Addressing Trauma And Addiction Together

Trauma And Addiction | Transcend Texas

Trauma and Addiction are unfortunately common and linked at the hip. We live in a violent world, one where a majority of the population has at one point or another experienced personal grief and loss at the hands of domestic violence, child abuse, war, rape, accidents or natural disasters. Most people experience these things and go on with their lives, that memory living on with them forever. They are traumatized, but the trauma fades within months.

Some people, however, get stuck on the moment. They subsequently suffer a developmental lag wherein their brain and mind have trouble moving on from the experience, because of the sheer amount of pain associated with it.

A trauma is when the emotional and/or physical pain of an experience is so great that your brain has trouble processing it, and is stuck on the moment, incapable of completely digesting it. Instead of “skipping” over it so to speak, it embeds itself so deeply within you that it becomes a far more significant contributing factor to your instincts and thought processes than any other memory.

One way to look at it is as a sort of permanent activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Trauma victims have a heightened sense of danger and, at times, experience paranoia. Their mind refers back to the pain of that memory, and it causes them to perceive threats where there are none. Sometimes, trauma goes away on its own. Usually, it has to be treated. The treatment isn’t simple, and requires regular counseling. However, things get even more complicated when addiction enters the picture. And sadly, it enters the picture quite often.


The Long-Term Relationship Between Pain, Trauma And Addiction

Pain in general has a long history with addiction. Chronic pain, isolation, anxiety, depression, trauma and addiction are all linked.

It’s a simple relationship – we experience pain, we want the pain to end. Drugs provide short-term relief, and are most dangerous in moments of emotional vulnerability, when we’d like anything that could dull the moment. Opioids are designed analgesics, and easily relieve most forms of pain, both physical and emotional. Alcohol helps drown out the pain, and the emptiness, and the sadness. Amphetamines drive us up the wall, making us feel invulnerable, taking away the fear and inhibition. In one way or another, drugs provide immediate and powerful stress-relief.

But it comes at a high price. And only lasts a short amount of time. Some people learn to manage their dependence – countless people suffer from chronic pain and take only the bare minimum of their medication. Others abuse it. For those struggling with both trauma and addiction, the power of self-medication is all too real.


How PTSD Trauma And Addiction Can Be Treated

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress, develops when a victim of a traumatic incident leads to continuous feelings and symptoms of trauma long after the events of the incident themselves. Victims of child abuse commonly suffer PTSD, and it’s most common in terrible cases of captivity. For victims of sexual violence, for example, the rate of PTSD is between 30 and 50 percent. Among soldiers, the rate is about 11 percent as of Afghanistan, and 20 percent for the Iraqi war.

The difficulty with diagnosing and treating PTSD is that cases differ wildly. Some people experience minor symptoms of trauma, while others suffer from regular full-blown flashbacks.

However, PTSD trauma and addiction can be treated together. In particular by advocating safety. Safety in the form of social boundaries, anger management, exposure therapy, easing into triggers, and having regular one-on-one or group encounters with drug addiction counselors.


Cannot Treat One Without Treating The Other

Drug addiction and mental health issues are commonly correlated because one has an intrinsic relationship with the other. Regardless of how that relationship began or in which direction it goes, treating one requires the other to be treated. It’s not quite as simple as identifying a root cause in medicine and eliminating it to be rid of the symptoms. While addiction can be a symptom, it doesn’t go away quite like a rash does. Instead, you have to seek out a treatment option that aims squarely at every problem you have, rather than addressing them individually.

The goal here is to find treatment that works “together”, beating both trauma and addiction. And this goes for every single other comorbidity. Even an addiction treatment plan related to chronic pain has to consider both conditions – chronic pain fuels addiction, yet if you only work on providing a medication plan to treat the pain, you may fuel a new addiction. It’s important to provide therapy and non-addictive alternatives to help someone cope with their addiction, and learn how to stay away from potential triggers while reducing their overall pain and living with what remains.

One way of looking at it is to stop seeing certain mental issues as entirely separate from one another, and instead looking at each and every single case as an interconnected web of perfectly matching illnesses and problems, woven into each other and feeding off of each other in a twisted symbiosis. Instead of telling patients to tackle each challenge individually, devise a way to deal with all issues.

From the patient’s point of view, this means understanding that every diagnosed issue you have – from your trauma and addiction to your anxiety and depressive thoughts – is part of a system.

A sober living program can help you cope with that system. Aside from providing an environment where countless individuals with wildly different backgrounds can come together to find out how they each struggled with and overcame addiction; sober living homes often also include mandatory counseling and therapy sessions to help each person get the care and evaluation they need to progress in their own recovery journey.

Sober living homes also emphasize a group environment, one where sharing becomes an integral part of the recovery process. In time, vulnerable individuals can open themselves up to others as their confidence increases, and feel empowered by their ability to help and inspire others with the progress they’ve made not only in recovery, but with other issues as well.


The Four Things You Need For A Successful Recovery From Addiction

Successful Recovery From Addiction Begins Here | Westside Treatment

There are many reasons addictions are hard to break. For one, an addiction is a relationship between your brain – the very hardware of the mind – and a substance. The smell, the taste, and any other associated memory of that substance can trigger feelings of euphoria, of intense want and, in some cases, need. A small fraction of people is genetically inclined towards physical dependence to such drugs. They develop a fast relationship to the high and require medical assistance for a successful recovery from addiction.

Drugs – particularly those synthesized from nature and turned into concentrated stimulants and depressants – are incredibly hard to resist because they’re designed to create a powerful high and leave you with a deep longing.

Yet beyond the physical, there’s also the mental aspect of drug use. While drugs are incredibly dangerous due to nature of the black market and due to the relative ease with which someone can overdose, addiction is a smaller risk for drug users than most people realize. Only about a tenth of people who try a drug become long-term “problem users”, or addicted, as defined by the UN. Others give it a go, have their fun, and quit the habit without it ever becoming an issue.

Drugs are dangerous, and they’re deadly in the long-term. Most drug users eventually realize this. Yet it’s those who fall into the cycle of addiction who can’t simply “give up” the habit, and the reason is two-fold. But most people who go in and out of rehab seek drugs as a form of medication – as part of a deeper issue, a greater problem. In other words, ending with a successful recovery from addiction isn’t the hard part.

The hard part of recovery is figuring out why you were so drawn to drugs in the first place, and figuring out what the best way is to enrich your own life and cut out the need for that artificial high. Here are four things that are absolutely necessary for recovery – because without them, you’re less likely to be able to address the issues feeding the addiction.


1. Mended and New Relationships

Relationships are the bread and butter of being human. From our very first few days in this world, we rely on our relationships to other human beings for our safety, survival and sanity. We need parents, to connect with and call our own. While Freud’s concept of the three-person relationship between mother, father and child is somewhat outdated, it’s self-evident in modern-day psychology that parents are vital for the mind of an infant.

In time, socializing with other children is important as a way to keep developing and figuring out, slowly, what it means to be a person in society. We learn about roles, differences in gender and individuals alike, and we develop biases and opinions. We mold a self-image based on how others perceive us, and in turn, how that makes us feel about ourselves.

Fast forward in life, and past puberty the distinctions between people become clearer and more drastic. Preferences in social interaction become apparent and cement themselves – some people lean more towards introverted traits, others prefer to be more extroverted. Yet even the most introverted of individuals shares contact with a close few confidants, people whom they trust the most, through whom they can get the interactions they need in life in order to feel secure.

This concept plays an integral role in successful recovery from addiction. Without others, we grow insecure, restless, and worst of all: lonely. When addiction causes us to lose the people we love and care about, it only pushes us further down the depressive hole that drug abuse creates. For many, experiences like that feed notions of self-deprecation.

No matter how much some people insist that man is an island, the truth is that we’re but one small island in a global archipelago. Regardless of how many other islands you’d prefer to socialize with, having people that matter to us in our life is important for successful recovery from addiction. Create a support network of friends and loved ones, whether through meeting new people or by mending broken relationships. This is one of the reasons a sober living community is a good option for recovery; It gives a place for like minded individuals to support each other and build lasting friendships throughout the recovery process.


2. Mindfulness in Life

Mindfulness is the simple yet difficult act of purposefully focusing on something. Its usefulness in addiction – and life in general – is highlighted by the fact that it allows us to reign in our thoughts and perceptions of life. Controlling how you feel about things can help you cope with emotional devastation by helping you take on a different perspective, one that helps you move on and feel strong enough to keep on living.

Mindfulness also helps you keep bad habits in check by introducing newer ones, crafted and kept fresh in your life through constant discipline.

Most importantly, however, mindfulness lets you keep depression and anxiety in check. It lets you contradict your more negative thoughts and fight against that inner urge to overthink and overcomplicate. Mindfulness allows you to realize that some things are a lot easier and simpler than you may have first given them credit for – it helps you rationalize away unnecessary fears that can impede a successful recovery from addiction and embrace chance as something good, rather than something to fear.


3. Management for Stress

Stress is unavoidable in life. From career troubles to family issues and more, there are countless reasons to be worried about something. But we can’t let that stress drive us to despair, or paralyze us in life. Managing stress – creating an outlet for it, and learning how to function and live despite the many blows life deals – is integral to successful recovery from addiction. If you can’t deal with stress, then the potential for a relapse grows exponentially in the face of any challenge.

Don’t fear stress. Stress isn’t just a potential for problems – it’s a potential for growth. But overcoming stress is impossible if you’re buried in it – finding ways to let loose and recover every now and again from life’s challenges lets you keep your levels manageable.


4. Finding Meaning For A Successful Recovery From Addiction

We all need purpose – something to do, something to strive for, something to achieve. Some of us find our lifelong purpose early on and stick with it. Others haven’t found a singular purpose, but follow goal after goal, looking for meaning in life through accomplishments and achievements. Others yet spend their entire time looking for the meaning of their life, and get so caught up on the search that they never really have the chance to create any meaning for themselves.

Whichever way you prefer to phrase what keeps you going – whether it’s family, or love, or ambition – you need something to hold onto in your mind when things get dire, even if you can’t commit to it as the purpose of your life.

With these four things – stress management, mindfulness, connection and purpose – your journey to successful recovery from addiction will become more than just about staying clean. It’ll be a journey about finding contentment, and happy living.

Why (Good & Bad) Habits Matter

Why (Good & Bad) Habits Matter | Transcend Texas

The question of why people get addicted in general has been explored quite often – but the mechanism behind addiction is important as well. The risk factors aside, there is a distinct reason why addiction develops the way it does, and it’s important for us to explore how the brain gets hooked on drugs – or more clearly, the behavior surrounding drug use and the descent into withdrawal and dependence.

The reasoning here is very simple. By understanding the mechanism of addiction, individuals who struggle with it have a better chance at gaining the upper hand needed to overcome their addiction and maintain healthy, long-term sobriety. This is because when an addiction occurs, it becomes an extension of that person – it becomes a part of them. Understanding the way an addiction developed helps patients understand themselves, and helps give them a sense of direction when it comes to seeking help and pursuing treatment for their problems.

It’s like identifying an eating disorder through all the signs that point towards it as part of a case of morbid obesity, and then further identifying the root of the eating disorder as childhood trauma. Treating that, is the key to eventually resolving and unraveling the rest of a person’s struggles, and reaching the point where they know what’s wrong, can identify what troubles them the most, and can take the steps in life to cope with excess stresses and the extraordinary challenges that they face in day-to-day living.

Is Addiction a Habit or a Choice?

The best analogy to understanding addiction is that of a rat in a lab test. If you feed a rat a pellet of sugar in response to a specific action, then it’s very likely going to continue to do that action to receive its reward and subsequently associate the work with sugar.

Yet if you turn it around and make the association negative too early, the rat will stop pulling the lever, even if the decision to stop isn’t immediate. This is true for most animals, including humans: while our brain is wired to like sugar because it’s indicative of a high-calorie food source (and thus high energy), we’re not wired to jump off a cliff to chase after an apple.

Imagine if the rat were to continue to pull the lever to get its fix despite the negative consequences of continuously ingesting sugar – symptoms of withdrawal, or rejection among peers. This isn’t a sign of addiction. It’s a habit.

Habits develop differently from goal-oriented thinking. Goal oriented thinking is pulling the lever with the expectation of sugar – you’re doing it for the sugar, because you need it. A habit is pulling the lever because that’s what you’ve been doing for weeks and months now, and it’s just become this thing you do, even though the effects are adverse rather than encouraging.

Reversing Bad Habits

Let’s put the rat aside, because its relevance ends here, and let’s move on to human habits. We do things that aren’t in our best interest because there was a time when they were associated with our best interests and they’ve developed into things we simply just do now. Imagine waking up every day at the exact same time to follow the exact same strenuous morning routine molded around your work day. That doesn’t just disappear the minute you retire.

Habits take a while to break, and addiction is one such habit. We associate the pleasure of a high with the substance in question, and even when it proceeds to destroy our lives piece by piece, our brains have been wired a certain way to accept that this certain habit is useful. Rewiring the brain to understand that it’s the opposite of helpful is possible, but takes time and practice. Specifically, you need to initiate a new kind of behavior to replace addiction, and then practice that behavior diligently to eliminate addiction.

This is the key to brain plasticity, and in a way, part of why humans have the capacity to learn languages and develop technology. We can learn and relearn, think and rethink, and we can think critically, apply concepts across different disciplines of thought, and come up with innovations in design and application of knowledge. Even when we develop a deeply-ingrained habit, we can break that habit by out-practicing it regularly enough. This same brain plasticity lets us adopt new patterns and quickly adapt to environments where unusual behavior is necessary for survival.

This is different from choice, but it’s also different from treating addiction as an uncontrollable disease. While it shares some characteristics of a chronic disease, it’s healthier to see addiction as a protocol of actions the brain has encoded into your behavior, and that this malicious protocol, while resistant, can be deleted through your own efforts and hard work.

It’s Not Just About Habit

However, not every case is as simple as taking a drug for the hell of it and then having trouble getting off it due to the habitual behavior it has become. While recovery in and of itself is necessary even for these cases, many who struggle with addiction first turned to it not to break a taboo or because of social circumstances, but to eliminate a certain negative emotion or feeling. Mood disorders, feelings of anxiety and a history of trauma or other mental conditions are common in those who struggle with addiction because addiction is an excellent coping mechanism when the only goal is to forget and stop feeling a specific way.

Overcoming the habit of addiction in cases like this requires having an alternative way to cope with these issues. You can’t endeavor to destroy and give up your addiction if you don’t have any other means of dealing with depressive thoughts and panic attacks. In cases like this, the priority lies in tackling the mental condition first before figuring out how best to take on the addiction it caused through self-medication.

Habit vs. Habitual

For the sake of clarity, it’s not entirely accurate to consider addiction to be nothing more than a habit. It’s a much stronger association – we may develop habits like typing on a QWERTY keyboard instead of AZERTY or any other combination of keys, but changing those habits is simpler than challenging an addiction. However, addiction is habitual, rather than being an on or off switch in your brain that determines whether you’re trapped in an endless cycle of relapses.

You can do something about your addiction, but it requires understanding the details of your specific case. Why are you addicted? How did you become attracted to the feeling of a high? What can you do in life to feel happy and fulfilled without the longing for another hit, another cigarette, another drink? Understand your relationship to your drug or drugs of choice, and you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you need to do.

Yoga-ing & Recovering

Yoga-ing & Recovering | Transcend Texas

Addiction recovery is a complicated road, made ever more twisted and convoluted by the many paths it can be composed of. Two people struggling with sobriety from the same drug addiction could go through entirely different programs and come out the other end fulfilled and determined to stay clean. Yet there are many who feel skeptical about alternative approaches to addiction recovery, particularly in the fields of mindfulness, meditation and yoga.

However, a little research and a lot of examples go to show that the physical and mental aspects of a yogic lifestyle – or even just the casual adoption of yoga as a regular exercise program – influence those struggling with sobriety, and people in general.

Scientifically, that influence has been under scrutiny, particularly as researchers consider the validity of fitness and mindfulness therapy – therapeutic exercises that challenge patients to focus on something, and forego distraction. The proposed benefit of such a therapy is increased self-control, improved self-esteem and a lower likelihood of episodes of depression and anxiety.

In its simplest context, mindfulness is the ability to better focus on what you feel is most important. So how does that translate into recovery from addiction?

Mindfulness & Addiction

Addiction is a disease of the brain, yet exactly what that means matters. Some scientists argue that there is evidence of addiction being a neurological affliction – it changes the way the brain works and looks, affects your state of mind, and becomes a chronic illness highlighted by a high relapse rate and the challenges of staying sober, even after detox and rehab.

Others assert that addiction is a learning and development disorder, because it’s mostly (but not entirely) rampant among youth, and is otherwise tied to mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Either way, addiction is a condition wherein a person is compelled to use drugs to cope with something, from a certain type of behavior to a feeling of shame, or a past trauma. Even among those who developed addiction due to unfortunate genetic circumstances or to fit into a social circle, long-term addiction will have a largely negative impact on your life, and can send you down a spiral of self-loathing and depression.

Even at the root of every cause of addiction, there lies a dysfunction. No one turns to an addictive substance without having a compelling reason to, not with the existing common education on the danger of drugs. Kids today don’t turn to drugs because they love the health benefits, but because there’s a need for them, perhaps as a social lubricant, as a ticket to a feeling of belonging, to bolster their self-esteem and reduce their anxious inhibitions.

Adults do the same thing, covering up what they don’t like about themselves and their lives with a drug. People in fields of immense success are under pressure day and night. In every life, we all carry around a little bit of unhappiness, and some of us carry around much more than others.

When it comes to addiction, rehab is typically the first step out of this hole. Residential treatment facilities offer detoxification and tips for early recovery to teach someone how to cope with what they’re going through. After the initial shock of detox and the passing of withdrawal symptoms, people dealing with addiction will often feel a wave of fear, depression, anxiety or pessimism overcoming them. All issues that might have been brought up over their time as addicts were previously suppressed, and sobriety forces them all out.

When such issues see the light of day and the initial coping mechanism is forbidden, people can turn bitter and angry. They begin to regret, to feel guilty. Overcoming those emotions – realizing that it’s okay not to have something, or to let go, or to make amends and move on – is key to long-term sobriety. These emotions can’t be drowned out by partying, drugs, friends or spirituality – they’ll always return in full force, ready to knock you off your feet. And so, they must be resolved.

Yoga for Recovery

That is where mindfulness & yoga come into play. It’s relatively easy to lose yourself in a maelstrom of negativity when dealing with the emotional consequences of an addiction. Mindfulness exercises teach you to focus on a simple, inconsequential concept or point of reference to avoid overthinking, worrying, and panic. Mindfulness is expressed by making a conscious choice to reject a negative thought, and instead focus on the positive possibility. It’s useless to make a fuss over things that haven’t happened yet – such as fearing that your family will reject you despite your recovery because of what you’ve said and done in the past – instead, mindfulness allows you to calm your mind and take away the power that pessimistic thought and depressive thinking holds over you.

This concept – the ability to control how you think, to deny a line of thinking and instead convince yourself to turn it all around – is directly related to the usefulness and meaning of yoga as a tool for addiction recovery.

Understanding Yoga

Yoga as a school of thought is ancient, and its teachings refer to eight limbs – concepts that describe what yoga is meant to do. Each of the eight limbs gives you an overall idea of what you should aim for in a meditative session, and they help you understand why yoga is an excellent choice to calm the mind and introduce better focus and stability in recovery:

  • Yama: the essential moral values of yoga, including non-violence, honesty and non-avarice, or the absence of senseless greed.
  • Niyama: the goals of the mind, or certain virtues that should be strived for, such as contentment, a clear mind, contemplation of spirituality, self-reflection and persistence in life.
  • Asana: the actual movement of yoga, described as a series of poses and posture meant to be “steady” and “pleasant”, eliminating the shaking of the body through focus.
  • Pranayama: the focus of breath, both continuous and in a series of suspended inhalation and complete inhalation.
  • Pratyahara: the process of slowly cutting out the outside world to focus entirely on the yoga itself, and your thoughts.
  • Dharana: this is the point in practice where you concentrate on a single concept, subject, or thought in your mind, returning to it when you drift, and remaining in focus.
  • Dhyana: once you have a point of focus, Dhyana is meant to be the contemplation of that focus – thinking about a subject or concept and exploring every imaginable perspective, point-of-view, description and personal conclusion.
  • Samadhi: this is the last step, a point in your practice wherein every aspect of yoga flows together to leave you completely entranced and focused only on whatever it is you decided to commit yourself to in that session.

More than a form of exercise, yoga is an expression of mindfulness – and one that can steel your mind and help you develop immense focus and self-contentment. There is a bit of spirituality in there – contemplating the self may also mean contemplating the universe, and practicing a bit of personal philosophy and soul-searching – yet there is no need to believe in a higher power to practice yoga.

All you need is a posture or position that might challenge you, and the time to make that position comfortable, while focusing entirely on a single, relevant thought. Returning to this thought repeatedly, or coming up with new points of focus, allows you to quickly quiet your mind and think of something more constructive when negativity and depression strikes, and the urge to use grows.

In Recovery, Family Involvement Matters

In Recovery, Family Involvement Matters | Transcend Texas

Drug recovery is a long dark road, and without a few lights along the way to help you keep the path illuminated, you’re bound to trip and fall on your face in a few very painful ways. However, you can’t just rely on yourself to bring those lights onto the path – it’s the people around you, who are supporting your efforts, that help you see forward and glimpse what might loom ahead in the far distance of your road.

It’s important for us to have the light of others in our life. We humans aren’t meant to survive long-term solitude – we can live and even thrive when left alone to some capacity, but beyond a specific amount of time, we simply begin to fall apart. That’s what it means to be lonely.

The People in Your Corner

Loneliness isn’t just a symptom of finding yourself stuck on an uncharted island after being the sole survivor of a horrifying plane crash – it’s far more mundane, and much, much more common. We can be lonely in our everyday life, even as we spend the entire day speaking to others and faking real connection. Much like beauty, loneliness is in the eye of the beholder – if you find yourself unable to connect with family, unable to form friendships, unable to find any joy or meaning in the relationships you’re in, then you’re bound to be lonely no matter how densely populated your area is.

That loneliness can lead to dark, negative thoughts. We begin to question ourselves – our mind, naturally, assumes that because we’re social outcasts, something is inherently wrong with us. We begin to feel trapped by thoughts that we can’t express or talk about with others, and we relate to depressive emotions, feelings of worthlessness. It becomes a downward spiral. With or without drugs, being lonely is one of the worst feelings to have.

Combatting that loneliness, and finding actual friendship in the process, is considered by some to be central to drug recovery as well. By finding and befriending people, we can relate to, and by becoming a part of a group – a family, even – we begin to realize important truths about ourselves. We begin to see a side of ourselves that might’ve been forgotten, or was never there. And in drug recovery, reconnecting and truthfully becoming a part of the family again is important in maintaining that feeling of self with which to strive for sobriety.

That’s what it means to have people in your corner – regardless of whether you choose to find professional treatment, a support system is vital during recovery to keep you on track, motivated, and remind you why you’re going through the pain of maintaining your sobriety.

Family Is More Than Blood

Most blog entries out there focus too much on family, without clarifying that family doesn’t have to be related to you. There are many people out there with complicated family histories, many of whom would rather not return to such a household. Whether it’s a case of verbal and physical abuse, domestic violence or psychological torment, there’s no abject need for you to reconnect with the people who have done you harm, just for the sake of reconnecting with them.

Instead, surround yourself with people who truly care about you. Best friends, close colleagues, old pals – make new friends or reconnect with those you lost along the way. It won’t be easy at first – it never is, opening to others and trusting them with your friendship and your true feelings – but the rewards of a real bond between people are immeasurable.

Part of learning to come to terms with yourself over the course of drug recovery is learning that you can afford to cut out the people in your life that do you nothing but harm. There’s no need to stick around friends or family members that abuse you, out of loyalty or any other reason. Instead, take the opportunity of recovery as a chance to make drastic changes in life, by purposefully avoiding the people and places that are bound to bring you back into negativity and self-loathing, and by surrounding yourself with people who motivate you, inspire you with their drive and progress, and remind you wordlessly to never give up, even in the worst of scenarios.

You Owe Them (and Yourself)

Given the consensus and agreeable literature, it’s virtually undisputable that responsibility and accountability play huge roles in the successful recovery of struggling drug addicts – but that doesn’t mean they are preventative measures for addiction. Instead, by purposefully making ourselves accountable to others – by taking on the responsibilities of a sibling, a parent, or a partner – we prove to ourselves that we’re capable of doing important things, and being important people to those who really matter to us.

Recovery is about more than just owing up to your mistakes or making up for the harm you may have caused in your days as an addict – it’s about making positive choices not out of punishment or because of repentance, but because you owe it to yourself to feel better about yourself, to feel good and enjoy life without having to mask the emotional weight of your worst moments with the numbing feeling of inebriation.

That’s the only responsibility someone has when struggling with sobriety and recovery – the responsibility to get better, for themselves, and for those around them. Utilizing that as motivation – the will to be someone you can be at peace with, someone who provides for their family, lifts the mood and inspires people to be a bit more confident and excited about living – can help you get through a few rough patches in life.

Of course, recovery is so much more than just wanting to get better – but without a fiery passion for a drug-free life, your recovery won’t get very far. The struggle of staying sober is amplified when our motivation is shot – make sure to have daily reminders of what it means to live in a family again, from making new friends at rehab to living in a friendly sober living community, to returning home and soaking in the love even in the most trying of times.

A Spiritual Journey To Sobriety

A Spiritual Journey To Sobriety | Transcend Texas

The ideological pillar supporting the movement of sobriety within circles like the 12-step program, is one of spiritual awakening and a surrender to God. Similarly, religion, spirituality and recovery have often been entwined, with the concept of a higher power being used as a compelling motivator for those who struggle with drugs.

Spirituality and religion aren’t one and the same – the latter is an extension of the former. Going to church or praying by your bedside is one expression of spirituality, if done in earnest. But simply painting to your heart’s content can be a spiritual practice. It’s about expression, and about achieving a specific kind of feeling.

Some people manage to defeat addiction alone, whether through an emotional severance or through strict and painful abstinence and slow recovery – but for many others, support is necessary. It takes months, sometimes years, and many who struggle with addiction say that for most the time, it doesn’t matter what you do – you won’t be able to end the chronic cycle until all the right conditions have been met.

And the right conditions include a combination of psychological and physical fitness – getting clean, then finding the emotional support and help needed to sever the tie between pleasure and addiction, and slowly relearn what it means to be legitimately happy without the interference of substance. It takes time, help, and peace. That last bit is, in most cases, essential – not to the initial abstinence, but to the long-term recovery process and the longevity of a person’s new sober life. And that is where spirituality often comes in.

What Is Spirituality?

Spirituality is an individual expression – unfortunately, there’s no quantifiable scientific way to describe it as anything other than what your own experiences make it out to be. We all develop spirituality as a complementary set of beliefs, emotions and explanations to every mystery and element of the unknown in our life. Spirituality can be expressed through religion, but it doesn’t have to be. Many secular individuals still indulge in their spirituality, whether through practices like meditation, or through art.

In a way, spirituality is a catch-all. We just aren’t sure yet what else to call it. Some people feel the same “transcendence” when in the groove of writing a long-form poem, as others do when they deeply engage in prayer.

The connection between spirituality and sobriety is that it fosters an inner peace of mind. Addiction is, in one way or another, connected to deep and suppressed suffering. Regardless of whether these emotions arose as part of the experience of addiction – the shame and guilt developed through realizing the severity of an addiction and one’s inability to end it – or if they were there before, keeping them locked away causes the mind to develop ticks and negative habits to act out and protect itself from the emotional scars it bears.

Beating an addiction means eliminating an extremely potent coping mechanism and often unleashing a slew of emotional and psychological repercussions. This is mixed with the euphoria and optimism of having finally overcome an addiction, only to bear the brunt of an emotional torrent afterwards.

Spirituality, in a way, captures the essence of what is needed to survive this. To be at peace with yourself and find a way to seek emotional sobriety, and then emotional health, without breaking down into boiling anger, overwhelming fear, or deep sadness. Now, the reason this is intentionally vague is because it’s not meant to be a limiting process defined solely through one perspective.

Every individual must find their own way to peace. The only constant is that everything must be resolved. You can’t defeat addiction if the guilt, the pain, and any other strong emotion from those days lingers. If you can’t forgive yourself, or come to terms with how things went down, then you’ll be stuck in a continuous cycle. How you decide to resolve your bottled-up emotions and experiences is up to you – and your own definition of spirituality.

Spirituality & Emotional Sobriety

Emotional sobriety is a point in recovery where you’re no longer caught up in a maelstrom of highs and lows, and psychological turmoil. It’s the ability to make decisions about how you feel and act based on a realistic, positive perspective, unmarred by the fears of anxiety and insecurity, and the deep, unfounded and self-destructive pessimism created by feelings of depression. It’s not that you’ll never feel those feelings again – they’re a natural part of life, in many occasions, and you absolutely need to be able to feel them – but it’s that you won’t let them affect your perspective on life, no matter how hard they hit.

It’s not about being joyous with every aspect of life. It’s not about forcefully radiating like a human sun. It’s about being healthy in the way you look at life, and about being hopeful. It’s about tolerating negative emotions and working through them with healthy coping mechanisms. It’s about tackling every problem with an attitude that looks for solutions, rather than crying about impossibilities. It’s about stepping up towards opportunities rather than shying away from them in fear of changing the way you live your life.

Some people believe that sobriety is the route to happiness, but it’s only really one aspect – and happiness isn’t a constant thing, anyway. You won’t find yourself in an emotional heaven after giving up an addiction – and believing that will only hurt you. Strive for emotional sobriety – for feeling sane. And it’s a tricky thing to achieve for most people, let alone those who have gone through the emotional turmoil of addiction and recovery. But it’s also one of the best ways to fortify yourself against the reoccurrence of an addiction.

Spirituality plays a role in this in that some people use it to bypass this part of the recovery process and instead speed towards a dogmatic, rigid path of some sort to distract from real, deep-seated emotions. Remember – a healthy recovery requires closure. It requires that you step up your emotional issues and end their hold on you. Spirituality isn’t meant to help you run away from problems, but instead face and dismantle them in a way addiction never could.

Spirituality and emotional sobriety go hand in hand, but they can also work in opposite interests. Regardless of what path you choose to stay sober, the important thing is finding a healthy way to deal with life and everything it makes you go through.

Depression Is Habitually Rooted In Addiction

Depression Is Habitually Rooted In Addiction | Transcend Texas

Addiction and depression may seem like two related yet separate conditions that cross paths often as a case of coincidence rather than as a part of high statistical likelihood. Yet in truth, depression and substance abuse are common comorbidities, bedside fellows in many cases of both depression and addiction. It can be a little challenging to determine which really came first – and it’s usually a matter of circumstance, different from individual to individual.

Regardless of whether the depression kicked in after or before the addiction, there are a few reasons why these two psychological disorders are, sadly, commonly linked. But before we go into the specifics, it’s important to know what a depression really is – because there are differences between depressive emotions, a cyclical depression, and a full-blown depressive disorder, and the effects and consequences each of these diagnoses have on substance abuse, as well as the significance of whether the addiction occurred before or after the onset of depression.

What Is Depression?

Depression, as a disorder, is more aptly known as major or severe depression, and consists of a set of depressive symptoms lasting a significant amount of time: usually a period of over two weeks or longer, depending on the exact timing of the symptoms and any possible surrounding triggers.

You see, it’s perfectly normal and even healthy to react to a tragic and traumatic event in life with depressive symptoms. A lack of appetite, a disinterest in old hobbies, problems concentrating on work, feelings of hopelessness and loneliness, nihilistic thoughts and even thoughts of self-loathing or guilt – these are common instances of depressive thinking, and they’re linked to loss, to grief, and to severe emotional trauma.

But usually, we snap out of this line of thinking. At some point, our minds rebound, they come to terms with the situation, and we regain our usual demeanor, or a more somber, yet still normal behavior. It’s when the symptoms last abnormally long, beyond any usual period of grief, that a person could be considered stuck in a depressive state, and put in a major depression. Getting out of a major depression requires a lot of inner strength, and often, professional treatment. Like addiction recovery, overcoming a depression starts with wanting to overcome it. When you get fed up with feeling the way you do, you start to seek ways to improve your demeanor, your outlook, and your take on life. Therapy, picking up exercising and old hobbies, updating your diet, going out with friends, trying even when you really don’t want to – these are all things that, with time, improve the symptoms of depression and eventually reduce a diagnosis from severe to mild, or even nonexistent.

A mild depression that comes and goes, is known as a cyclothymic disorder, and is often characterized by an onset of depressive feelings time and again without any known triggers or reasons. It may be caused by genetics, brain chemistry, environmental factors, or suppressed trauma. And treatment, again, relies on actively seeking ways to improve the mood, through exercise, through social activities, therapy, and more.

Where Does Addiction Come Into the Picture?

When in depression, addiction is often an easy way to snap out of the oppressive emotions surrounding the disorder. The bleak emptiness that many endure can be replaced by the chemical rush of positive emotions and pleasure triggered by many substances. Even depressive drugs like alcohol have a “positive” effect on those struggling with depression. But we all know why addiction is a problem – that rush only lasts so long, and when it’s gone, it replaces itself with a hunger. That hunger becomes a problem, an obsession that takes up your life, and when you’re already struggling with happiness through depression, then addiction can feel like the final nail in the coffin.

And to many, sadly, it is. Suicide is an all-too common end to those struggling with both depression and substance abuse, because the way out can seem almost impossible to see, obscured by darkness. Yet, the good news is that it isn’t. Both addiction and depression are curable – and there are many, many treatments designed to cure one or the other, or both in any order.

Addiction to those struggling with depression is often a coping mechanism, a way to fight the depression on a short-term basis, with long-term consequences. The only sure way to beat something like that, is by treating the cause – the depression – alongside the symptoms of addiction. While someone struggling with depression won’t magically stop being addicted after working to treat their depression, the similarities in depressive treatments and recovery can often mean that those who manage to negate their diagnosis also have a great chance of achieving long-term sobriety, if the treatment is done thoughtfully.

However, in the other way around, it’s more important to focus on the struggle of recovery rather than the depression first. Through helping someone recover from their addiction, they may in fact come out of treatment without any depressive symptoms left, especially after the initial post-rehab phase of emotional instability.

In the end, what links these two conditions together is how they feed off each other. Depression seeks addiction to cope. Addiction often leads to depression, because in between highs, there’s a distinct absence of joy, and the overwhelming sense of pleasure and satisfaction achieved by addiction robs you of the joys of life, ironically leading you a form of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure. It’s especially dangerous in addictions where overdose is common, like in alcoholism, where the cycle of addiction and depression can result in poisoning, and an untimely end.

Beating one and the other requires moving past these negative emotions, and striving for happiness, and a life that feeds off living, off joy, off possibilities, and the motivation and inspiration to keep on discovering new things that bring you pleasure and a sense of achievement in a healthy, non-obsessive way. Some people struggle with these issues for years and years – but today especially, we’re well-equipped to tackle both the darkness of depression, and the falseness of addiction.

Living With An Attitude Of Gratitude In Recovery

Living With An Attitude Of Gratitude In Recovery | Transcend Texas

Emotional energy matters immensely, precisely in recovery. Being unnecessarily bitter will only hurt you, and hurt your chances of finding pleasure in life without the need to cling to old, dark habits. Addiction feeds on emotions – it feeds on your thoughts, on your insecurities and your anxieties. Addiction will corrupt your pleasure center in the brain and associate any emotional salvation with another hit, another shot, another drink. It’ll take away the joy in life and replace it with a dangerous and toxic relationship, one that destroys all other relationships and usurps your entire life.

Beating it requires more than going through a set of distinct treatment steps, or visiting a therapist for the sake of some quota, or making a non-commitment towards group therapy. You must take matters into your own hands, cultivate your emotional energy towards saying no to your addiction. At some point in your recovery, you must ask for help. Seek motivation. Find inspiration. Watch as others crush their goals and find it within yourself to wake up, stand up, and follow your recovery schedule every single day.

And through a path like that, a path where you reject the extremes of shame and hubris and replace them with humble gratitude, where you actively deny the way addiction has been controlling your life and decide instead to take control of your attitude and your perception, then you’ll achieve not just a state of sobriety, but a long-term emotional reason to be sober. A reason to reject addiction and decide that there simply is no need for that sort of manipulative pleasure.

Your emotional energy – your attitude – is up to you. Life, can throw a great many things at you, and often they won’t necessarily be your fault. Often, we get addicted to things not because we really want to, but because that’s the way things played out. But it’s up to us, our attitude, and the choices we make in recovery to overcome addiction and feel like things are where they should be.

How to Cultivate Gratitude

There are a great many ways to cultivate gratitude and create an atmosphere of happiness towards others and the progress you’ve achieved. Being grateful and being happy isn’t necessarily the same thing, but the two are very much linked. The first step to being positive about your path in recovery is to clear your mind and confront the issues that bother you most.

You can’t ignore the source of pain. You can ignore pain, work through it, and achieve things despite it, but it’s unwise and foolish to ignore its source. Whether because of addiction or as part of the factors creating your addiction in the first place, many people struggling with drug recovery have a long history of unresolved emotional tension and trauma. You should confront that, come to terms with it, seek help in finding how to be at peace with your past, and decide for yourself what you must do to be happy with you are despite what you might have done, or what might have happened to you.

It’s a hard step, but you can’t get very far without it. Once you’ve come to a point where you see your past for what it is – in the past, not to be changed, but only to be reflected upon – then it’s time for the next step.

Start with the simple things. Addiction often robs us of the ability to appreciate the pleasant things in life. It drives people towards nihilism, depression and self-absorption. Take a day to look at the sun setting. If that’s not your thing, then plan a lazy Sunday for yourself with a delicious breakfast and some time in bed. Then take note of current events and upcoming festivals that might interest you. Go to an animal shelter or a sanctuary and volunteer. Work at the soup kitchen. Help a friend move into their new place. Offer to help at local community efforts. Look for opportunities to repay the people who have struggled to stay alongside you all this time by doing little things for them, acts of kindness, and gratitude.

Happiness & Sobriety

The relationship between happiness and sobriety is that one is the key to the other, and it’s often difficult to tell in what order that concept works best. It depends on the context, more than anything – some of us want to achieve sobriety, and hit that point in our lives where we feel truly freed from the shackles and oppression of the addiction that surrounded us. Others feel that it’s important to be happy – to seek to be content, and fulfilled, and always strive towards loftier goals – to remain sober in the long-term.

Both ideas are valid. Both ideas are true. What determines which is more important to you is up to where you stand in time, and what you’re struggling with. But at the end of the day, being happy for yourself, for others, and taking in the massive journey and all you’ve learnt is important for you to be able to conclude that chapter in your life.

If you linger on shame, guilt, hate, anger, sorrow, and so many of the emotions that mold addiction and the cage it traps people in, then you stat teetering at the edge, looking towards the abyss, feeling yourself slip with every second into old, treacherous habits.

But if you don’t cling onto those emotions – if you have the strength to look past them, and watch your old struggles be a thing of the past – then you can confidently take on the rest of your life knowing that new challenges await, and they don’t have to be entangled with the ugliness of addiction.

Gratitude is key. Through gratitude for others, gratitude for your fortune, gratitude for all the times you made the right call and persevered through harsh times, you’ll be able to carry on without a heavy heart or reservations and lingering feelings. You can effectively end your recovery arc. While they say that recovery is a lifelong process, addiction can be nothing more than an echo of days long gone if you’re willing to put it all behind you.

Letting Go Of The Shame, Guilt That Chains You To Addiction

Shame, Guilt Keeps You Chained To Addiction | Transcend Texas

There’s a sad tendency to conflate addiction with shame, personal responsibility, and willpower. To many, the notion of succumbing to addiction is one that declares you weak and damaged. It tries to pummel you into a position of victimhood and powerlessness, one where your condition is a result of your own shortcomings and mistakes, and solvable only through others.

This is not true. Addiction is an illness, and many of the factors that determine addiction are uncontrollable and have nothing to do with choice. All it takes is one mistake, in a bad moment, at a bad place, and a cascade of events can lead into one of the worst chapters in a person’s life.

Whether you get addicted is not a matter of character or personality. There is no such thing as an addictive personality, and your addiction is not a result of your own flawed principles or actions. However, coming to terms with that – and overcoming the message of shame attached to addiction – is a hard yet necessary step for a successful recovery into long-term sobriety.

Before we go into how important attitude is in recovery and how beating the notion of shame and victimhood is often central to long-term sobriety and a feeling of content, we must go over the mechanics of shame and its role in perpetuating the cycle of addiction that so many people remain trapped in.

What Is Shame?

Shame is linked to perception, not action. This is what makes this such a challenging thing to counter in a person’s psychology. When fighting shame, you must not just realize that you haven’t done anything, but you must find a way to overcome the judgment and prejudice of those around you, because they may in fact make you feel a certain way regardless of your circumstances or the context of your situation.

It’s true that addiction is about the loss of rational agency, and self-control – but that’s not something to be ashamed of. The very way in which addiction functions belies that it overcomes a person’s self-control by attacking the brain. Addictiveness is determined by a person’s emotional state and the actual physical addictiveness of a substance relative to that person.

Alcohol is more addictive to some than it is to others, for example, and when someone with a tendency towards alcoholism gets addicted, they may in fact have less of a history of drinking as their other peers yet are still trapped by a growing need for alcohol as their primary source of pleasure and satisfaction.

The role shame plays in this scenario is that, rather than go beyond the blame game, people try to find some reason for their addiction that allows them to channel their frustrations – and they often find themselves. This only perpetuates their condition, because it robs them of the emotional state needed to effectively combat addiction, and reverse the effect it has on the brain.

Addiction Is Not a Matter of Personal Responsibility

Addiction happens. It can happen to almost anybody. It happens to high school kids in a bad crowd. It happens to the regular worker who drops off at a bar after every shift’s end. It can happen to teachers, athletes, loving parents, talented artists, empathic activists and even to the most dedicated and willful of journalists.

When you find yourself trapped in addiction, the cause of that situation is not a matter of personal responsibility. However, your ability to fight it is.

The simplest analogy is a trip and a fall. Tripping happens to the best of us. We don’t wish for it – we just make a little misstep and fall on our face. But once we’re down there, once gravity has had its way with us and reminded us of the dangers of losing balance in an unfortunate situation, it’s entirely up to us to get back up. If we choose to stay down, then our situation is our fault – because we’re not fighting to get back up on our feet. But if you choose to fight – if you decide you’re not giving up, if you tell yourself that you’re going to keep struggling until you’ve “made it” – then no one can tell you that you have something to be ashamed of.

Choosing to break an addiction requires personal responsibility. It requires strength. It requires will. It requires wanting to stop using, from the bottom of your heart, then dedicating yourself to that task, despite any setbacks and the potential for continuous failure before success. And yes, it requires humility, and often, the ability to ask others for help. The path to recovery is one you’re going to be walking, but it’s a good idea to ask others for help in that walk.

The Choice to Fight Is Never Weak

If you’re struggling with overcoming addiction, then congratulations – you’re strong. It takes strength to do that. To struggle. To keep on looking for alternatives, treatments, and ways to continue your recovery. From residential treatments to sober living homes, there are many ways to do recovery. Finding yours – even if it’s in the hands of group therapy, and other group-related activities rather than an individual pursuit – is always admirable.

Even if you find that asking others for help in recovery somehow means giving up on your own ability to fight addiction, then remember that at the end of the day, asking for help is just that – help. It’s not asking someone to walk the walk for you – you still must take every single grueling step, you still must swear off the drugs, you still must take up the responsibility to pay your dues, work on your new habits, achieve your goals, go to your meetings, and adjust to your new life. That’s not giving up – that’s a full-fledged battle. Don’t be ashamed by your past – take satisfaction in the fact that you’re actively overcoming it.

Words Are Powerful

Some people find that the very word “addict” is associated with guilt and shame so strongly that they decide the best course of action is to entirely boycott it – cut it out of the terminology, and never again label themselves or anyone else in the process of recovery an “addict.”

If you’re uncomfortable with calling yourself an “addict,” and you’d like to distance yourself from the term and what connotates it, then do so. And remember to do so for everyone else. Addiction is a large problem – it affects roughly 23.5 million Americans, and they all struggle with finding a way out of their situation. The path to recovery is a little different for everyone – but shame and guilt are things found in the hearts of almost everyone who’s had to struggle with addiction.

Adjust Your Recovery Lens For Better Focus

Adjust Your Recovery Lens For Better Focus | Transcend Texas

We live in a world where it’s common to find the quickest possible solution to everything. While we’re obviously inclined to go for what works best and fastest to solving our problems, we’ve built up a sort of need for instant gratification when it comes to information and results. People are progressively getting worse at doing things that require patience and time – or more correctly, the average person’s mind is losing the ability to concentrate long term, and stay on task.

When most of us are running around with a pocket device capable of answering almost any question in seconds, we sort of become used to that sense of speed and efficiency. It’s gotten to the point that when a website takes longer than a few seconds to load, it’s going to severely suffer in traffic simply because people will close the tab and not bother coming back, instead of visiting the faster competitor.

That’s all well and good. There’s absolutely nothing wrong about being able to find out within seconds what the best method is for removing wine stains from a woolen carpet. But there are some things in life that will just never be solved with that kind of an attitude – there are some things that will never bow down to the whims and hunger for instant gratification. Good things take time, hard work, and any shortcuts you’re bound to find are going to hurt you more than they’ll do you any good.

The prime example for most people is weight loss. Despite starting to shrink, the weight loss industry is huge for a reason – people will pay large sums of money to find easier, different solutions from the one we all know work best: exercise, eat healthily and eat less. Some people legitimately can’t afford better food, or they’re struggling with a medical condition that predetermines their obesity or renders them physically disabled. But most people just want an easier solution.

For recovering from addiction, the simplest advice is the toughest to swallow: put the work in. Put the work in – that’s the only way you’re going to beat this. Put the work in – regardless of how you treat your addiction, you should shut off any scatterbrained behavior and focus. Go to your meetings, speak to your therapist, meet your weekly or monthly goals. If you’re struggling with that – and most people do – then learn to focus your focus.

The Power of Focus

The focus is basically your ability to channel everything into a single goal. When you’re focused, you’re single-minded – you cut out unnecessary distractions, avoid multitasking, and devote yourself to your task. But focus often only lasts so long. Most people fall out of focus, lose themselves, and get distracted. With addiction, the ability to focus becomes even harder as patients are expected to cope with all the emotional changes coming their way.

It’s a long-term application. The focus is the ability to stay motivated, to remember to hit the gym, to follow your schedule and do the things you’ve set out to do. When we falter in our self-discipline and get soft, we allow excuses to filter into our mind, and we start to go down the road of a relapse.

At a certain point in addiction, there’s no question that while willpower helps, it’s still rather powerless to the factors of addiction. But after rehab – when the drug is out of your system, and when you’re on the road to addressing the emotional issues caused or nurtured by your addiction of choice – your ability to prevent a relapse is largely your responsibility.

That doesn’t mean you should be ashamed for failing to stay sober – most people fail at least a few times before they truly overcome an addiction. But the only way you’re going to do that is to continuously get back on the horse and focus on the road ahead.

Training Your Focus

Focus, determination, will and motivation all go together and are all important for your successful recovery. In fact, they’re important for any goal in life. Being an addict doesn’t make you a lesser person, or any less human – you’re a person just like anyone else, and an addiction is ultimately a challenging adversary.

Therefore, learning to better focus in life and maintain your motivation – even after a setback – is an extremely powerful skill. And the best way to train it is through mindfulness. Mindfulness activities are best described as meditation – focusing on a single thought or idea to train your ability to concentrate for extended periods of time.

Some sports and activities are perfect active forms of meditation – for example, artists and writers like building their ability to focus and creatively flow by simply writing or painting in an ad-lib fashion. Others prefer exercises like jogging, lifting or sparring as “active meditation”. When you work on your ability to focus for longer periods of time, you hone your ability to stay motivated, to slip into a calm state of mind, to get away from negative or intrusive thoughts by “meditating” in your own way.

Working together in a group is another wonderful way to channel focus. Sober living environments are particularly effective for building permanent habits because working alongside others on your road to recovery means sharing in the collaborative and competitive aspects of self-improvement – through sports, through group activities, and through trips and adventures you’ll learn to communicate and rely on others, to rely on yourself, and to put aside any distractions and focus on the collective goal.

When Focus Is Truly Challenging

The ability to focus isn’t something universal, sadly. There are cases where negative thinking and addictive temptation can’t be escaped or combatted with mindfulness or focus – because you’re constantly flying around in your own head. Adult attention deficit disorder, for example, is one reason why people suffer from an inability to maintain their focus.

If you feel like you’re having an exceptionally tough time to shut off your thoughts or concentrate on a task, alone or in a group, then it’s best to consult a professional and see whether you could be diagnosed with ADD or a related mental disorder. In some cases, mindfulness is a fantastic way to improve your focus despite the ADD, and even without medication, you can learn to use focus to get away from the chaos of life.

In other cases, medication may be a perfect way for you to improve not just your ADD, but your addiction as well. There is a link between attention deficit disorders and the development of addiction, and literature to support that treating one can affect the other.