Tag Archive: addiction

Addictive substances – a good coping strategy?

Addictive substances

If you’ve ever been addicted to a substance – coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, for instance – you know how you grow to depend on that substance whenever you’re feeling anxious.

It’s a way of coping with difficult feelings – such as anxiety.  We have other ways of coping – some better than others, and addiction is one strategy that can have serious consequences.

I happened across an article by Dr. Joseph Troncale that specifically addresses the connection between drugs or alcohol and anxiety. He talks about how self-medicating with drugs or alcohol in order to calm down ends up generating more anxiety, culminating in a vicious downward spiral: we feel stressed, and medicate this feeling with drugs, which can often lead to feeling more stressed, leading to more drugs to dull that increased anxiety. In his words “This cycle of self-medication and rebound anxiety digs a deeper and deeper hole for the addicted person making treatment and breaking this downward spiral harder and harder as time goes by”.

Using drugs or any addictive substance or behavior generates a spiking pattern, where we swing between feeling high and feeling crappy, with no in-between.  In the normal pattern in a day, we go through a more gentle wave of experience: we notice something, decide to engage with it, engage with it, then withdraw when we notice something new.  The in-between is the connection and the gradual withdrawal.  In the spiking pattern, there is no connection or gradual withdrawal – it’s either all on or all off.

Using an addictive substance or activity lets us bypass any discomfort of contact or withdrawal, we bypass anything beyond the initial sensation, spiking instead to a high provided by the drug. Once the effect of the drug wears off, that feeling we’ve been avoiding – like anxiety – resurfaces and we spike to a low, and we avoid that feeling by engaging instead with the addiction.  The anxiety doesn’t actually go away, but remains suppressed until we stop the addiction cycle.

There are a few ways of stopping the cycle. Dr. Troncale prefers the monitored gradual withdrawal approach. Twelve-step programs offer a different approach that work for many people. A third approach is finding a spiritual path that inspires and supports you. What any one person chooses and finds works for them may not work for the next person.

The important thing is to know what is happening so that you can make an informed decision about how you want to live.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Is Gestalt Therapy Good for Addiction?

I recently received a question about addiction and Gestalt therapy. My thoughts are this, if you’re seeking help- you’re already on a good path no matter what form of therapy / treatment you decide to take. Moving forward to addictionbreak the cycle of addiction is always a positive thing.

Gestalt therapy can help with addiction issues. As I’ve noted before, Gestalt therapy works on your psychological and emotional health, believing these two things can only be achieved by understanding oneself as part of a greater whole. Basically, I (and other therapists) believe that once you acknowledge who you are and why you are, you can finally be who you are.  Understanding why you react to certain triggers, and that the journey to self-discovery and transformation is a lifelong quest, is always my primary goal.

When it comes to addiction, I try not to analyze your past and place blame on certain people. Instead, we talk about you and your feelings. We work on your present moment in certain situations and how you felt and then how addiction become introduced and relied upon.

Addicts are often unaware of their true selves and therefore can’t really identify their true needs.  This is where I help patients understand their needs on a physical and emotional level, as well as the ways that they have responded to them in the past. By understanding your true self, you can start to seek out and  provide yourself with your true needs, vs. continuing to fill a void through the cycle of addiction. We also work on breaking the escape of life by using addiction as the tool / doorway. Instead, I help you  increase self-awareness and awareness of your relationship with the world. You no longer will need an escape tool / doorway through drugs, alcohol or sex. Instead, you will be able to discover your true needs and fulfill them, leaving addiction behind.

Don’t get me wrong. Addiction is addiction and it can take several attempts to truly kick any habit, but I promise the journey is worth it.

If you’re struggling with addiction and want to learn more, please contact me.