At Recoveroz, we treat addiction as a serious and life threatening brain illness. What we mean is that addiction is a defect in the hedonic system, or the system that perceives pleasure, which is deep in the part of the brain that handles basic survival. This forms part of the old lizard brain. Because of this defect, the addict unconsciously thinks of the alcohol or drugs as life itself. A beer is not just a beer anymore, a joint is not a joint anymore, an addicted person needs the drug to get through life and when the drug is unavailable they crave it, and importantly, they do not have the choice over whether or not to crave. The may well have a choice of whether to pick up a drink or not, but they do not have the choice to crave. That is a brain defect and most drinkers or even drug users do not get that craving. Just over 10% do, and they are the ones that cause almost all the social damage to families, themselves and the community today.
Counselling should be tailored to the individual and his or her special needs, but there are some absolutes that must be at least considered as people prepare to make a change from addiction to recovery;
- An addicted brain cannot make a non-addicted decision. The first goal of counselling g should be to ask the client to stay away from the substance for at least as long as counselling is continuing. No counsellor will work with a drug or alcohol affected client and if they do, no effective work will be done;
- Trauma, abuse and/or many other factors in a client’s life may be affecting the way they drink or use, and they will say that they are escaping from reality. However, no-one can stay drunk or stoned forever and there comes a time when it must be realised that the problems that addiction brings, comes first, and in fact may well be contributing to other forms of trauma or mental health. The skills that must be learned, therefore are to, stop and to stay stopped. Remember here, we are talking about people who have been diagnosed with high probabilities of having addiction, not people who are having periodic problems of drinking too much sometimes. This diagnosis of drug or alcohol dependency is completed using SASSI (Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory) http://www.sassi.com;
- Life issues can then be addressed like coping skills, stress management, checks for other co-existing mental health issues and from there a life management plan can be developed in conjunction with the client and the counsellor
Some patients go to outpatient treatment and get a good start at recovery. Other patients will need a higher level of care including inpatient treatment followed by a long-term sober living environment.
Counselling then continues along with all other supports that are built in the life management plan. It is essential that a previously addicted person learns the value of finding good allies and support in 12 step and other groups. Addicted people live inside their own heads for much of the time, and creating activities, like support groups, sport, meaningful work are all important in recovery. Any counsellor that considers themselves as effective in addiction treatment should offer all of the above. Ask the questions. It is vitally important, because discouragement happens very quickly if someone has to run the gamut of varying degrees of effective (or non-effective) treatment and counsellors.
“An addicted brain cannot make a non-addicted decision”