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Often, addiction to either drugs or alcohol starts with just trying. But when it becomes a problem, here are a few thing you can do.
Most of the time, a person’s relationship with alcohol and drugs changes over the time. Initially, it begins with trying a small amount of any substance just for the sake of relaxation or just under peer pressure. But slowly, it becomes a daily necessity for the consumer.
The environment and culture around drug use usually make it difficult to give up. For example, an alcohol drinker might have difficulties in saying a goodbye to friends who drink than to the alcohol itself.
If you or someone you know is going through a recovery phase from an addiction, you need to understand that it is normal to crave and think about it often. The person might end up feeling guilty about these thoughts, even if they don’t actually act upon them.
However, with practice and awareness, one can train one’s mind to identify and replace these thoughts with healthier ones. It is possible to replace the thoughts that may propel you toward substance abuse with healthier ones. Gradually, as you practice, the thoughts lessen in both – their occurrence and intensity.
Let us see what these high-risk patterns of thinking are:
To relax and feel energetic: Initially, drugs give the person a sense of relaxation or a burst of energy (depending on the drug) However, it is only in the later stages that drugs and alcohol show repercussions.
Escaping reality: People seek the refuge in drugs or alcohol to escape life and its stress, conflicts, issues of unpleasant memories.
In nostalgia: Someone may come across their ‘good old days’ or have their break up revived. But these moments must not become the reason to begin the association with alcohol or drugs once again.
Testing control: Sometimes, a person who is half-way to recovery becomes over-confident about his/her self-control towards alcohol or drugs. They may think, ‘I can always keep some arrangements at my place in case I have a friend over.’ Or ‘No one will know if I take a little.’
Socialisation: People who feel awkward in social situations may feel that a drink or some drug might help them open up. Or there are times when people feel disconnected or lonely in social settings and tend to be prone to alcohol or drugs to feel socially comfortable.
Discomfort during sobriety: Initially, when someone is going through recovery, they might experience a lot of physical and emotional discomfort. These are called withdrawal symptoms. To avoid facing these, one might tend to go back to using drugs or alcohol.
Lastly but importantly what to do when someone very close to you offers you with a drink or drugs? Often, despite the awareness and practice, we might fail in refusing someone close. Here’s what you can do if someone offers you either drugs or drinks
A quick and polite ‘no’: Politely but quickly say no, without any hesitation. Use and clear and firm voice and make direct eye contact while refusing.
Suggest alternatives: You can suggest that your friend give you alternatives to either eat or some non-alcoholic drink.
Don’t feel guilty: Despite everything if the person is still being persistent, firmly, ask the person to stop offering it to you. Avoid using vague answers like, ‘not today.’ And most importantly, there is no need to feel guilty about refusing since it is a great step you are taking for yourself.
Change the topic: If nothing else works, politely change the topic each time it comes up.
A lifestyle with drugs and alcohol affects your thoughts and decisions in life. You might take decisions or steps that you might not take when sober. But it is never late to take a U-turn towards a better life.
There are various good de-addiction centres all over the country working relentlessly in making the world a healthy drug free sober place. One can always bank upon them for a healthy future.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Reference: Oxford Clinical Psychology Online, Oxford University Press, 2020.
Picture credits:Photo by Elina Sazonova from Pexels
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Pursuing Diploma in Community Mental Health, NIMHANS
Former Forensic Psychologist Intern.
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