Lent is a season in which many people pick a habit that they try to give up for 40 days…just in case that New Year’s resolution didn’t stick. Trying to give up chocolate, dessert or smoking is common during Lent. Another common habit that is often given up is alcohol.
Living a full life in recovery from addiction can have many moving parts but the ability to be present in our moments, and pay attention to ourselves, are key components. Taking time in our day to pause, relax and reevaluate assists in building the muscles of a successful recovery.
Parents always worry about their kids. How they will do in school, who their friends will be, what will they do for work when they grow up and will they be healthy? These are natural worries of a parent. In addition, many parents worry about if their children will develop a substance use disorder (addiction). These thoughts are certainly in the minds of parents who suffer, or have suffered from, a substance use disorder themselves.
Many people do not feel that they have an alcohol use disorder because they only drink on weekends, or when they go out with friends. Those who hold this view have the classic, societal image of “an alcoholic” living in the gutter and clinging to a paper bag. “How can I have a problem when I go to work every day… go to class on time… take care of my family and never miss a beat?” Yet many people who seem to have completely normal lives are engaging in drinking behaviors that can be very hazardous to their health: “Binge” drinking.
It's hard to pay attention to the news and not hear about the “travel ban.” It's everywhere – TV, newspapers, social media, and it even made it into the Super Bowl commercials. The constant use of the term got me thinking about how it could be applied to recovery from a substance use disorder, with a self-improsed "travel ban."
The previous blogs in this series explored Binge / Intoxication and Withdrawal / Negative Affect, the first two stages of the “Addiction Cycle”, and how substances take over the parts of your brain related to pleasure and stress and set the stage for feeling miserable when you don’t consume drugs or alcohol. These forces in your brain are very powerful. Yet, drugs and alcohol don’t stop there. They affect the part of your brain involved in decision making. So, while you may want to make the choice to stop, your brain’s decision making areas are fighting against you due to the effects of drugs and alcohol.
When you’re suffering from a substance use disorder, making the decision to get help is often difficult enough. Then you have to decide how to get help and try to understand the options for treatment. The ravaging effects of substances on the brain make that process even more difficult. Thankfully, a tool has recently been developed to help those who are trying to make treatment decisions.
In part one of this series we introduced the three stage “Addiction Cycle” which includes Binge/Intoxication, Withdrawal/Negative Affect and Preoccupation/Anticipation. We also discussed how in the Binge/Intoxication stage, substances “highjack” your brain’s natural reward or “pleasure” centers and make it difficult for you to get enjoyment from anything else other than drugs or alcohol. This hostile takeover of your reward system sets the foundation for the second stage of the addiction cycle: Withdrawal/Negative Affect.
In December 2016 the 21st Century Cures Act was passed into law. The law is said to be wide ranging in its effects from improving the development and approval process for experimental treatments, reforming aspects of mental health law and to increasing funding for medical research. It allocates a massive $1 Billion in grants for states to boost treatment of opioid use disorders. Another $1.6 Billion was earmarked for research on “brain diseases.”
If you or a loved one suffers from a substance use disorder, commonly referred to as an “addiction,” you will often feel like one of those hamsters on a wheel. No matter how hard you try, you just cannot seem to get off the nightmare merry-go-round of suffering. You may have tried to quit several times or entered treatment only to fall back into the same old pattern again.