Addiction might have you feeling stuck.
You may have had the thought. “Why do I keep doing this to myself?” Or, “no matter how hard I try, nothing works.” These thought patterns are all too common with addiction, regardless of whether the type of addiction you are struggling with is alcohol, marijuana, gambling, pornography or something else entire
You Are Normal
The good news is that what addiction is at its root, is nothing more than a human behavior. The problem very frequently is not the behavior itself, but the frequency of the behavior and how the behavior does more overall harm than good over an extended period of time.
Let’s take a look at Jim as an example. Jim recently lost his house and family due to placing a large bet which he lost. It wasn’t always like this for Jim though. Jim’s first win came at the blackjack table when he turned 18. That first big win felt good to Jim and made him feel that he was special and smart for one of the first times in his life.
What happened next to Jim was called “the chase.” Jim chased that feel good feeling of worth and intelligence. Unfortunately for Jim, the cards were stacked against him from early on and way before he played his first hand of blackjack.
It didn’t have to be like this for Jim and it’s not too late for you.
Jim’s problem was due to not getting positive feedback and reinforcement during childhood, he attempted to remedy it himself via gambling to positively reinforce himself. The good news is that your beliefs can be changed without addictive behaviors. Once these beliefs are modified, the addictive behaviors will become much less powerful.
So how does it work?
Through cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing and other evidence based practices for addiction therapy, you can learn to shift those uncomfortable belief about yourself and the world so you don’t find yourself reaching for your “forbidden fruit” over and over again.”
It’s all about how you cope.
In cognitive behavioral treatment, You will also learn about the difference between adaptive and maladaptive coping skills. In short, an maladaptive coping skill is something that becomes more problematic and causes more negative side effects the more that it is used. In using alcohol as an example, the first drink might actually help reduce anxiety, but the 9th and 10th drink could cause health issues, violence or danger to the user. A maladaptive coping skills on the other hand is a coping skills that does not cause negative side effects and improves the user’s life over time. A classic example of an adaptive coping skills would be aerobic or strength training exercise. With exercise, there are not major long term side effects and studies have shown that consistent aerobic and strength training can cause a significant increase in dopamine, serotonin and other important “feel good” brain chemicals.
A classic issue people have with quitting or reducing whatever substance or behavior they are trying to lessen is by not recognizing that the maladaptive coping skill IS still a coping skill at its root. It might not be a particularly good or sustainable one, but it is still something that helps the individual cope with life problems. Unless the individual replaces the maladaptive coping skill, with a skills that is adaptive, a substitute behavior or addiction is likely to develop. A substitute addiction might be quitting marijuana, but beginning to use alcohol or quitting gambling and starting to smoke cigarettes. Replacements behaviors aren’t always bad and may be a reasonable transition, but sometimes the replacement behaviors are even worse. This is why consulting with a mental or physical health professional before changing behaviors is of critical importance.
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