides a very good support system. Sees you frequently Your spouse is somebody whom you sleep in the same bed as, every single night. They see you every day of your life, for long periods at a time. It’s very likely that nobody on this planet spends more time with you than them.
This means that your spouse is your most readily available support system, as they are there for you every day. This constant interaction will also make them the best person to keep track of your recovery, as they can see how it is affecting your day-to-day life.
Took an oath
When you marry somebody else, you swear an oath that you will stand by their side. Your spouse took that very same oath to protect you. Don’t push this person away, as there is nobody else on this planet that has taken up that same level of commitment. Naturally, the person whom you married won’t want to see you suffer, because they were the person who loved you before this all started. Marriage comes with an obligation to help and protect your significant other. Let them stand by you in your fight against addiction.
It’s their problem, too
You are an absolutely integral part of your partner’s life. Don’t ever, ever forget that. You are the person that they were planning on spending the rest of their life with. Addiction is a disease that can greatly affect those plans, and nobody is going to fight harder for you to overcome that than your spouse. Whether or not you are able to recover will greatly impact their life. Don’t ever forget that!
“Benefits of Support from-” is a series about the different people in your life whose help you will need to overcome addiction. The truth is that we, as human beings, need people at any moment of great adversity in our lives. Addiction definitely qualifies as a time of great adversity, as it is a crippling disease that nobody should ever have to face alone, which is why our personal relationship should make us stronger in the fight against addiction.
This week, we’re going to talk about your friends…
More laid back relationship
Unlike your family or your spouse, friends don’t have as much skin in the battle for your recovery. Obviously these people will still care about you, because they are your friends, but it won’t dramatically affect their lives in the same way that it would your family or your spouse. While this may make it seem like their support isn’t as important, this may actually be a benefit, when in conjunction with support from other people, as it allows them to speak more freely with you.
Friends have a much greater distance from your life than somebody like your spouse, and this means that they will have the ability to see things from a less biased perspective. Get this perspective often, and utilize it if you can. If you have the right kind of friends, this perspective will grant your friends the capability to see things as they are. In the fight of addiction recovery, it may be this fresh approach you need to help you get on the wagon, again.
It’s what friends are for
The ideal of friendship is to have the kind of relationship where you always have each other’s back, no matter what the situation is. Fighting against addiction is one of the ultimate tests of that ideal, as it is an incredibly challenging journey that will definitely test the constitution of your friendship. However, it’s the friendships that can last such a journey that will be fulfilling and help you move forward in life.
Activities with friends keeps you proactive
One of the most important aspects of addiction recovery is setting up a proactive life for yourself outside of addiction. Doing this becomes a whole lot easier when you have friends to lean on, because they are likely the people who you share interests with. These kind of friends can do activities with you that will keep you away from your addiction and help you put up a new life, which will put you on track for a healthy lifestyle.
If you’re struggling with an addiction, the first step toward getting help is to talk to someone about your addiction. But who do you turn to first? If you’re looking to get your addiction out in the open so that you can find help, here is a look at some of the best people you can to about your addiction—and how each particular person might be able to best help you find recovery.
Your family, of course, ranks top in priority when it comes to discussing your addiction. Your relationship with your family has likely already changed drastically since you became dependent on drugs or alcohol, and chances are they already know that something is different about you. Talking to them about your addiction is a great first step toward undergoing a well-rounded recovery process. Your family loves you unconditionally and will likely be among your most dedicated supporters during your recovery. In addition, many addiction recovery programs actually implement family programs to keep family involved in a person’s recovery, so talking to family early on will help them be as involved as possible in your recovery.
Your closest friends
Now is also a good time to talk to the friends who positively influence you in life. Who is going to stick around during your recovery from addiction, and remain by your side once you are sober? Take an inventory of your social circle, and consider who will be supportive of your decision to become sober. Confiding in a small handful of close friends about your addiction will help you make the transition from addiction to sobriety, and they will also be able to help you create a social circle of more positive influences as you seek to build your support system.
Addiction recovery specialists
Finally, addiction recovery specialists will play a central role in your recovery. An addiction recovery specialist can share insights that friends and family members simply don’t have, and they can help arm you with the tools you need in order to navigate recovery successfully. Addiction recovery specialists have seen what works and what doesn’t work in helping people overcome an addiction, so their background and experience will prove invaluable as you work towards becoming drug-free.
Enrolling in a well-rounded addiction recovery program is the best way to bring qualified addiction recovery specialists into your support.
Whom you choose to spend your time with during the early stages of recovery from addiction can have a tremendous influence on how your recovery progresses as a whole. This is why it’s so important to evaluate your social circle early on as you enter recovery, filling it with positive influences and preparing to part ways with those who would lead you back down a road toward relapse.
If you’re battling addiction and are looking to establish a strong recovery-promoting social circle, read on for some tips on changing up your social circle in the right ways. Identify your positive influences. Who are the friends in your life who desire to see you happy and addiction-free?
Who do you feel that you can be your true self around, free from judgment? Seek out the friends in your life who uplift you when you’re around them, and who spend time doing wholesome things with you. These friends will form the very basis of your social circle, and you’ll want to keep them closer than ever.
Spend time with these positive influences. If you feel that there are truly only a select few friends whom you can count on, and if you feel that broadening your social circle will help you gain the support you need during recovery, then it’s important for you to really spend time with those positive influences in your life.
Spend time engaged in group activities and at group get-togethers with them, and let them introduce you to their friends. Let go of toxic relationships. This can be one of the most difficult parts of the recovery process. You may very well have formed friendships around shared substance abuse, and chances are many of these friendships will prove toxic as you navigate sobriety.
Even if these friends aren’t necessarily pressuring you to use again, substance abuse might truly form the basis of your friendship, and spending time with these friends may very well tempt you toward relapse. Identify those toxic relationships in your life—particularly relationships with those who might pressure you to use again, or who might try to convince you that you don’t need to gain sobriety. It will require a measure of courage on your part, but it could mean the difference between relapsing and avoiding relapse.
Keep in touch with fellow alumni. One of the greatest benefits to completing an addiction recovery program is the continued support you’ll receive even after the program is over. Fellow recovering addicts make an excellent addition to your social circle, and together you can bond over struggles that you might not share with others in your social circle. In addition, you can explore new activities that promote recovery.
“Few suffer more than those who refuse to forgive themselves.” ― Mike Norton, Fighting For Redemption
We all make mistakes. We are all human thus we all are imperfect. Unfortunately, our most terrible mistakes hurt those closest to us. It would seem that while forgiving others in difficult, forgiving ourselves is impossible. We sit for weeks, months and even years allowing the guilt of what we have done swallow us. As a recovering addict, you cannot allow yourself to become consumed in guilt.
Not only is this damaging to your emotional health, but it also affects our physical health, worsening conditions such as cancer and heart disease. You do not have to pay a lifelong penance for how you have hurt yourself and others, or you will never truly be able to move on.
The best way to repent of what you have done is not to allow that guilt to consume you, rather, use it as a way to move forward. So how do we forgive ourselves, especially if through a drug addiction we destroyed our lives, and the lives of those around us?
Understand what is holding you back
Sometimes we do not forgive ourselves out of fear that we will forget and return to our past mistakes. However, the opposite tends to happen. If you cannot forgive yourself and move on, the stress from that guilt can cause you to be more likely to repeat past blunders. It can also lead to other negative self-harm behaviors. Forgiveness is not the same as not being accountable for our actions, it means not hating yourself for what you have done. Forgiving does not mean forgetting, simply healing.
Acknowledge the difference between who you were and who you are
Dale Renlund shared a moment from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” at the LDS General conference in April 2015.
An older brother [Oliver] attempts to have his younger brother [Orlando] killed. Even knowing this, the younger brother [Orlando] saves his wicked brother from certain death. When the older brother learns of this undeserved compassion, he is totally and forever changed and has what he calls a “conversion.”
Later several women approach the older brother and ask, “Wasn’t you that did so oft contrived to kill [your brother]?”
The older brother answers, “’Twas I; but ’tis not I: I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tastes, being the thing I am.”
In acknowledging where he had come from, Oliver was able to forgive himself and change his behavior for good. Realizing that who we were is not who we are anymore can help us forgive ourselves and move forward.
The cycle of negative self talk can become impossible to escape without help. A therapist can help you better understand the situation and find reconciliation. They can help you healthily express your emotions and rebuild your confidence in yourself as you seek self-forgiveness.
“When you initially forgive, it is like letting go of a hot iron. There is initial pain and the scars will show, but you can start living again.” ― Stephen Richards, Releasing You From The Past