Why Changing Your Attitude Helps You Beat Addiction
A new outlook can make the difference you need
There is a high school in Chicago where no one fails.
At this school, the “F” grade does not exist. Instead, if a student hasn’t met their requirements by the end of a term, they are given the grade of “Not Yet”. Failure feels permanent; it feels like *you* are not good enough. But “not yet” assumes success. Each person carries the potential of “yet”.
When you’re in recovery, it can seem as if a new challenge awaits no matter how much you achieve. That challenge can be an obstacle or an opportunity. It all depends on attitude.
The Impact of Mindset
Children are a perfect example of growth and change. Their days are spent learning, improving, and understanding more about the world. But when learning becomes a challenge, some children see it as an obstacle and become discouraged, while others see it as an opportunity. Why?
A researcher named Carol Dweck worked with ten year old kids to find the answer. Her study asked the children to solve problems which were a little too hard. Many of the kids did not let the obstacle get them down. They took the challenge as an opportunity to move forward, and gave up less. But other kids became discouraged right away. What Dweck found was that the primary difference between the two groups was mindset.
The first group had a growth mindset; they viewed the challenges as an opportunity to grow. In other words, they thought of their intelligence as something to be worked on and improved. But the second group had a fixed mindset; they believed that if they couldn’t solve the problem, they were a failure.
From a young age, we can succeed or fail simply on the strength of our attitudes. The first group of children were empowered by the challenge they faced; they became stronger in response. But the second group, with the fixed mindset, were discouraged and made more likely to avoid the challenge or cheat in order to look like they were succeeding.
When you are in recovery for an addiction, your mindset can completely change how you view the challenges you will face along the road. Try to see these inevitable challenges as opportunities to grow, to change, and to become better.
Not Just for Kids
The powerful effects of your mindset apply long after childhood. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, conducted a study with several groups of adults. Each group was first shown images designed to bring about a particular emotion. Some created feelings of joy; others made the participants angry or afraid; still others were intended to be neutral. Then, the participants were asked to write down as many sentences as they could, which begin with the phrase “I would like to”.
The people who had been shown positive messages wrote significantly more sentences than the other groups. They saw more possibilities in their lives. But the effect went beyond just seeing more possibility.
College students who were asked to write about positive experiences in their lives improved their attitude, mood, and even their physical health as a result. They reported fewer illnesses and less trips to the health center.
Changing your attitude from focusing on negative emotions to one focused on progress and positivity can have far-reaching implications for your life.
Meeting the Challenge of Addiction
Learning to manage an addiction is not easy. Both the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the National Institute on Drug Abuse have recognized addiction as a chronic disease that alters the brain. Society has had a hard time accepting this. They look at a person who is suffering from an addiction as a person with flawed character or someone who has failed. But often, the toughest critic is the very person who struggles with the addiction.
Much like children who have had negativity forced on them, the mind of a person working to overcome their addiction is stuck. The instinct to run from problems by escaping with alcohol and/or drugs can seem overwhelming. But “failure” should be removed from the dictionary and replaced with “yet.” Giving in to the permanence of failure perpetuates a low sense of self worth, isolation, and can increase the likelihood of relapse. When a person enters into a treatment program simply to sober up, there are a slew of issues that are never properly addressed. Becoming physically “clean” is not enough. It is important to look at a person’s mental and emotional health, including their attitude about their addiction, when helping them find their own individualized road to recovery.
Fighting a Destructive Attitude
It is often expected that people with the disease of addition should be able to “decide” not to struggle with addiction because it is “all in their head. “Not only is this attitude wrong, but it is destructive. It keeps many people from seeking treatment in order to avoid being labeled as an “addict” with all the negative connotations that go with it. Addiction treatment is not funded in the same way as other diseases, and addicts are seen as criminals, and the more people buy into this attitude the more difficult it is for someone in recovery to sustain that recovery. Shaming still happens, but it is counterproductive. If anything, a person who commits to a comprehensive treatment program should be commended for reaching out and getting the support to regain control of their lives. Even when the challenge of avoiding relapse is a little too hard at first, it is the right attitude that causes a person to be proud of each challenge and obstacle they face and conquer in their journey, despite the fact that they are living with a very real and misunderstood disease.
Often detox is looked at as a process where drugs are removed from the body in order to give it a “clean slate” At Malibu Beach Recovery Centers, there are several major drugs that need to be removed from the system during the first part of the program. These include alcohol, opiates, prescription painkillers, non-narcotic methadone painkillers, suboxone, benzodiazepines such as Valium, Ativan, and Xanax, methamphetamine, and cocaine. Coming off these substances needs to be done with care,
While this is a vital component for starting treatment off on the right foot, it is important that detox does not end there. According to Dr. Elson M. Haas, M.D. , an expert in nutritional medicine and detoxification, the process of detoxification should refer to cleaning up a person’s life as well as their body. It is a process where the person in recovery learns to love their body and treat it with respect with good nutrition, exercise, and stress reducing meditation. It is an opportunity to redefine an entire lifestyle that gives that person the best tools possible to maintain their recovery.
With access to continued support, those who who are encouraged to keep thinking positive can go back to their life with the fortitude to face their addiction without letting it define them.