Why Substance Abuse Treatment Sees Addiction as a Chronic Illness

Substance Abuse Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comAddiction is an illness, and just like any illness that involves the body, it requires medical treatment. However, addiction is not the type of illness that can be cured and forgotten. It requires persistence and ongoing treatment.

The primary reason for this is the nature of the illness. Addiction is not only a physical disease, involving some form of dependency, whether that’s on alcohol or cocaine or methamphetamines, it’s also a psychological illness. Addiction is an illness of the mind as well.

For this reason, substance abuse treatment usually not only includes a drug withdrawal process, but it also includes an examination of one’s thoughts, ideas, behavior, and feelings.

In fact, although a person might have entered substance abuse treatment, there are still parts of his or her personality that will require healing. Even when a person is no longer drinking or using drugs, there are patterns of thought that might have led to the substance use in the first place that are often still in full swing.

Thinking Patterns of Recovering Addicts

  • Failure to put oneself first before others
  • Dishonesty about the addiction, life problems, and dysfunctional relationships
  • Unrealistic expectations of others and of themselves
  • Tendency to blame others or external circumstances when they are accountable
  • Easily triggered by others’ comments and the tendency to take things personally
  • A failure to live up to one’s promises and commitments
  • The inability to deal constructively with challenges
  • Lacking maturity
  • The inability to fulfill obligations

However, the ongoing illness of addiction is that these thought patterns can continue over time, and for many recovering addicts, they do. According to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is frequently included in substance abuse treatment, thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behavior.

For instance, if you have the thought that you are not good at what you do, then you might start to feel bad about your work and yourself at the end of the day. That might lead you to think about drinking and if your day was one of your worse ones, then it could even lead to relapsing.

In fact, part of the illness of addiction is the trigger of dopamine that happens with a simple thought of drinking or using drugs. There’s a high just by thinking about using. In this way, you can see that the illness of addiction takes time. Most of all, it takes awareness and consciousness. It takes changing some of those old thoughts and feelings that have led you to drink or use drugs in the past.

How Treatment Helps Recovering Addicts

As mentioned earlier, many substance abuse treatment centers will include CBT. This is a form of therapy that works to change behavior by identifying negative and distorted thinking patterns. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that addresses unhealthy patterns of thought that lead to making poor choices.

CBT also provides healthier coping mechanisms to help manage challenging emotions, triggering life circumstances, and stress, replacing any old methods of coping that may have furthered dysfunction and stress. CBT can also enhance the effectiveness of any treatment medication that an addict might be taking.

A recovering addict might also encounter Motivational Interviewing as a form of therapy in their substance abuse treatment experience. This is a form of therapy that addresses a person’s indecisiveness or ambivalence about using drugs or alcohol. And it’s common to experience ambivalence in early recovery.

For instance, an addict might want to get sober because of the destruction that it’s causing, but at the same time, might not want to let go of the pleasures that come with getting high or drunk.

Like Motivational Interviewing, CBT can help with the ambivalence that an individual who is new in recovery might experience. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can find those thoughts that might cause a drive to the bar and help replace it with a healthier thought.

Yet, the recovery is a long-term process. Like any chronic illness, healing from addiction requires ongoing attention, tenderness, and care.


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