At the core of all addictions, especially to drugs and alcohol, is a sense of isolation and of separateness. Shame and guilt pervade the psyche of many people who are struggling with substance abuse and dependence. Also, at the core of every human is the desire to be loved, respected; and included. In fact, our human brains are structured in such a way that we actually thrive when we are close to, and accepted by, others. The tragedy of the addict is in dis-integration, where the person becomes separated from the actual needs of their body and emotions, separated from their success and dreams, and separated from those they care about and respect.
The historical approach had been to further isolate and label those struggling with addictions, often treating them as moral deviants. Later, as the medical disease model of addiction became prevalent, the focus shifted to treating them as patients with an incurable disease often medicating and institutionalizing them so their lives became an emotional rollercoaster of sobriety, temptation, relapse, and treatment, resulting in a vicious cycle where the patterns and stories around their trauma and abuse become solidified rather than transcended.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we can see that we all have our own addictive patterns. Maybe we don’t view it that way, but I see many people in our community face down looking at their devices, Facebooking and Tindering while their children play around them. Our community is rife with addictions including food, television, gossip, sex, pornography, extremism in fitness and athletics; addiction to attention, and constantly looking in the mirror for self-approval but rarely finding it. Our brains are wired to seek the most efficient route to joyful experiences and reprieve from suffering. And these patterns are reinforced during stressful experiences. How can we not be compassionate to our friends, family and community members who are suffering with an addiction to drugs and alcohol when there are neurological patterns to efficiently find solace from pain, suffering and isolation?
At Kolpia, our answer to reintegration is in creating an environment where everyone is treated with a deep sense of respect knowing that everyone who seeks treatment is courageously looking to change their lives. As one client mentioned, “the most valuable part of my treatment was the consistency and kindness.” A large aspect of treatment at Kolpia is mindfulness where we teach and encourage our clients to slow down, to feel their breath, their body, and their emotions in a safe environment. The mindfulness practice helps to create emotional resilience, so the triggers and urges to succumb to the addictive objects become more manageable and less intense. Much of the research about treatment emphasizes the importance of changing external environmental factors that reinforce addictive patterns such as jobs, relationships, communication styles, perceptions, living situations and lifestyle choices. These changes are very difficult for most people and require a huge amount of support. We provide that support and sense of accountability in ways that are encouraging rather than shaming. Our integrative medical program provides services like acupuncture, nutrition counseling, yoga therapy and meditation to support those on the path to recovery, so they can make those tough life choices that will help to change the addictive patterns.
Addiction is a complex issue and more present in our community than many of us are willing to see. Recovery from addiction is possible but takes patience, support, grace, compassion and an integrative approach.
About the Author: Joshua Graner is the Clinical Director of Kolpia Counseling Services, an acupuncturist, yoga and meditation teacher in Ashland Oregon.
Kolpia Counseling Services
607 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
(541) 482- 1718