addict cooking with friends

New Book on Addiction Recommends Swapping Addictive Behaviors With Joyful Ones

In order to understand how an individual can successfully overcome their drug addiction problems, one first has to consider the root of these problems.  Individuals usually turn to drug use when they encounter some sort of problem in their life that they feel like they cannot overcome on their own.  Drugs can provide them a means of hiding or escaping from this problem, giving the individual some degree of relief–albeit only temporary and at some cost to their overall health.

When drug use continues for some time, the individual moves through drug tolerance, wherein they no longer experience the same desired effects through the same quantity of drug use, and into drug dependence, where they actually become physically and psychologically dependent upon continued drug use in order to experience what they feel is “normal”.  Drugs become their motivation in life, and much of their time is spent on obtaining, using and recovering from these substances.  As their mental, physical and emotional health slowly deteriorates, the individual can come to realize that drugs are harming them.  However, they often also believe that it would be impossible to live without these substances, and even abstaining from their use for a short period of time can make them feel deprived.

Some health professionals may feel that the best way to make it through recovery from drug addiction is for the individual to simply “tough it out”–remaining persistent in their choice to be sober despite how difficult it is.  However, a new book now indicates that the road to lasting recovery can be made all the smoother by replacing one’s addictive behaviors with more joyful and rewarding ones.

Active Recovery

“The Addiction Recovery Skills Workbook”, due to be published on December 1st, focuses on the idea that the individuals who have had the most success with recovering from drug addiction are those who have gotten involved with a range of pleasurable activities.  The book’s author, Suzette Glasner-Edwards, is an adjunct associate professor at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior as well as a licensed clinical psychologist.  Her research into addiction treatment has led her to conclude that pleasurable activities can help a recovering addict replace the time and energy they once spent on their addictive behaviors.  This can allow them to experience true pleasure, without the consequences that come with drug use.

Glasner-Edwards’ workbook outlines many different treatment options for drug addicts, and has worksheets, lists and questionnaires so that treatment options can be explored in depth.  The workbook also describes “behavioral activation therapy”, which helps the individual rediscover many of life’s healthy rewards.  Upon receiving perceived rewards, an individual’s brain normally releases the chemical dopamine, which causes them to experience pleasure.  Drugs and alcohol also causes a release of dopamine, although at a far greater rate than is normally experienced, which is why the individual who is addicted to drug substances often feels that they cannot experience any pleasure in life without drug use.

Obviously, an individual who is abstaining from further drug use and participating in healthy activities that bring about pleasure may feel that this pleasure is somewhat shallow.  It is for this reason that Glasner-Edwards recommends that addicts resume activities they once found to be pleasurable as well as taking up new ones–the more the better.  Some suggestions include taking up cooking, planning a party, exercising, visiting a museum and getting involved in a sport.  The individual who schedules these activities so that they have at least one worked into each day may find that they have created an effective diversion that is not only helping them remain sober, but is also helping them to re-experience the pleasure available in living a healthy life.

Glasner-Edwards points out that many individuals in recovery have often found that the new activities, while perhaps seeming daunting at first, are actually more enjoyable than anticipated, which can help the individual establish healthy habits to replace their old ones.  Of course, individuals need to carefully select which activities they participate in to help ensure that they don’t end up in an activity that may trigger a relapse.  Aside from that, however, the possibilities are endless, and allow the individual to take back control of their life and their future by determining what activities they want in it.

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