Freedom From Addiction

By Susan Shafran, LCSW

Freedom From Addiction

Over the past 10 years, I have been asked on numerous occasions, “Can I ever be free of my addiction?” “Will I ever be cured?” “Is battling addiction a lifelong problem?” According to a study conducted at The University of Pennsylvania, addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that is characterized by relapse and if left untreated or mistreated it can and will result in death”.

Moreover, addiction to drugs is a major health issue. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), addiction is defined as a primary chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is a condition that people learn to manage using various techniques and treatments.

How does one distinguish addiction versus habit? Addiction is when you have no idea what you are saying, doing, taking, and using, and are dependent on the substance/alcohol to get through your day. A habit is when an individual has free will and is in control of their decisions. Meaning- that a person can stop using at any given time. Addiction is the result of varying factors and to date, not fully understood. Research has showed that addiction is due to a combination of pre genetic disposition, family history, environment, circumstance, and emotional factors.

Finding the leading quality Treatment Center is essential to ensure success for someone suffering with addiction. The right program will provide an individual with coping skills, build a foundation to manage addictive behaviors, get to the root cause of the situation, and maximize the chances of recovery.

Research has found that there are four components of the biology of addiction; Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual.

PHYSICAL: Substance abuse depletes the body resulting in physiological and neurological imbalances. Research portrays a correlation between sugar addiction and drug addiction. Addicts crave sugar to increase Dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter resulting in the well-known sugar crash. Sugar cravings are also triggered by depression, stress, and Candida overgrowth. Healthy nutritious foods serve as essential amino acid building blocks for depleted neurochemicals. Ask your doctor or therapist to learn more about how alternative evidence based scientifically proven treatment such as genetically directed therapies, amino acid rebuilding programs (either intravenous or oral), and supplements such as Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, L Glutamine, 5HTP, Omega 3 Fatty Acids can help rebalance your neurochemicals to minimize or stop cravings, and help you feel good. Creating endorphins and balance through proper nutrition and exercise is essential for your body.

MENTAL: The mental component of substance abuse can cause automatic thoughts whether positive or negative, and result in varying powerful emotions between depression, anxiety, anger, and feelings of euphoria. Awareness of our breath, in conjunction of diaphragmatic and slow controlled breathing assist as well in minimizing stress as a way to control urges to use substances. The awareness of your breath teaches you how to cope with stress without allowing thoughts to change into intolerable emotions.

Recharge your mind by getting adequate sleep, proper hydration and adequate exposure to sunlight, fresh air, speaking the truth, practicing good communication, and surrounding yourself with a positive, sober support network.

It is important to control mental urges to use substances by playing the entire tape through. Visualize yourself using a substance with all of the consequences and feelings associated with shame and guilt, followed by visualizing the restriction of substances with feelings of pride.

EMOTIONS: Emotions play a critical role with people struggling from addictions. It makes them very vulnerable in areas where they can view situations from varying degrees of intensity which may be negative or positive. Emotions comprise feelings of fear or love, with varying degrees of intensity. The late Dr. Emoto expressed how human feelings in consciousness have an effect on the molecular structure of water. He demonstrated how ‘loving’ thoughts produce beautiful geometric forms and ‘hateful’ thoughts produce chaotic, discordant forms. Considering an adult’s body is about 60% water, the implications of the effects of your thoughts on your body are incredibly powerful.

SPIRITUAL: Developing healthy self-esteem is fundamental for self- love and spirituality. A lack of it leads to guilt, shame, and urges to use substances. Being able to identify ones accomplishments (things you’re proud of) help to promote self-worth and a sense of pride.

This is similar to a Kabbalistic concept called “Bread of Shame.” Earning your reward through personal effort is one of the secrets of fulfillment. Increase spirituality by attending spiritual services and stepping outside your comfort zone. Using the power of prayer, helping others and volunteering is important in finding your life’s purpose and passion. This can be done through practicing daily gratitude, acceptance, compassion, humility, and forgiveness. To nourish your spirit is central to a successful recovery.

By holistically integrating the four components of the biology of addiction and designing a strong customized aftercare plan, one can help promote abstinence. One needs to encourage pushing a little harder by looking within oneself, utilizing the strategies mastered and taking action to battle addiction. These things are necessary to avoid the mode of relapse.

Some therapeutic tools to explore include; Tai Chi, Qignong, Science of Breath, Holotropic Breathwork, Kundalini, Binaural Beats, Music, Guided Meditations, and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (which has been proven to be effective in healing brain trauma). Techniques such as Neurofeedback train the brain to self-regulate alpha and theta waves which many addicts are found to be deficient in.

There are many treatment options available based on one’s individual needs. Before choosing a treatment center you should check what options they offer. Treatment can include; nutrition, theta healing, weekly chiropractic services, boxing, exercise, HIV & STD education, medication management, life skills, spa treatments, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral therapy), DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy), EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization, Psych Education, Anger Management, Empowerment, Motivational Interviewing, customized Aftercare Planning, AA and/or NA meetings and working the 12 steps.

Explore what’s best for you by consistently working your program with realistic expectations. True recovery doesn’t stop at the 12th step; it starts at the 13th step, which is your spirituality. Just like you wouldn’t expect to transform yourself into a bodybuilder over night without resistant training, earning your freedom from addiction requires dedication to persevere through challenging obstacles and learning how to take advantage of all resources available to you. Substance abuse is a lifelong disease that requires monitoring and management throughout one’s life.

Susan Shafran, LCSW is the Clinical Director of Holistic Recovery Center in Hollywood, Florida. She has over ten years of experience specializing working with adolescents, adults, and their families in the areas of substance abuse, trauma, PTSD, drama therapy, mood disorders, anxiety, personality disorders, psychosis, & dual diagnosis.