Changing Harmful Behaviours
Addiction is a very loaded word. And often when we think about addiction, we think about some of the most difficult and challenging and harmful of human behavior, misusing alcohol, drugs, and sometimes emotional addiction like unhealthy relationships.
Addiction comes in many forms, from participating in extreme behaviors that may endanger our life or the lives of others, to milder events which are inconvenient or uncomfortable. This broad range of addictive behaviors also reflects the necessary broad range of methods and treatments through which we address addictions.
Traditionally over the last number of decades the primary source for the treatment of addiction is the “12 step program.” This program can be profoundly helpful for many, and for others the program does not provide a long-term solution to their behavior. There are also a number of modified 12-step programs available which address addiction less as a chronic illness, and more as a behavioral choice. Regardless of what type of treatment someone chooses to embrace, all specialists agree in one fact, the process of caring for yourself and tending to the changes that you decide to make in your life, is ongoing, and a lifetime commitment, and your success or failure has a lot to do with your relationships in life.
It is for this reason that many people wisely seek out a long term therapeutic relationship with a counselor/therapist/coach to help them stay on the road of their choice, living a life of sobriety. Critical to all of these programs is the recognition that this journey cannot be done alone.
In keeping with this understanding that recovery can only be done in and through community, new research has emerged that is beginning to shed light on how critically important relationship and engagement in community is, in order to retain sobriety.
Dr. Alexander Professor Emeritus1, Professor at Simon Fraser University presents groundbreaking research2 that is beginning to teach us that substances such as alcohol or drugs are in themselves are not addictive agents – and that in fact, the quality of of social relationships is much more the culprit. Dr. Alexander’s research in his ‘Rat Park’ concurred with previous research that rats, preferred cocaine and water over water IF housed in a typical laboratory cage with limited stimulation and no social interaction. However, the rats in the awesome ‘Rat Park’ had great friends, fun and food. They tried both the water and the cocaine – and choose water! By further illustration thousands of men and women have come back from war, or returned home after a protracted hospital stay, having spent days weeks and sometimes months on what we thought to be highly addictive drugs such as morphine – but upon their return they experience no addictive behaviours. What seems to be the very root of addiction does not seem to be the substance itself. It is beginning to appear at the very root cause of addiction is found in our social interpersonal relationships, or lack thereof.
This research highlights the critical underpinning of all 12 step programs – you cannot do this alone, and the quality of your relationships are the critical, if not curative, key to sobriety.
There is a unique quality about a relationship with a therapist, which cannot be found elsewhere. In all relationships what we say, what we do, and how we act, will always impact your relationship. We recognize that we stand the possibility of being judged, loved more, or pushed away. In a relationship with your therapist you are provided a safe and non-judgmental space to explore your thoughts your feelings and your connections to others (even the ugly messy stuff!), without any fear of losing the relationship or reprisal. This unique quality is both profound and powerful, and a critical component to your sobriety.
If you are struggling with addictions, or behaviors you feel may be classified as addictions, give us a call and sit down with us for an hour to chat. Let’s openly and honestly find out whether a relationship with the therapist feels like the right fit, and can be part of your journey towards sobriety, happiness, and the life of your choosing.
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