Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Drugs and Alcohol: Habit or Addiction?

I sometimes hear people say, "My drinking/using is just a habit, not an addiction," usually after discussing the behaviour of another person who has been 'certified' as alcoholic or drug addict. If the thought of someone suggesting that your habit might be an addiction makes you uncomfortable, it may be interesting to look into your habit a bit deeper. Let's start by exploring the difference between habit and addiction. Addiction is something which you do routinely, over and over. You feel as if you can't stop doing it. A habit is also something you do routinely. Usually the claim that one's behaviour is a habit and not an addiction is backed by a belief that you can stop anytime you want to. You may believe you are in control of your habit, unlike an addict who is powerless against their chosen drug. When probed about why one doesn't stop if one could, the common answers given are, "I'm not ready to give it up," or "I still enjoy doing it," or "Because I choose not to. In some cases, these answers are given with a lot of defensiveness that comes from feeling uncomfortable about being challenged about the truth. Addiction is a habit. A habit need not be an addiction because it denotes a milder indulgence. But a habit can develop into full-blown addiction when the behaviour progressively intensifies - consuming in bigger quantities, more frequently, more obsessively. It's hard to define the point where habit becomes addiction, so even if your behaviour may still fall in the territory of habit you could be moving further into the territory of addiction. People can spend years telling themselves that their behaviour is still a habit when they are already in the realm of addiction. Let's look at habit closer. There are things which you associate with your drinking or using behaviour that trigger a desire to drink or use. Some associations may be the setting (a particular chair in your house), your company (certain people you hang out with), places (a certain bar or restaurant), activities (a certain sport you associate with drinking), the time (after dropping your kids to school). There may also be certain emotions that trigger you to drink or use. It is well-accepted in therapy that addictive behaviours are often adopted as a result of emotional issues which we have not learnt to deal with. Along with this, your mental state also plays a part in determining how your behaviour develops. Your mental state is determined by your beliefs about yourself and the world, your outlook, perspective and attitude in life. Then there is your spiritual view of the world that can either give you faith in an expanded existence or make you see the world as harsh and devoid of goodness. A successful drug and alcohol residential rehab facility will take the time to look at your thinking, emotions and behaviour as part of the process of understanding your drug or alcohol addiction. Associations are the glue that binds an addict in the cycle of addiction. If you are in the habit of drinking or using, the power of associations is already in operation. This is the first thing to recognise, whatever stage along the habit-to-addiction continuum you might be in right now. Denying that you are gripped by certain associations to the habit will only risk you progressing further into addiction. The work to sever your link to these associations must be done in order for you to break out of addiction. A successful drug and alcohol residential rehab program carefully explores all facets of your health and lifestyle in order to identify the associations and change your behaviour, so that your addictive and habitual lifestyle is stopped and more positive behaviours are reinforced. As a therapist, Tim uses several approaches which include CBT, Gestalt, Brief Psychotherapy, Provocative Therapy, Family Therapy, Rogerian Counselling and Transactional Analysis. Siam Rehab is an exclusive drug and alcohol rehab facility that caters to individuals seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction that uses CBT, brief psychotherapy, and other holistic approaches to deal with drug and alcohol addiction. Couples are encouraged to stay in the final week of a 28day program to explore codependency issues and potential relapse situations with their partners.

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