You start out with a need that’s not being fulfilled. Work has become too difficult to handle without a drink at the end of the day to “relax.” You can’t get your mind off of your troubles at home, your marriage issues, your social anxiety, your family troubles… an evening of gambling or your drug of choice takes your mind off the pain or emotion. Maybe you suffer from another mental illness and it’s not controlled. The only way to turn your mind off is with a substance.
This is addiction.
Addiction is participating in the use of a substance or activity to the point it interferes with daily life activity, health, and/or relationships. It is considered a brain disease. The addiction physically changes the brain in structure and function.
As part of Destress Monday we want to talk about addiction. One of the causes is stress and the inability to handle stress. With the right mechanisms to handle stress the need to turn to a substance or behavior decreases.
This post is not meant to minimize addiction or the complexity of how it develops or how it exists today. In fact, it’s to point out that addiction is complicated and difficult to handle. The point of this article is to look at our behaviors and stress management before we develop an addiction.
Over the last year have you…
- Increased the substance or behavior in larger amounts, and for longer period of times than you intended?
- Have a persistent desire to use or participate, and have had an inability to cut down?
- Spend a lot of time planning to use/participate, participating and then recovering from use?
- Crave the behavior or substance?
- Had recurring use that interferes with life involvement and activities?
- Continue to use or participate even though you have been suffering social and/or physical complications from its use?
- Have you needed to increase the amount or participation in an activity to achieve the feeling you had? And when you stop using do you suffer physical withdrawal symptoms?
These are all signs of a problem behavior or substance abuse problem.
Getting treatment and support are the keys to helping end addiction. It’s imperative you continue to get support and help to maintain an addiction-free lifestyle.
What can we do about this for real that would make a difference?
Tip 1: Our kids
Teaching children to develop emotional and mental support systems is key. If a child has someone to talk to about problems,they can seek support when needed. They know they can ask for help to process their life and stress externally rather than turning to a substance. This behavior can continue as they age. Finding productive methods to process stress and handle life issues are important skills. Teaching children to use the three outlets below is one step.
Tip 2: Outlets for Stress
Our brain chemicals are altered under stress. We need to balance them back out to relieve that stress and relax our minds.
Outlet 1 – Exercise
Exercise is proven to release endorphins and create relaxed feelings. The physical act changes the brain chemistry in a helpful way. Our body feels better after physical activity, increasing our sense of well-being. The time spent exercising can distract and clear our minds in the same way a substance can but in a safe healthy way.
Outlet 2 – A Hobby
As an enthusiast for many hobbies, I can tell you the feeling I have after participating in a hobby is amazing. My mind feels clear. I feel relaxed and calm. I feel like I also accomplished something awesome with my time. It makes me happy. Hobbies have come naturally to me, so I am lucky to have this outlet.
If hobbies have not come naturally to you, that’s OK. When I start a new hobby it’s always a challenge. BUT the best part is it keeps our minds busy and creates something new and healthy for us to focus on. Local libraries are a great place to look for hobby programming. They can give you some ideas of what goes on in your area, and you can hop over to learn something new.
Outlet 3 – Reading
Ever since I was a child, there has been nothing better to me than a book. Want to escape your life? Want to live in someone else’s life? Want to go back in time? Want to go to outer space? Get a book and go there. That is how I see books. At the end of (and sometimes during) the day that is what I do. I pick up that book and I leave my life and become part of the story I am reading. I love leaving the world today and going back in time. I have been traveling through 1400-1500s England for a few years now. I am loving my historical journey every night. Find your genre and escape to it.
Tip 3: Talk to People & Treating Underlying Conditions
Finding personal and meaningful connections to people is important. If you are not alone you will be less likely to turn to that bottle or behavior that gets you into trouble. Maybe you find it difficult to talk to family or friends about your suffering? Therapists are available for that reason. Insurance is difficult, or nonexistent, and therapists might not be an option. Free support groups exist, as well as county services to help people who are in trouble. They are there for support.
The second part of this is treating underlying conditions. This is done by seeing a therapist or a physician. Many mental illnesses are difficult or impossible to handle if left untreated. Many people use substances to self-medicate.
It’s time to locate our supports and use them. It’s time to teach our children to reach out and find outlets to handle life and stress. Take the time today to talk to someone you love and let it all out.