Return To Bender: We Are What We Drink AboutWritten By: Dr. Kristina Diener Date: October 16th, 2012. Topic: Chemical Dependency.
By Kristina Diener
Addict, from the Latin addictare – “to call forth.”
Oh, those Romans. And those emperors. Who knew? In the days of that Empire, the Gladiators would fight to the death and whoever won chose a slave. They “called forth” their victim, thereby claiming the poor soul as their personal property or slave, servant, personal possession. So in a very real sense, an addict is a slave.
But let’s admit it: there isn’t anything about an addiction that doesn’t feel good. Except when it doesn’t. But that begs the question: When doesn’t it?
It took George a long time to discover the answer to that provocative question. “It took me nearly 20 years,” says the toothless, tobacco-stained, self-proclaimed “Street Fighting Man,” but George knows his enemy now – and he’s finally beating it. “I learned the truth,” he laments, “when my family deserted me, my boss fired me for the final time… but the sledgehammer struck when my kids called me a damn, stinkin’ drunk. That’s what finally did it.”
This is real: pain – and when pain becomes bigger than life and hell takes on a life of its own, what’s the problem with knocking back a few or two? In the end, the only person who suffers is the addict. So if we are what we think about, as Buddha claimed, then we are what we drink about.
From Habit to Addict: Full Weed Ahead
So what’s the problem if we fall off the sobriety wagon by imbibing just a drink or two, or how about a smoke? What about a munchie? What about engaging in some instant fat-isfaction with a couple of packages of Mallomars? But being a cheater eater is tricky – until you gain so much weight that you run out of places to hide it. At that point you can practice Urge Control vs. Purge Control. If you don’t consider a Bacchanalian feast a problem, then when does the problem become a nightmare? In other words, when does a habit create an addict?
Now for a bit of good news: according to a survey by noted psychologist Saul Shiffman, many addicts eventually conquer their bad habits. Currently in the U.S., there are more ex-smokers (48 million) than current smokers (46 million), and in the largest American survey of alcohol consumption, only one-quarter of the people dependent on alcohol were still drinking heavily the following year. Another long-term study revealed that for cocaine addicts who had entered treatment, more than half were clean five years later. Amazing, if you consider how the abstainers managed their behavioral changes. Keep reading.
Here’s an interesting theory: Proximal and Distal Factors.
Two types of factors play into such relapses: proximal or short-term situational factors, and distal or underlying causes. Proximal factors often include personal conflicts, bad moods and unpredictable events. Proximal factors would generally include situational stressors, such as a lousy day at the office or stranded in a snowstorm, depending on the concept of the individual. In any case, identifying proximal and distal factors makes it easier to anticipate and respond to a desire. Other factors that encourage recidivism include lack of social support and low self esteem. Awareness is another consideration, or lack thereof.
Relapses often follow a predictable pattern, according to Shiffman. He used a technique called “ecological momentary assessment” to scrutinize the exact moment of relapse. Smokers who are trying to quit get electronic diaries that regularly prompt them to record their mood and surroundings. If they succumb to temptation, they are required to provide more information, including location, activity and consumption of food or drink, cigs or their menace of choice.
The biggest distal factor in some cases might just be the fact that being a working mother demands a lot of energy and patience. Other common distal factors include poor social support systems — your friends and family might be unavailable or even undermining. Isolation is another component as well as an inability to recognize and define personal feelings; that is, if you don’t realize or cannot define your feelings, then anger and frustration may overwhelm you. Needless to say, being around other smokers and drinkers are powerful triggers — you are a product of your sin-vironment — but Shiffman concluded that the number-one predictor of recidivism was emotional: the level of negative affect during the four to five hours leading up to the lapse. Anger, anxiety, depression and upset are the most powerful and problematic predictors, especially a bad mood that transpires over a period of hours. Studies of alcohol, cocaine and heroin relapses suggest that the same dynamic may be working in these addictions. A week later, the participants who learned these and other techniques smoked an average of one-and-a-half cigarettes a day less than a control group.
Personality Reorder : Mud, Sweat and Beers – Avoiding That Me-Lapse
Ok, so what’s on the avoidant agenda? That is, how to avoid a relapse in the first place? Make a MAP: A Master Action Plan. First, the plan needs to be concrete: What are you trying to avoid in the first place? Drugs? Alcohol? Cigarettes? Food? “One of the best ideas that people seem to forget is the of support groups out there,” says Jay Halen, MS, a counselor in Sioux Falls.
An Action Based Plan can consist of several factors: First, catastrophic thinking in this case may actually prevail. For instance, let’s say you are avoiding alcohol. You know there are several liquor stores on your way home. In other words, what’s safe? What is sane? In this case, you would want to take a different avenue where you can be out of the way of the liquor stores. That said, what you are seeking are safety factors: strategies to keep yourself safe and sober.
Image Consulting: In this case, imagine what you were doing and how you were doing it when you were doing it: drinking, gambling, etc., and remember exactly how problematic life was in this time. See, hear, smell the issues and problems caused by your addiction and then focus on the present: is it worth the trouble and pain to relapse?
Joe, a recovering alcoholic from St. Paul, Minn., uses this technique whenever he wants to “cross the line. Always I’ll recall the moment I woke up in the filthy gutter from yet another binge and nobody cared. I dragged myself to the hospital – I was debilitated with exhaustion and anemia – and that’s when I hit rock bottom. After 30 years of living the same insane life, that’s when I cleaned up. And forever I will relive that memory.”
Shiffman’s research of smokers also revealed that engaging in something is essential: People who use some kind of coping technique in response to an urge are 25 times more likely to resist the temptation than those who try to bite the bullet and wait out the desire. But cognitive techniques are only part of the way to win. Many addiction specialists encourage recovering addicts to define goals. Addicts need to reconnect with a life that provides pleasure, enjoyment, purpose and meaning. Where once upon a time there was isolation and despair, reconnecting with friends and family and becoming involved in redeeming and rewarding activities deactivate the desire of the addiction. New goals that are incompatible with the old habit — walking a couple of miles instead of smoking or eating and looking good in a new outfit can also help. It isn’t only about punishment and rewards, but understanding that the reward on the other side of the rainbow is a life free of bondage and slavery.
- Create your MAP: Master Action Plan. This should be goal-directed with a huge reward waiting just for you.
- Create meaningful goals. Be specific. Be flexible. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds through abstaining from overeating, understand that those 50 pounds were not gained overnight; therefore, do not expect to lose those 50 pounds in three weeks before your 20th high school reunion.
- Find a mentor, sponsor or a trusted friend in whom you can confide. This is one of the most powerful allies you can imagine: accountability creates stability, which inspires honesty. With awareness and honesty, change is possible.
- Validate yourself. The French philosopher, Emile Coue, looked in the mirror every morning and reminded himself of how valuable he was and how he was improving every day. Try it.
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