When I think about it, I find it pretty amazing that a virus has had the power to shift the world we live in. It seems that at times, the adjustments and changes we’ve had to make have brought out the best in us—as well as the worst.
None of us were prepared for a situation like this pandemic and people have struggled to cope with it in healthy ways. A lot of folks—and maybe even you—are reaching for wine, weed, or whatever to provide momentary relief from the anxiety, boredom, and loneliness. That’s a bad habit. One of my biggest concerns is that with all the stressors people have had to deal with, there has been a notable increase in the rates of alcoholism and substance abuse, along with other addictive behaviors.
If this sounds like you, please know that I don’t judge you for it. I am no stranger to problems like these. Although I’ve never been addicted to drugs or alcohol, until I dealt with my own past trauma, my vices were obsessive addictions to exercise, getting attention, and unhealthy eating patterns—all of which were detrimental to my emotional and physical well-being.
Addictive behaviors tend to run in families. Does your family have a history of them?
Mine does. I saw my father, uncles, and sister fall prey to the lure of drugs and alcohol. In fact, in my book, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child, I share details of how that played out in my life, including these words my sister said to me as she was trying to get sober:
“…There is still so much pain, especially knowing how much I’ve hurt the people I love. But I’m learning I must forgive myself even when others don’t. I have to if I want to stay sober. It’s okay for me to sit with the painful memories of the past and not numb them with booze or pills. The pain won’t kill me.”
With a sad look, she continued. “I promise I wasn’t doing drugs when DHS took the girls. I was struggling with mental-health issues I needed help with, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. DHS said I was neglecting to address my mental health.” Wiping tears from her cheeks, she continued, “I was drinking though. I’ve been an alcoholic for years, even after kicking the drugs, and I don’t think I realized it. Since I was a teenager, alcohol and drugs were part of the culture of my family. Dad was the first person I got high with. It seemed normal. But I’m so much more than my addiction. I want a life I can be proud of.”
The exchange I had with her on that day, helped me to understand the shame she had about her addiction and how painfully it had affected her life and that of her children.
In addition to genetics, if you have endured trauma—especially during childhood—there is an increased risk for addiction, especially if the trauma is unresolved. It’s not unusual to use alcohol and/or drugs to numb your emotions and try to escape from the painful memories.
Those types of vulnerabilities, along with social isolation and the stress of the pandemic, have resulted in an increase of unhealthy behaviors of all sorts. While many of them are related to alcohol and drug abuse, there also are behavioral addictions—also known as process addictions—that include dependence on things like:
Any type of compulsive or addictive behavior can lead to big consequences in your life. Obviously, gambling and shopping can devastate your finances, which in turn becomes another huge stressor for you. Among other problems, sex and pornography addictions are detrimental to relationships, and compulsive eating can have a dire effect on your health and self-esteem.
If you are dealing with any of these issues and feel like your life is spinning out of control, I want you to know that you really can recover—and things can get better. Chances are though, you may not be able to do it on your own. There are millions of other people in the same boat as you, so it’s important to understand you aren’t alone in your struggle.
Reaching out for help is the first thing to do—and know it’s okay for you to do that. There are many professionals trained in addiction recovery that can help you on your journey. There are also well-established support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.), and step-based programs for all types of process addictions. Be aware that these programs don’t address the #1 cause of addiction: brain dysfunction.
I encourage you to get a functional brain SPECT scan to find out what is really happening in your brain that might be contributing to your addictive behavior. In addition, seek guidance from a mental health professional and take advantage of the peer support of others in recovery programs. In tackling your substance use, understand that making healthier choices about the foods you eat can improve your moods, balance your blood sugar, and give you more energy—all of which can minimize the chances for any setbacks.
For example, try switching out sugar, junk food, and overly processed foods for ones that can decrease inflammation in your body and brain, such as these:
Certain supplements can also be helpful in calming the desire to give into your urges. I have often recommended Craving Control (from BrainMD) because the nutrients it contains provide good support that helps balance your brain.
If you’ve been struggling with any kind of addiction, I want you to know that it is never too late to start working on being a better version of yourself—the self you want to be. Yes, recovery takes effort and time, but with that also comes increased strength and resilience. When you release the bad habits that have been in control, you become in charge of your life again. And that sense of empowerment will help guide you to make better and more fulfilling decisions as you go forward.
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Are Bad Habits in Charge of Your Life? If you’re struggling with your alcohol intake or drug use and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.