If you have been researching this topic, you are likely concerned about developing a substance abuse problem, or you are worried about a current problem getting out of hand and becoming a full-blown addiction. By seeking out articles like this one, you have already taken an important step to avoid addiction by becoming informed; congratulations and thank you! Keep reading for more information about this important topic.
Identify your risk factors for drug addiction. Some of the things that may put you at risk, according to research, are the following:
• Genetics – does anyone in your family have a history of addiction? Especially close relatives like parents, and siblings. You may be predisposed to developing an addiction, more so than others.
• Psychological factors – including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, impulsive personality, and eating disorders.
• Starting to use drugs or alcohol at a young age
• Traumatic experiences– these experiences can include any form of abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), exposure to violence, or anything else you feel has severely affected you emotionally. Do no discount something you consider trauma just because it isn’t listed here.
• Substance abuse in the family or your close circle of friends – negative influences and peer pressure can contribute to developing an addiction
• Use of highly addictive substances such as opioids, or any form of IV drug use.
If any of these apply to you, pay special attention to that feature of your lifestyle or identity. Nurture those parts of you that may cause you to seek comfort in drugs or alcohol. Some things cannot be changed, unfortunately (such as genetics, history of trauma, mental illness, etc.) so be kind to yourself when these things seem to take over your mind and spirit, and trust that you can make it through hard times. In addition to mindfulness about our risk factors, we can also take some active steps against developing a drug addiction.
1. Discover new ways to manage stress and overwhelming emotion
We all have negative emotions, it’s a fact of life. That said, we also all have ways to cope with these emotions! Drugs and alcohol are one way to escape the problems; intoxication provides a fog that pushes them out of view. Though it sounds great to just escape our emotions, we cannot run forever; they will always return after the intoxication fades. We need to develop ways to release and process our emotions in a way that actually works.
For me, time alone in my garden is my favorite way to release stress and sadness. I work alone planting new flowers and watering what I already have established, without music or company, so I can process my thoughts in peace. I enter a state of flow and the time passes without me noticing, and sooner or later I feel lighter and ready to jump into my day. On top of the pleasure I get from working in my garden, I’m also rewarded by the sights and smells of my beloved plants as they grow.
Gardening may not be your solution (although it could be! Cheers, fellow plant-lovers), so ask yourself what activity is pleasurable for you? What makes the hours tick by? Is it yoga? Weight-lifting? Dancing? Walking? Painting? Rapping? Tai-chi? Chopping wood? It can be anything really. If you’re not sure, try new things, explore!
2. Create a lifestyle that brings you happiness
I know, I know, this is much easier said than done, but it is possible. I promise it is possible. Re-orient yourself; if you find yourself focusing on shame, self-loathing, hatred of those around you, or hatred of your situation, do whatever it takes to change that focus. Be aware that thoughts are thoughts and that they can be stopped and altered. Make an effort to find your strengths and good qualities. Perhaps you are funny and your friends cherish you for that, perhaps you are intelligent, agile, supportive and loving. I don’t know your strengths, but you do! Focus on them, bring them out and let them shine over what you see as your faults. With time, maybe those faults that seem so horrible to you today will fade away and you won’t even remember them.
You can make some more tangible changes to improve your lifestyle as well. Make an effort to change your surroundings. Is your room a mess? Clean it up, and try to fill it with objects that provide beauty and inspiration. Is your job the worst? Build up some savings, then find a new one. Are your friends jerks or are they pressuring you to use substances with them? Cut them off, you will find more. As you build yourself up, you will attract friends that are in a similar place. You are NOT stuck where you are. Building a happier lifestyle will relieve the desire for drugs and alcohol and remove some of the negative things pushing you to use.
3. Seek therapy
Remember those risk factors I listed above? Some of those things may never fully ‘go away’, but you can master their control over you by processing your emotions. Sometimes, it is hard to do so without supportive and qualified help, and therefore I strongly recommend you seek therapy. A qualified therapist will help you work through your traumas and current mental illnesses so that you can loosen the grip they hold on you.
There is no shame in receiving psychological treatment; you may be surprised to find that many of your peers have done so too. It does not mean that you are ‘crazy’ or ‘damaged’, it means that you are empowering yourself to be a better person. Sarah Silverman, Kesha, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Hamm, J.K. Rowling, Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato, and Halle Barry are all successful individuals that you may be familiar with who have gone to therapy!
Thank you for taking this step and becoming a little more educated on ways to avoid drug addiction. You are already making progress. If you feel that these tips are not enough for you, or you are already abusing substances and close to the point of addiction, please reach out to us for more assistance.