18 Dec Drugs and Alcohol Were My Solution, Not My Problem
Embarking on a Spiritual Quest through Alcohol
The motivational factors behind alcoholism are often spiritual, whereby the individual consumes alcohol because it brings him or her closer to the answers for their spiritual questions. In an interview with a homeless, divorced Army veteran, Dr. John P. Allen of The Department of Veterans Affairs quotes Mr. W.: “My drinking is a spiritual thing for me. I believe that every time I drink, I am on a spiritual search. I believe this with all my heart. I have this emptiness inside of me and alcohol would temporarily fill the enormous hole in my insides. Just for a short period of time, I would feel at peace and connected to others, and maybe even to God.”
Mr. W. is probably among many others who embark on a spiritual quest for answers through alcohol, as evidenced by widespread popularity of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Research on motivational factors is limited, but the long-standing history of such programs shows the spiritual aspect of the human psyche as the primary impetus for substance abuse. As such, these recovery programs assist individuals on the foundational belief that only a higher power greater than ourselves can help us truly overcome our addictions.
Finding External Solutions to an Internal Problem
To find relief, some may resort to geographical relocation, such as moving to another state, with the mindset of starting over. Others might turn to excessive sleep or return to alcohol and drugs to escape the feeling of emptiness. However, as the old adage goes, “No matter where you go, there you are” (Confucius). You cannot find fix internal problems by constantly seeking external solutions.
When people start to seek treatment, they soon discover other underlying factors for their substance abuse. From the words of a blogger, Tanya Gold, who has lived experience with alcoholism: “Alcoholism is a strange condition…it has relatively little to do with alcohol, which is merely the drug with which the alcoholic treats herself. It is, rather, a way of thinking, and continues long after you have stopped drinking” (emphasis added). Effective, evidence-based clinical treatment would address maladaptive coping styles, which are unhealthy coping mechanisms, thought patterns and perceptions that taint our worldview.
Correcting Maladaptive Coping Styles with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A psychosocial intervention approach, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to help clients identify and modify erroneous thought patterns that lead to maladaptive behaviors that are considered counterproductive or socially unacceptable (Gatchel & Rollins, 2012). You might recognize some of these common thought patterns or scenarios:
1. Dealing with problems or inconveniences with impulsive behavior instead of delayed gratification. You make decisions based on “here and now” instead of what is best in the long run. For example, in face of interpersonal conflict with a spouse or close friend, which is very uncomfortable, you would rather have a drink to relax than to deal with the emotional discomfort of having the difficult but necessary conversation to resolve conflict.
2. Resorting to drugs and/or alcohol to feel “alive.” Life is kind of dull and boring to you, and the usual activities that most people find rewarding are not enough for you to feel invigorated. To get that feeling, you gravitate toward thrill-seeking and potentially dangerous activities to make things more fun and exciting.
3. Lying to cover up lack of assertion (i.e., low self-esteem). If you don’t like yourself, you won’t regard your own feelings and opinions as valuable; therefore, you will have trouble speaking up for yourself when you need to assert your preferences, desires and emotions. Dishonesty worsens self-esteem as it shuts down communication between you and other loved ones.
4. Wanting to feel unique in non-conformist ways. The desire to break free from the constraints of society by acting in deviant ways gives you a sense of freedom and liberation. You don’t want to be like everyone else; you want to stand out and be identified as unique and special, but sometimes this kind of attitude leads substance abuse because it is exactly the kind of behavior deemed as dangerous, abnormal and unacceptable by society.
5. Illusion of control through hidden alcoholism. “I don’t have a drinking problem,” you say to yourself. But your subtle habits of mixing alcohol with coffee and juice are enough to indicate some kind of drinking problem even if the consequences still elude you. Other maladaptive attitudes leading to alcoholism or relapse include self-delusional lies like, “I can stop drinking anytime I want,” “It will be different this time,” or “No one will know.”
New Method Wellness offers a wide array of treatment programs provided by a culturally competent team of licensed and board-certified addiction professionals. To determine the
appropriate level of care, New Method Wellness matches each client with two therapists to provide specialized counseling based on the client’s background. Holistic healing in the context of addiction treatment addresses the spiritual aspect of recovery, which ensures long-term recovery for those who have looked to drugs and alcohol for answers.
Gatchel, R.J. & Rollings, K.H. (2012). Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Retrieved from
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