Addiction and Compulsive Behaviors

Changing an addictive pattern often means changing a life-style.  The goal is to help people  remove the stumbling blocks that keep the addiction or compulsive behavior so central in one’s life.

It makes sense that one can be unsure of how much or how soon to make these changes.  Our approach looks at the Stages of Change and helps create strategies to move from the first stage of considering a change to ambivalence about it, planning for it and finally, taking action and being able to maintain the new resolve.  fireplace3jpg

Compulsion can drive us to achieve and accomplish things we didn’t think we could, or it can lead us in the opposite direction, to anti-social or addictive patterns that become negative in our life.   Compulsion is like a fire.  When the fire is contained, it becomes our will.    When it is not contained, it ravages everything in its way.

Most people who live with addiction and compulsion know the burning pursuit of alcoholism, drug abuse, compulsive overeating or other addictions. What we don’t know is how to transform it into life-giving warmth. The inflammable element inside can be destructive or it can be a source of warmth that helps us risk having new experiences, trying new activities and new relationships.

C.G. Jung, a psychologist, recognized the spiritual needs of addicts. He told one of his alcoholic patients after five years of treatment, “there is nothing more I can do for you, what you need is a conversion experience, a union with God.” His patient, Roland G. left and met Bill W. and and ultimately Bill W.  founded the 12 Step program of AA based on spiritual principles.

Addiction treatment has changed dramatically over the many years I have been in this field. It started with shaming tactics and stigmatizing addicts for being “morally inferior” or “lacking willpower.” It spoke of spouses as “causing him or her to drink,” instead of recognizing h/her pain and efforts to help. It has since moved to recognizing that alcoholism and drug abuse is a disease, and that there are ways to help people increase their motivation to make change in this disease. In addition, newer studies show that not everyone requires abstinence.  Harm reduction may be a viable goal for some people.

When I work with people who have addiction problems, I work with a wide range of effective treatment approaches. The client and I together, decide which is the best initial goal and then assess the outcome. As the client learns more about his or her triggers and cues for using and the choices and options available, there is a clearer path to recovery and feeling better. The raging fires can become contained in a hearth of life-giving warmth.

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