Counselling for Addiction
Addiction occurs when an individual consumes a substance (alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs) or engages in an activity (gambling, sex, food, shopping, the internet) that may be experienced as pleasurable, however, the continuation of the behaviour becomes compulsive and interferes with relationships, work, health, or finances. Individuals may be unaware of the psychological, behavioural and physiological changes that have led to the individual experiencing a loss of control in all life areas.
What is addiction?
The process of addiction is progressive as the consequences of the addiction become worse over time leading to an increase in personal distress. An individual engaged in the beginning stages of addiction where major life areas have not been impacted by the addiction can be described as a functioning addict. These individuals may find their tolerance to the substance or behaviour is increasing, therefore becoming less pleasurable. Substance use or addictive behaviour may become more secretive at this time as the individual remains unaware of how their choices are impacting themselves or others. A non-functioning addict is when an individual’s substance use or behaviour has impacted major life areas such as personal relationships, family, housing, legal, financial, employment, school, self-care, as well as, mental and physical health.
Who does addiction affect?
Addiction can affect anyone. Individuals that may be at a higher risk are individuals who experience lower self-esteem, poor coping strategies, or difficulties dealing with stress. Individuals may experience a lack of positive social supports and loss of positive connections.
What can I do about addiction?
Most individuals who are experiencing addiction issues express fear of seeking support due to a high level of shame and fear of losing what they have identified as pleasurable or the “answer to life problems”. Finding new forms of locus of control and healthy coping strategies can feel overwhelming for the individual. Reaching out for professional support is the first step to changing an individual's destructive mind set towards one of self-love, acceptance and respect.
Counselling and support for addiction
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and Interpersonal Therapy are all effective in treating individuals with addiction. Changing one’s self-perception and ability to take care of one's self through healthy coping strategies becomes imperative. It is important to know that most individuals will not recover from an addiction by stopping the substance or behaviour alone. You recover by understanding internal and external triggers to the addiction, learning how to relax, identifying high-risk situations (people, places, things), and becoming honest with self and others. It also becomes imperative that an individual learns the signs of an emotional relapse, mental relapse and physical relapse so that the individual can develop effective coping strategies to prevent each one.
How can I help a loved one?
- It is essential to remember that individuals in active addiction are struggling to cope with life stressors and events.
- Be aware of your own attitude and behaviour around addiction.
- Educated yourself on addiction and codependent relationships.
- Family counselling may be beneficial in order to improve communication, establish healthy boundaries and identify an active recovery plan.
- Seek individual support for yourself in order to gain the tools needed when witnessing a loved one engaging in active addiction.
In all, seeking professional help becomes essential for individuals struggling with addiction in order to change one’s perceptions and behaviours.
Heather Kempton at Optimal Life in Coquitlam can help individuals engage in recovery from addiction so that they may experience a more fulfilling and joyous life.