When we drink and do drugs to self-medicate emotional pain, it can be tempting for things to spiral out of control. But addiction is a lifelong journey of sobriety that many people are glad they embarked upon.
Addiction: A Coping Mechanism? It’s True!
In the same way that we might drink a glass of wine to soothe our nerves or take some acetaminophen for a headache, many people use drugs and alcohol to cope.
We resort to substance abuse because we think it will help us cope with problems; more often than not, it does just that—at least in the short term. So why do so many of us find ourselves unable to stop using drugs once things get bad?
This is because once we feel good after taking a drug, it becomes not only desirable but necessary for us to keep doing it again and again.
If you think about it in this sense, drinking or using drugs is like going into autopilot: Your body knows what it needs without having to consciously ask itself why. The ironic thing about this is that the same “autopilot” mechanism also applies when we drink or use drugs to escape from uncomfortable emotions.
After a while, the body no longer asks itself why it needs drugs but rather just goes into autopilot and looks for them again. And here’s the thing: When you try to stop using, that is literally letting go of your coping mechanism; if you don’t have another one in place, then you may feel lost as to how to deal with your problems—especially when they build up over time.
Addiction and the Brain’s Reward System
The part of the brain called the pleasure or reward pathway can drive us to use drugs—and that’s why it’s important to understand how our brains work. If you look at what happens when we drink a glass of wine, for example, your brain actually gets flooded with feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin. So if you drink a lot of alcohol over the course of your life, you can actually train your brain to crave that.
A person may also abuse drugs to “treat” a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety—but this is not always effective because you’re essentially treating one problem with another substance, which usually doesn’t lead anywhere good.
So even if things feel better for a little while after taking a drug, they may get out of control very quickly because the addiction has taken hold in your brain. This means that if you do go down an addictive path, it can be very difficult to turn back and change things for the better. Hence why many people discover they need to seek addiction help and even go to some luxury rehabs.
The Addiction Cycle
So, what’s the addictive cycle? It happens when you drink or use drugs to self-medicate and escape from uncomfortable emotions. In other words, if something bad happens to you, it makes sense that there will be emotional pain—but instead of finding a coping mechanism like drinking and getting help from friends and family, you may find yourself seeking out a substance as a temporary solution, which in turn can lead to addiction.
So how is this different than just having a glass of wine? Well, first of all, if alcohol becomes your main coping mechanism for dealing with life events (or even everyday stuff), it can take over your life very quickly. Then you might start using regularly enough so that you have a problem on your hands—which means that even if the initial event happens, it can no longer be used as an excuse for why you drink or use drugs.
How to recognize an addiction the first time around
Many people have issues with drugs and alcohol, and they often wonder if they are addicted. Well, in most cases, there is a checklist of signs that will tell you pretty quickly whether or not addiction is an issue for you. It’s important to note that it can take time and several mistakes before people recognize that something isn’t right with their drug habits.
Once individuals have stayed sober – either while attending rehab or on their own – they start to realize how things really were when they were drinking and using drugs heavily versus seeing everything through the “rose-colored glasses” of being intoxicated all the time. Here’s what many men (and women) discover: I had very few friends. This one may seem like a no-brainer because we often think about addicts as being loners, but it can surprise you.
Many people are lonely when they’re using, and they try to fill the void in their lives by drinking or using harder drugs with the few people that they associate with while intoxicated. In fact, many addicts find that having only one or two friends is what drives them to keep using all of the time.
They think, “At least I have one friend.” But then they realize when sobering up and focusing on positive things in life that there’s so much more out there for them – including meeting new friends who don’t want you to drink or get high.
If your friendship circle shrinks during your addiction, your first step may be to expand it as you get clean and stay sober.
Let’s face it – drinking and using drugs can bring out the worst in people. One reason for this is that they’re often focused on finding more alcohol and drugs instead of doing the things that make them feel better emotionally, physically, or spiritually (or all three).
The reality is that feeling bad about yourself is a natural side effect of having an addiction because you are usually saying or doing things while intoxicated that put you down or embarrass you. Addicts may even feel guilty about their behaviors when they sober up but figure “I, ‘ll deal with it tomorrow.” Unfortunately, getting wasted again becomes the next plan instead of cleaning up your messes early on.
It’s important to treat yourself well as you recover from a substance abuse problem. Many people start using as if it were going out of style—and they continue to do so until they have a full-blown addiction.
The truth is that you can’t be addicted unless you make your drug or alcohol use a priority in your life, whether it’s an everyday occurrence (think about how much you drink coffee) or done with more frequency than others might find acceptable. If you’re having thoughts like “This often happens” or “This isn’t too bad,” then chances are that you aren’t far off from having addictive behaviors and tendencies that need to be addressed ASAP.
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One of the best ways to get in touch with yourself on all levels is through spiritual practices – including meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi. These powerful tools can help you detox from drugs and alcohol while also letting your spirit soar.
If you don’t have a spiritual practice already established, now’s the perfect time to get started so that you aren’t left without any type of connection when going through rehab or rehabilitation, which takes your drinking and using out of the equation (as well as what many people consider an important part of their lives). This may seem like another no-brainer sign that someone has an addiction problem, but it’s something we all need to think about.
When you’re drunk or high all of the time, it may seem like taking care of yourself is not what’s important since your drug and alcohol use is more important for one reason or another. Yet when you sober up, you realize that if something isn’t done to get your life back on track, then this spiral will continue until death.
Once an addict has decided that they want to live, they need to alter their behavior on every level to feel better about who they are and how others view them too.
Taking steps such as exercising regularly (no matter how small), eating healthier foods, getting plenty of sleep each night, focusing on positive things in life such as hobbies and interests instead of drugs and alcohol, and spending time with others who do the same is but a few of the ways to take care of yourself as you recover. It’s hard enough to feel bad about your life when you’re sober, especially if drinking or using drugs has been one way for you to cope with life in general.
This hopelessness can set in because addicts often lack hope that they’ll ever escape from their addiction problem – at least until it’s too late (that’s why medical detox is so important). Then there are those times when alcoholics and drug abusers don’t have any hope that doing something about their problems will help them change their behavior.
Some think “I’ve tried before,” or “Nothing ever works,” or “I’m not good enough to make a change.” These are all signs of hopelessness and need to be immediately addressed so that you can have the hope needed for recovery.
A new life begins when your dependency on drugs or alcohol ends. The end result of an addictive lifestyle is usually death, whether from an overdose, disease, or suicide (or even murder by others in some extreme cases). This doesn’t mean that people will always die if they continue using; it simply means addicts are more prone to dying sooner than those who don’t abuse mind-altering substances as much.
The only way out of this dilemma is through treatment and rehabilitation programs. You cannot do this alone but must seek help from professional facilities staffed with professionals who have the right training and experience to help you.
When it comes to your health, don’t think, “I can do this myself.” It’s often tempting to take matters into our own hands when we have a problem, especially because no one wants to admit they need help or are afraid of what others might say if they confess their addiction.
But in the end, it’s worth getting the treatment needed so that you can move forward with your life – leaving drugs and alcohol behind once and for all! I felt a lot of shame. It’s tough feeling ashamed after being arrested or someone finds out about your substance abuse problems, but it happens more often than not.
Addicts feel ashamed for many reasons: because they know they’re harming themselves and/or loved ones; because they know what they’re doing is illegal; because they’ve lied to others about their substance abuse.
The shame of being an “addict” can set in too deep into the bones for some people, making them feel as if there’s no hope for their problems – or even worse, that a life of drugs and alcohol are all they have left. After all, using mind-altering substances has become such a part of their life that going without it just seems impossible at times.
It’s another reason why addiction treatment centers are so important: knowing you’re not alone but instead surrounded by people who also want to get better with you helps remove the shame sometimes associated with these types of addictions.
Once an addict admits they have a problem and seeks help, that sense of shame slowly goes away, giving them the courage to begin their road to recovery. I felt anxious. Whether it be from constant feelings of stress, worries about your financial situation, or other issues unrelated to drugs and alcohol, anxiety may be one of the primary reasons why you started using in the first place.
For some people starting (and staying on) methadone treatment helps relieve cravings; others choose not to use medications like this but instead take part in alternative therapies such as acupuncture or massage therapy. Whatever you do for yourself, make sure that what you’re doing is truly something that helps alleviate those underlying anxieties without causing any additional stress down the road.
If you’re not sure what to do for anxiety, I suggest talking with your counselor or therapist about it – they’ll be able to help you find a method that works best for how your mind and bodywork. I felt unhappy. It’s quite common for addicts and alcoholics to use drugs or alcohol simply because they’re bored.
Their life suddenly becomes very monotonous, so they need an activity that can provide them some happiness (in other words, euphoria ). When nothing else seems stimulating enough after a while, people begin to seek out highs from substances like methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, etc.
Think about this: if everything in your life right now is pretty good, why do you need to use drugs or alcohol? If something is draining you of that happiness, then what are you going to do about it? Seek help! A counselor can be a great source of assistance in getting you started on the road toward healing and recovery.
Painful as they may be, and whether you’re suffering from addiction to alcohol or opioids, withdrawal symptoms will happen. It’s going to hurt, but the good news is that most of these symptoms go away after a few days (about 72 hours).
Think about how long you’ve been addicted; it takes time for your body to get over this. If you watch the clock and see how long it’s been since you had your last drink or whatever substance (don’t keep track of time, though), you’ll be amazed by just how fast your body heals.
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Physical activity can help curb cravings – even if a little bit. If exercise is not an option for you at this point in time, try staying as busy as possible; staying up and moving around takes long walks. Do what he can to tire yourself out so that maybe your mind isn’t on other things when bedtime rolls around.
This seems like a pretty obvious one, but I include it anyway because ignoring sleep problems won’t make them go away. These symptoms will stress you out, make you feel anxious and irritable, and, if nothing else, make it difficult for you to get a good night’s rest.
When your body is functioning properly, your mind will be in a better place to deal with the issues at hand. Alcohol or other substance withdrawal can lead to insomnia (having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep) so if that happens during this time of recovery… …make sure you’re getting enough sleep! Try not to drink coffee after lunchtime. For those who do like coffee late in the day, try cutting back on how much you consume as if that was drug addiction. It may help with sleeping as well.
When you develop an addiction, the negative feelings that caused it in the first place still come at you—but now they get amplified by the worsening effects of your addiction. For example, someone might start drinking or using drugs to deal with depression. Still, after a few years of this behavior, their depression worsens, and they feel even more hopeless about their life circumstances. In other words, substance abuse has only made things worse.
So how do we stop ourselves from taking this kind of path? The answer is through getting help for our emotional pain first before using alcohol or drugs to learn to heal without them. In other words, if we want to recover from addiction, then it’s important to understand what causes us to use in the first place—and that brings us back to our emotions and how we learn to deal with them.