Addiction occurs when an individual is bound to one thing or another despite its negative consequences. The individual cannot or will not stop. Addiction usually involves high physical and psychological dependence that can result in withdrawal symptoms. Addiction is generally used in the drug or alcohol field but can be anything from pornography, shopping, gambling and eating. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that changes the way that the brain works.
What is it like living with addiction?
Living with addiction is misery. It’s like having a demon inside of you. Addiction often takes precedence over everything else including family, relationships, housing and jobs. It manipulates and controls, causing individuals to feel lonely, depressed and to possibly lie or steal. Many times individuals wish it would just “leave them alone.” They don’t want it, however, they lack the ability to be able to control it. Feeling out of control can be exhausting and can often lead to severe depression. We have found that it is not uncommon for those struggling with addiction to also be suffering from trauma or PTSD. Numbing frightening or painful emotions emotions becomes first priority when an individual has been traumatized. Sometimes feelings of guilt, shame, depression and worthlessness can triggers an individual to abuse a substance so that they can “numb out.”
Why can’t I just stop?
Addiction changes the circuits in the brain. It impacts the brain chemicals that help you feel pleasure and satisfaction, such as dopamine and serotonin. Most drugs besides benzodiazepines bind themselves to dopamine receptors causing the body to release up to 100 times the normal amount of dopamine into the pleasure part of the brain. Once addicted, the mere idea of getting high will trigger a dopamine release in the brain of an addict. The body adjusts and after a period of time the brain will no longer continue to produce the normal amounts of dopamine. This can make recovery very difficult as individuals may find that it can take up to two to three months to “feel happy again.” In addition, the frontal cortex of the brain that helps with reasoning may become damaged when the pleasure part of the brain takes over. When an individual decides to stop, he or she may suffer from withdrawal symptoms, experience feelings of constant unhappiness and not have enough coping skills, support or education to help him or her make the transition.
What do I do if I have an addiction?
If you feel like you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction, he or she needs professional help. In circumstances where the addiction is a substance, it is not uncommon to suffer from withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, shaking, headaches and nausea when he or she tries to quit. Withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Depending on the severity and intensity of the substances used, professional medical help may be required. Often in- treatment (treatment where an individual lives in a facility) or outpatient (treatment where an individual comes into the facility weekly) is required. Addiction can develop over years. Many treatment facilities include only a 90 day treatment plan. It is crucial that individuals have an aftercare plan that includes group support, peer support and ongoing mental health therapy and addiction counseling. You need a team of individuals to help you find success. We are the team that can help you begin or continue your journey of sobriety in what may be the hardest struggle of your life.
I just finished treatment, why do I still need addiction counseling?
Addiction is a disease. Just like getting the diagnoses of diabetes, an individual will need a lifetime of monitoring in order to manage the symptoms and effects of the disease. Nobody ever leaves a treatment center and is “cured.” The pleasure part of the brain has already been altered and although many parts of the brain will be able to heal themselves over time, the pleasure part will never change. Just like an individual with diabetes monitors their sugar levels, eats healthy and is constantly aware of their body, addiction is the same. Just because a diabetic is doing these things doesn’t mean their diabetes went away and they are cured. Individuals with addiction who want change must realize that it is a lifelong commitment of monitoring, being aware of their body, noticing triggers and continuing to make the lifestyle changes that help keep them healthy.
What if I’ve attended a treatment facility before and I haven’t been able to stop?
Treatment comes in all shapes and sizes and not all treatment is created equal. We have seen individuals that have somehow attended five or six treatment facilities and never addressed the core main issues that they were trying to “numb out from” in the first place. These things have to be addressed and skills have to be learned to help create change. Individuals also enter treatment at different times in their life with different expectations and desires. Some plan to relapse the moment they are done. Success will depend on many things including desire, timing, proper treatment and facing the possibility of relapse, which is the only way to prevent it.
How can the Military and Veteran Counseling Center help me?
We will do an initial assessments to find out the best plan of action for you. That might include being educated on your options for residential treatment or outpatient facilities depending on the severity of the problem. We also offer addiction counseling and education therapy if you do not require a residential treatment facility. We team up with you in helping you identify your goals for treatment, educate you about how addiction affects your body and teach you skills to help you succeed. As addiction requires a lifetime of commitment, we can help you continue the success that you have had in treatment, even if it was in another facility. We can help you maintain sobriety and use the tools you have learned to manage your addiction.
My relationships have fallen apart, how can you help?
We are aware that addiction doesn’t just touch one person, but often everyone that comes in contact with that individual. Partners can feel violated, hurt and angry. Children can feel betrayed, discouraged and scared. We offer therapy to help give those individuals support as you begin or continue your journey through addiction. We also can provide education to help family members understand addiction and identify where they can help and where they, too, need support and understanding. Often couples counseling is required to help mend relationships and move into a healthy healing direction. We understand that addiction is consuming and requires someone who is trained to hear you and help you on a level that you may not have been able to progress to on your own. The Military and Veteran Counseling Center can be the help you need to make that change.
What should I be looking for in an addiction counseling therapist?
- Does your therapist have special training in both addiction and addictive behaviors?
- Addiction is often diagnosed in conjunction with other things known as comorbid diagnoses. An example would be having an addiction along with depression or with PTSD. Your therapist needs to be trained in not only addiction but trauma, depression and anxiety as well.
- Does your therapist know how addiction can coincide with your experience in the military?
- Does your therapist have experience treating addiction using modalities (tools) that research has shown to be effective?
- Do you trust your therapist and have a relationship where you feel safe and comfortable disclosing important personal parts of your life?
- Does your therapist have experience diagnosing addiction severity levels and helping clients transition from treatment centers to long term success?
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction, we are ready to help. We invite you to contact us with any questions you have about alcohol counseling or our practice. We offer a free, confidential consultation with a licensed therapist and our goal is to help you bring peace back into your life.
The experience of watching a loved one suffer from addiction can take its toll. Many civilians find they, too, could benefit from counseling. If you’re a civilian and are concerned both about your loved one and yourself, consider Civilian Counseling.