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Addiction and Acceptance By Teyhou Smyth

Our need for control is wired deep within.

In fact, we want to maintain that sense of control so much that it is difficult to admit when we no longer have it. The need for control sometimes competes with the need for escape. The conflict between these needs is at the crux of addiction.

Addiction comes in many forms. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, internet and pornography are just a few of the substances and behaviors that can draw us into dependence. Most addictions begin as casual use. The behavior soothes a need to disconnect or distracts from difficult circumstances. This soothing and distraction can be pretty compelling.

The behavior starts as a well-deserved break but somewhere along the way it shifts. It stops feeling like a choice and moves into the realm of need. With drugs and alcohol, a physiological dependence also emerges.

Behavioral addictions such as gambling and pornography bring psychological dependence and the surge of dopamine that stems from the activity. Dopamine reinforces the behaviors, since it is a pleasure hormone of the brain.

Moving Toward Acceptance

It’s difficult to acknowledge when a behavior turns into an addiction; it takes a lot of vulnerability to face it. Often people who struggle with addiction experience significant losses of health and family relationships, and sometimes even legal involvement.

Unfortunately, the cost of the behavior becomes a greater burden than the benefit. This is often when addiction is acknowledged.

Acceptance is one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. Acceptance of addiction requires an acknowledgement of loss of control. The power of acceptance can change everything. It can be the beginning of healing and can foster a commitment to recovery.

Exploring acceptance can range from self-assessment to professional involvement. There are questionnaires that can be useful in helping to identify level of use and readiness for change.

Consider your responses to the following statements when thinking about acceptance:

  • If I knew I could no longer use the substance or behavior, what would my level of distress be?
  • What would it mean to me to acknowledge a loss of control over my use?
  • What areas of my life have been impacted by my use?
  • If I accept that I struggle with addiction, what happens next?

Making a Change

Often people fear accepting and acknowledging an addiction because it may feel as if admitting it means having to make a change. Making changes in life is difficult to say the least. Admitting and accepting addiction doesn’t make it any easier to quit.

It is particularly difficult to quit using drugs and alcohol because of the physical withdrawals that can go along with it. Even behavioral addictions are difficult to quit, not because of physical withdrawal, but because of the emotional void the behavior has filled over time.

Often an important step in the process of recovery is identifying the needs the addiction met. When these underlying needs are identified, alternative behaviors can be found. If the addiction meets a need for escape from depression or anxiety, alternative treatments may be helpful. Medication can be a helpful treatment in conjunction with therapy. There are endless coping strategies that can be used during recovery from addiction.

There is also an element of grief involved with recovery from addiction. In spite of the pain and suffering that addiction causes, there is also pain with letting it go. It becomes the ultimate love/hate relationship; an unrequited love.

The victim invests time and health as well as sacrificing relationships with others. The addiction takes and only leaves pain in its wake. All too often an addiction becomes the primary relationship in the person’s life. It takes priority over relationships with loved ones.

Just as the loss of a loved one would cause a grief reaction, losing the one-sided relationship of addiction causes grief. In managing grief related to quitting an addiction, it is important to acknowledge the feelings and communicate with a trusted mentor or therapist.

Finding Support

Individual or group therapy options can be a helpful way to work on recovery from addiction. Insurance plans usually offer coverage for both options, and often people without insurance can obtain sliding-scale or grant-funded treatments through government subsidies.

Free addiction recovery options include 12 step programs. There are support groups and 12 step groups for a wide variety of addictions including drugs and alcohol, gambling, overeaters’ anonymous and sex and love addiction. Community groups offer a safe setting in which confidentiality and mutual respect is the expectation.

Online support is also available. Telepsychiatry has become a popular means of accessing treatment as well as more informal settings such as social media support pages.

One of the more challenging parts of accepting addiction and working toward recovery is the necessity of changing ones friends. Spending time with people who continue to engage in addiction is a recipe for relapse. A common struggle for those in recovery is loneliness.

It is very important for people in recovery (especially early recovery) to build a supportive network. Find healthy family, friends and support community that understands and wants to aid in your recovery. Trying to go it alone is difficult. Recovery takes support, encouragement and compassion.

Reconnecting With The Sober Self

Regardless if you are recovering from a substance addiction or an addiction to a behavior, one of the unique opportunities that stems from recovery is reunion with self. If the addiction has been present for some time, it may mean re-examining what it means to live without the behavior.

Sometimes one of the challenging questions people face in recovery is “who am I without my addiction?” This can be an intimidating question to ask oneself, but it also affords an opportunity for growth.

Often those who have been through addiction and recovery have learned the most about their individual priorities as a result of these hardships. Self-forgiveness and finding a way to move forward in the world after recovery is hard work, and it starts with acceptance.

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