There are myriad factors that go into sustaining sobriety. We all know the importance of medication, therapy, and support networks, but at least some of the change required for recovery comes within. Although more and more people are subscribing to the idea that addiction is a disease and not a choice or some sort of character flaw, it remains true that an addict has to develop a certain amount of self-control to stay clean.
Drugs affect two different systems in the brain, the limbic system, and the frontal cortex. The limbic system controls cognitive and emotional processing, anxiety, aggression, fear, reward, and pleasure. The frontal cortex has to do with judgment and decision making. The two systems represent impulsive action and self-control, and both of these are disrupted by drug use. The limbic system is sent into overdrive, which is why the brain views drugs as a source of reward, while the frontal cortex is impaired, so your self-control or ability to stop taking drugs is lessened.
Knowing that your own brain is working against you, how can you develop the discipline to stay away from drugs or alcohol? Here are a few tips to help you regain your self-control.
Try to stay positive. Certain things are outside of your control, yes, but every day you have to make the choice to avoid temptation as best as you can. Remember that no matter what is going on in your body or what outside influences are affecting you, you have free will, and you can take control of your life. Letting yourself become convinced that you’re powerless is a surefire path to relapse.
Set manageable goals. It’s daunting to try to live up to huge goals like “stay clean” or “be a better person.” Instead, focus on one thing at a time. Today, you will clean your house of any drug paraphernalia. Tomorrow, you will go to a meeting. The day after, you will start searching for a job. Breaking it down into small chunks of effort will keep things from becoming too overwhelming and decrease the chances that you will fail.
Remember the SMART criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. Set a specific goal, like cutting down the number of drinks you have a day. Make that goal measurable by saying you are only going to have two drinks per day. By making your goal so specific, you make it attainable and realistic, whereas, for instance, saying you’re going to completely stop drinking cold turkey isn’t likely to work out so well. Set a time frame to accomplish your goal. In this case, it would be something like “by next month I will be down to two drinks a day.”
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.