Note-you will receive
more value from the blog articles if you have begun the Self-Discovery
Confidence Building Workbook. The concepts are
relevant whether your concern is anxiety, depression, addictions, anger or
weight issues. A lack of self-confidence and belief in the self are significant
factors in all life challenges.
After many years
working with people who abuse/misuse substances my therapeutic approach is not
mainstream, but then, there is no hard evidence to indicate that any one specific
approach consistently provides positive measurable results for everyone. In
fact, most people who come to this work have already exhausted more traditional
From a solution-focused
perspective, the abuse/misuse of substances begins with the intention
(conscious or not) to manage uncomfortable states such as stress, anger,
sadness, frustration, anxiety.
There is a range of
options to choose from to manage our emotional states, some are healthier than
others obviously. Some people choose to exercise, naps, conversations, healthy
snacks ect.to manage their immediate uncomfortable emotional state. Others have
conditioned their primitive mind to accept less desirable methods such as
alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, etc. to alter their emotional state or frame of
I think we have to
ask why do substance abuser/misuser choose the less healthy alternatives?
1) a lack of faith in
the self 2) a lack of confidence in one's abilities to choose healthier coping
methods.3) lack of healthy role modelling. All of these “whys” can be explained
or understood through the lens of social programming and original potential.
My intention here,
however, is to normalize “negative” choices while also highlighting the reality
of how the use of substances/activities can become hard-wired and ultimately
wreak havoc on an individual’s self-concept.
Being sad, angry or
anxious is an expression of an emotional state. These are natural responses to difficult
situations. However, the duration, intensity, and frequency of these states can
morph into habitual unhealthy paths of least resistance and become accepted
ways of being by the powerful primitive mind. These paths of least resistance
become automatic and can be seen/experienced in both mindset and behavior.
The decision to manage
these states with substances/activities should be seen as a self-loving
response to unmanageable pain and/or an automatic reaction that has been
learned through modelling and/or conditioning.
It is true that some
people have a predisposition to developing addictive behavior and the mental
constructs that lead to the absorption of an addict self-image. A solution-focused
approach accepts that some people do have a predisposition to addiction but
that an addict identity is not inevitable.
This is not “denial”
but the willingness and ability to entertain the possibility that ways of being
have been learned and can be unlearned based on the premise that most people
are not born addicts, even if a predisposition exists.
The problem user, who
sets the intention of abstinence or controlled drinking, and does not
self-identify as an “addict” generally has
more options for healthy living.
Let’s go back to the
idea of emotional states for a moment. It is crucial to remember that It is a
natural human reaction to feel challenged by unexpected or difficult changes. Change
may be the loss of a job, a relationship upheaval, the death of a family
member, pet or friend, a health concern of financial difficulties. Chronic
challenges can also drain mental and physical energy. The result can be a depletion
of motivation and the belief that things may never become better.
This is not uncommon
reasoning, for most people, whether or not substances are an issue. However, the
big issue is that capable, smart people eventually adopt the self-image of
addict and close the door to other possibilities. These people quit asking the
question “what else is possible for me?”
comfort is healthy and normal. The challenge for people who misuse
substances is in maintaining a healthy belief in self while struggling with the
behavior of substance misuse.
people who come to identify themselves as addicts view new tools, skills, and
strategies through the lens of addiction, and again, this limits possibilities.
Learning to become someone who is in control of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,
but has learned substance misuse/abuse patterns, is the exact opposite of
allowing the mind to adopt and absorb the self-image of one who is addicted.
Terri Lee Cooper MSc.