Saturday, November 6, 2010

Passion, Not Addiction: How to break addictive habits

The facets of addiction
Addiction, from the standpoint of the patient is the awareness that one is engaged in an unhealthy compulsive behavior. From the standpoint of the practitioner, addiction is a complex behavior that needs to be approached with multiple therapies: nutritional medicine, cognitive and behavioral therapy, spiritual counseling, psychodynamic therapies, support groups and education.

Addiction as a compulsive, out of control behavior
The person under the spell of addiction feels compelled to repeat a particular behavior and feels powerless to stop it. This is a state of bondage to a compulsive habit as a ritualistic response is to a certain internal emotional state, such as stress, boredom, pain, loneliness and /or external clues such as locations or situations.

Addiction as an unhealthy habit
Drinking, smoking tobacco or marijuana, binging, purging, overeating, swallowing pharmaceutical drugs, sniffing cocaine, gambling, pornographic sex, are all behaviors that have serious health consequences from possible death from overdose to long term consequences on health. Long-term consequences depend on the specific substance abused and each specific habit. Behaviors involving substance abused such as tobacco addiction may lead to respiratory problems such as emphysema and lung cancer, methamphetamine abuse may lead to mental disorders or illness such as sleep disturbance and paranoia or schizophrenia. Purging may lead to Barrett Esophagus or tooth decay. Substance abuse involving needles lead to HIV and Hepatitis C.

Addiction as awareness
Addiction cannot exist without awareness. Someone may be getting drunk every night at the pub and think that he is having fun, not being addicted. Someone may be thinking that purging after overeating is a good solution to her weight problem, not being addicted. Someone only thinks about himself or herself as an addict when they fail to avoid or stop their behavior. This awareness is the most important decisive factor in recovery. Patients who are not coming on their own choice but because a family member sends them, will have less chance of recovery than the patients who come because they realize that they need help to quit. The moment someone identifies as an addict and wants to undergo treatment, this awareness creates a distance between the addictive personality and the healthy one and the therapist may use the emergence of the healthy self to work with.
Breaking the old habit
As therapists is our task to strengthen the non-addicted self in anyway possible to break the addictive behavior. Establishing a schedule with regular meals taken together and other activities during the day such as group support, daily medical check ups, work out sessions, meditation, counseling, walks, journaling, juices, all of these activities address the “sober” self. These activities create a demand to be present and break down old habits. Bringing people to the present with meditation helps them to break free from old habits.

Biochemical rebalancing
Addictive behaviors interfere with brain chemistry by increasing dopamine levels in the pleasure center of the brain. Some substances can increase the release of dopamine to more than 600 times the normal production! On the other hand, a biochemical imbalance may be the cause of drug dependency. Deficiencies may be identified with laboratory testing or from a behavioral assessment. I found that patients benefit from taking few amino acid precursors of neurotransmitters.
Most often, other pathological mental states crop up in connection with addictive behaviors. A full psychological assessment should be performed and mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder or ADD should be treated, as they could be the cause or the result of the addictive behavior.

Nutritional therapy
Addictive behaviors cause nutritional deficiencies. For instance, alcoholism causes thiamine, niacin and zinc deficiency as well as blood sugar imbalance.
In addition to deficiencies created by the drug itself people who abuse drugs tend to have poor nutritional habits. It is important to create new healthy habits. It is useful that patients start eating healthy meals regularly. I found that live raw foods have been very useful in the recovery process, both for their detoxifying and nutritional value. Live foods are full of life force and I have been absolutely baffled by the quick and strong turn around in patient's energy after just a few day of being here.

Cognitive Behavioral interventions
Cognitive behavior interventions consist of helping patients to deal with triggers and stressors. Addiction is a quick fix to reestablish or increase a lost pleasurable internal state. As such, it always has something to do with pleasure. Role-playing between the addict and the non-addict, self-awareness exercises to identify behaviors associated and leading to the maladapted behavior, help the patient to step back and gain control over himself. We help patients to become aware of their inner program leading to addiction and help them to create innovative solution to deal with the issues that trigger the repetition of the addictive behavior

Spiritual counseling
There is a lot of energy trapped into maintaining addictive behavior: secrecy, guilt, generating money, maintaining special places... and once this energy is freed it can be turned around and used in a positive manner. Spiritual teachers that we feature in our library may inspire patients. Everyone watches “The Secret”, some may tune into Eckart Tolle, and others enjoy the work of Byron Katie. Becoming aware of one's self destructiveness and practicing self love and trust alone, with a partner or in a group setting is the corner stone of a long recovery journey which turns into a spiritual journey.

Physical exercise, and physical manifestations
Some other people may tune their energy more into the physical work and enjoy working out, walking or running daily. We had a patient who became passionate for physical exercise while at our center. He exercised for the first time in his life and wanted to continue at home. He transformed his basement, which used to be part of his addictive activities into a gym. Many who discovered the wonders of live raw foods want to continue on this plan and open a raw food restaurant.

Psychodynamic therapy
Often, the first addictive behavior started very young, or maybe the addict modeled a parent, or was brought up in a dysfunctional family. Being in our retreat is the beginning of a long-term self-discovery process that never ends, a quest for freedom, truth and happiness.

At Hawaii Naturopathic Retreat Center - for Fasting, Detoxification & Meditation we combine the best of detoxification methods with psychotherapy, meditation and spiritual ideas. In order to achieve maximal healing in minimal time. Read about our purpose and mission, and our philosophy and medical approach or visit our website or