Breaking the Pattern of Addiction
Part of the pattern of addiction is simply learned behavior. In other words, people learn to use drugs and alcohol as a coping tool, and people learn to use substances as a means to escape from their problems. These are learned behaviors that can be unlearned.
Of course, there is also an essential part of addiction that eventually becomes an illness. The brain and its functioning changes in notable ways as a result of continued drug or alcohol use. However, for most people, even before the brain becomes ill, there are behaviors that are learned that one can unlearn. In fact, helping a person unlearn certain behaviors and thinking patterns is precisely what addiction treatment attempts to do.
One way that people learn addiction is through using drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with challenging feelings. When they get angry, depressed, or fearful, for example, they might turn to drinking or drugs to repress or avoid how they’re feeling.
Because of this, one significant aspect of recovery is learning how to cope with emotions in healthy ways. Recovery includes learning how to feel and how to manage those emotions when they arise. Another essential aspect of recovery is learning how to better manage stress.
It’s common for men and women to turn to drugs and alcohol when life gets to unbearable or stressful. Interestingly, experts say that one’s ability to manage stress is equivalent to one’s ability to manage emotions. Unlearning unhealthy ways to manage stress and emotions is a necessary part of recovery.
Another form of unlearning a person needs to do has to do with their thoughts and beliefs. It’s common for addicts to have harmful thinking patterns and beliefs about themselves. These cognitive patterns can frequently lead to choices and behaviors that are also harmful, such as the use of substances to feel better about themselves.
Unlearning old thinking patterns and replacing them with new and healthy thoughts are also an essential part of recovery.
There Are Treatment Options to Unlearn Thinking and Behavioral Patterns
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This form of therapy changes thinking and belief patterns to help prevent someone from acting out based on a negative thought or belief. CBT works well with anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, eating disorders, and addiction.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – This form of therapy is particularly successful with Borderline Personality Disorder, eating disorders, conduct disorders, and addictions. It uses mindfulness techniques along with learning healthy coping tools to adjust to life in healthy ways.
Psycho-education – This is any form of education that has to do with learning about one’s diagnosis, its causes, and how it is treated. Psycho-education about addiction might also include learning how the brain is affected by the illness and how to recover from the illness.
Unlearning addiction is a significant part of recovery. But it’s not the only part to healing from the illness of addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact a mental health provider for assistance.
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