Challenging the addiction is essential for recovery. This process usually takes place in a residential treatment center; however, loved ones are also helpful in this process as well. An addict has learned unhealthy behavior patterns and coping skills throughout the addiction process. He or she will have to unlearn unhealthy coping patterns and relearn healthy coping skills through challenging thoughts and behaviors that are present when not using drugs and alcohol. The characteristics of addiction are underhanded, manipulative, lying, encouraging of denial, negative and homicidal.
Deceitfulness in Addiction
Addictive thoughts and behaviors are heavily influenced by the physical and psychological components of addiction. Physically, the body has developed a dependence on the substance and will experience withdrawal symptoms without the replenishment of drugs and/or alcohol. This is extremely uncomfortable physically and has a negative impact on the addict psychologically. The addiction will encourage the addict that only using drugs and/or alcohol will cure the physical and emotional discomfort.
Two components that perpetuate the addict’s use of drugs and alcohol are:
- The Addiction Tricks the Addict
Addicts will often make statements such as they are in control, they don’t have a problem and they can stop whenever they want. The addiction tricks an addict into believing he or she is in control. However, when addiction is present the drugs and/or alcohol are in control and the addict is maneuvering his or her life around substance abuse.
- The Addiction Lies to the Addict
The addiction will lie to the addict about being in control. This will result in the addict lying to loved ones about substance abuse. Eventually, addicts believe their own lies. Addicts will be convincing that nothing is wrong and confuse those who are trying to help by using manipulation, twisting conversations and sometimes aggression. The misinterpretation of reality that the addiction encourages fuels the addict’s denial process.
Denial, as it relates to addiction, is the rejection of reality that there is a substance abuse problem. For example, an addict will get arrested for buying drugs and blame the arrest on a random incident stating that he or she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though the addict may get arrested again, there will always be an external excuse as to why the situation happened. This pattern of response can be applied to any consequence the addict experiences from using drugs and/or alcohol enabling the addict to not be accountable. Breaking denial patterns helps increase accountability which is essential for the recovery process.
Specific steps to helping break denial patterns are:
- Focus on the facts – Restate negative consequences of using drugs and alcohol to the addict. Eventually the addict will have to challenge their perception of reality.
- Do not reinforce excuse making behavior - Loved ones should not engage in conversation with the addict that involves listening to excuses for behavior. Offer help when the addict is ready to be accountable and go to substance abuse treatment.
- Decrease enabling behaviors that allow the addict to remain comfortable using drugs and alcohol. For example, covering his or her rent because you don’t want them to be homeless. This helps the addict avoid consequences that would help him or her learn to be responsible.
Challenging the Addiction
Confronting and challenging denial patterns are part of challenging the addiction. In a residential treatment center, the addict is confronted daily by treatment staff regarding addiction thoughts and behaviors. This process of can be difficult for the addict since the addiction has convinced the addict that he or she is correct, in control and knows what is best for him or her.
Challenging addiction is a process, and not every addict instantly accepts that they are in denial about thoughts and behaviors related to addiction. It is unsettling to think that our perception of reality is wrong, but addiction warps reality to perpetuate substance abuse. Once the addict accepts that there is a problem with addiction, he or she can begin to reframe skewed thoughts and change unhealthy behavior patterns.
Recovery is a lifelong process as well as challenging old addiction patterns. Because the drug addiction is tricky and manipulative, the addict in recovery must stay involved with support groups, therapy, alumni services from the drug treatment center, and sober friends. Having a network around that will challenge and confront unhealthy thoughts and behaviors will help the addict remain one step ahead of his or her addiction.
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