Vail Daily column: This is your life, don’t numb it
Thank God for the 12-step program. It is a program of anonymity that provides an outline and support system for recovery. There are 12-step programs for alcohol, narcotics, cocaine, overeaters, families of addicts, and more. It has helped thousands of people and continues to do so.But, it is not the only recovery option. There are holistic approaches such as combining a spiritual practice with a 12-step program, nutrition, talk therapy, emotional work, lifestyle balance and support groups. Talk therapy alone is good, but the root cravings must be treated. Having a wonderful support group is good, but again, the root cravings must be treated.There has been research showing that addiction and the drive to self-medicate is directly related to genetic factors, medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies and biochemical imbalances. It has been proven that chemical imbalances can lead to cravings and addictive behavior. There are options that offer reducing the frequency or severity of the behavior, which is a positive step, until the person stops completely. This method’s goals are abstinence only if that is what the client truly wants. This method, like many others, should be discussed with a professional about what will work best.There are many who believe that the 12-step program is the only way; it may be – for them. It has saved many lives and still does to this day and it is not to be underestimated by any means. Like any program – whether for losing weight, exercise or a sales program – you have to decide what works for you. There may be times, especially in addictions, that you aren’t thinking clearly. You may need some assistance or direction, but you are the ultimate decision maker in your life. When sobriety is the goal, simply abstaining from drug and alcohol use is ineffective for long-term recovery. Addiction is something you cannot stop. For example, as one person says in the movie “What the Bleep do we know?” – “If you can’t control your emotions, then you must be addicted to them.” Changing your thoughts about why you do what you do that has now become an addiction is essential and understanding how your chemistry effects the addiction is equally important.Cognitive behavioral therapy has been long proven to work well for addictions. This is a therapeutic method that teaches that if we change our thoughts (cognitive), our behaviors (behavioral) will begin to change automatically because we are not thinking the same habitual thoughts, which create the same habit behaviors. Addiction is about habit or repetition. We think something and then something happens. Now think about what I just wrote. We think something – then something happens. All of our actions come from thought first. So, if we never learned how to think differently about a situation or an emotion, we will always handle it the way we learned or decided. This will become the habit. Using drugs or alcohol to numb the feelings or deal with a situation may become a habit, or an addiction.Alcohol and other drugs are used to disguise or cover up things like chronic pain, grief, PTSD, trauma, celebration, mental illnesses, and more. When someone deals with life situations by covering them up with drugs or alcohol, they may be thought of as being an addict. Making assumptions that all people who use are addicts is a dis-service to them. There may be two or three things going on that may require a professional diagnosis and professional help is necessary, along with a good support group, learning better nutrition, etc.If you or someone you know has a thought or behavior habit they can’t stop, please contact a professional who can help you uncover the root of the issue. When you turn your problems over to the courts and probation, you allow them to diagnose you. If you would like to find out if you may be covering up a root issue, please reach out and ask for help before you have others decide your future for you. Counseling should be used like any wellness program. Talk with a professional who works not only with addictions, but someone who understands that there is more to addictions than meets the eye. Investigate options, ask your professional counselor to guide you to others who can assist with your mind, body and spirit integration. This is your life, don’t numb it.Catherine Zeeb, PhD, CACIII is a spiritual counselor, certified addiction counselor, marriage & family counselor, and energy healer/intuitive. Her first book, Begendings: A New Perspective, was recently released and is available at the Bookworm in Edwards. You can visit her website at http://www.healing-spirits.net .