Help for Addictions
If something traumatic has happened to you – for example, a debilitating accident, a rape or assault, domestic or school violence, a natural or man-made disaster – it’s only natural to seek relief and comfort in the face of profound fear and emotional /physical pain.
Some relief and comfort measures like
- Talking with friends for reassurance and sympathy
- Processing with a professional for understanding and anxiety reduction
- Short term distractions like television or movies that take your mind off it temporarily
- Spiritual practices that reinforce your gratitude for surviving are healthy and help you regroup mentally so you can move beyond the trauma.
Other coping mechanisms such as
- Drinking to forget
- Drugging to numb the fear
- Excessive shopping, exercising, or even work to feel like you have some control
may seem useful but in the long run will cause more problems than they cure.
I know because this happened to me. And I know that these dysfunctional coping mechanisms only work to hurt you in the long run.
If you’re in pain right now from something traumatic that has happened to you, you might think you’ve got it all under control. You might not realize you need help. But if others you love and respect are telling you something different, if you’re hearing them be concerned about your health or behaviors, it’s time to reconsider what you’re doing, and if it’s true or false help.
There’s no shame in getting a professional opinion about your strategies for feeling better. It doesn’t mean you are weak or crazy or unable to solve your own problems.
It actually shows that you are smart enough to reach out and take advantage of the resources available to you when you call for a counseling consultation.
Remember, I know what it’s like to be where you are. Not only do I have that personal experience to draw on, I have the specialized education to recognize the difference between ways to cope that are helpful and those that are ultimately harmful.
Note: With the permission of Dr. Deah Curry, PhD, below are excerpts from her article “Getting Out of the Addiction Trap”(© 2011)
No one intends to be a problem drinker, alcoholic, drug abuser, or process addict. It’s just that when the ways we seek to get that temporary escape make for more problems, it possible to get trapped into a downward cycle that’s hard to get out of alone. The more you try to fix it yourself, the more of a problem it becomes.
For example, you might think that because it’s just a couple of bottles of wine one Saturday a month, that there’s no issue. Or, maybe for you it’s prescription medication given for a temporary pain that’s now become a long term and false solution you’re afraid to do without.
It’s possible to even get addicted to things like excessive shopping, high sugar foods, exercise, or fanatic religious devotion. Any substance or process can be used addictively when you are wanting to feel better without going through the suffering of actually dealing with what’s caused you a deep hurt.
How to Know You’re in the Trap
If you are using drugs, alcohol or immersion into some kind of behavioral process to:
- withdraw from your relationships
- avoid conflict
- cope with disappointment
- deal with fear of failure, or fear of getting fired
- handle anxiety or depression
- feel high because feeling low is intolerable
- be in the “in-crowd”
- respond to peer pressure or bullying
- forget your stresses or mistakes
You are very likely in the addiction trap. You may not be chemically addicted, but you could be so habituated to using substances or processes to avoid feeling pain that you are no longer in full control of your life.
Whether it’s a ritual cocktail or joint after work every night, an obligatory bottle of champagne for every celebration, or necessary prescription of pain killers refilled too often, if something in you can’t be satisfied without these substances no matter the circumstances, you could be falling into the substance abuse trap.
Likewise, if you are spending more time shopping, and running up credit card bills than you can’t hope to pay off at the end of the next billing period, you could be addicted to the high that acquiring new clothes or gadgets gives you. If so, it’s time to stop and examine what you are really trying to heal, and whether creating so much debt is the way to get there.
Or maybe you’re spending more time at church or the gym than with your family. If incessant worship practices or hours of exercise feels good and taking a break starts to make you nervous or sad, these activities could be putting you into a trance – which is a form of addictive high.
The Big Clues
When family, friends, or co-workers are telling you they see a change in your personality or behavior, you’d be wise to listen.
If you are drinking, using drugs or prescribed medications, or using shopping, exercise, food or even a hobby or religion to the point where it’s interfering with the ability to:
- feel a full range of emotions
- be in control during emotional situations
- think and speak clearly
- make good decisions with sound judgment
- keep social commitments
- have difficult discussions without fighting
- go to and finish work on time
- perform up to your usual standards
- resist high risk behaviors
- maintain normal health and hygiene habits
- get proper sleep and nutrition
- enjoy friends and family
you might be on the road to falling into the addiction trap.
If you are feeling in the addiction trap, call me to find out how counseling can help you.