Addiction: Recovery takes more than mind over matter

By Ted Wiard
For The Taos News
Posted 4/18/19

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a …

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Addiction: Recovery takes more than mind over matter

Posted

This column seeks to help educate our community about emotional healing through grief. People may write questions to Golden Willow Retreat and they will be answered privately to you and possibly as a future article for others. Please list a first name that grants permission for printing.

Dear Dr. Ted:

As addiction seems to continuously have a grip on the throat of our nation and world, I think back to Nancy Reagan's slogan of "Just say No" and how that does not seem to hold much power over decreasing this deathly epidemic. Why does addiction seem to be able to undermine what seems like common sense such as Nancy Reagan's slogan?

Thanks, Ronny

Dear Ronny:

You are correct in that that addiction continues to be a costly disease that is a worldwide problem. Addiction impacts the individual, loved ones, and communities with a devastating undercurrent that destroys what many would consider common sense and "normal" ways of thinking. Realizing that our brain is multifaceted and when we are thinking in our "right" mind, not participating in actions that are detrimental to our well-being makes perfect sense. The problem is that addiction lives in a different part of our brain that is not rational and its purpose is to override values, inhibitions, impulse control and care. This part of the brain's purpose is to keep us alive, remove discomfort and only think about the present moment for survival and instant gratification. This part of the brain is not rational, and yet we try to rationalize and work with addiction from the part of the brain that is rational, has impulse control and works toward long-range goals.

Recovery is a complex process in which someone with the disease of addiction has to become aware there is a problem and that he/she cannot do mind over matter and "just say no." The two parts of the brain do not speak the same language, so the work is to build supports and disciplines so that the rational part of the brain has a chance to hijack the thinking of the addict part of the brain, before there is power to move into addictive behavior.

For someone to enter into recovery, steps take place called the "stages of change." In the midst of addiction, when somebody is not aware there is a problem or feel they can control the impulse to use with no intention of changing, that step is called pre-contemplation. Contemplation is when someone starts to wonder if they may want to step out of their addictive actions and flirt with the idea of recovery.

Preparation is when the person truly starts to look into ways to have recovery. Action is a miraculous and brave step in which the person actually finds ways to build supports to have recovery. This may be treatment, recovery groups, therapy, medical supports and spiritual support. Usually to work with addiction, multiple supports are needed to help build sustainability. When a foundation is established, a continuum of care is needed, which is the stage of maintenance.

Having a foundation that grounds the person in the rational part of the brain and having the supports to maintain a recovery program allow someone the opportunity to have a quality of life that encourages potential and productivity. Recovery is a life-time process and allows people to have the opportunity to just say yes to life while overriding the part of the brain that wants to numb our feelings and take our life.

Thank you for the question. I wish you well. Until next week, take care.

Golden Willow Retreat is a nonprofit organization focused on emotional healing and recovery from any type of loss. Direct any questions to Dr. Ted Wiard, EdD, LPCC, CGC, founder of Golden Willow Retreat at GWR@newmex.com.

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