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Terri Lee Cooper Msc. RSW


The misuse of substances to manage uncomfortable states begins with the positive intention to soothe the self. The intention is self-loving but the chosen method stems from a lack of confidence in one's abilities to choose healthier coping methods.

Being sad is a natural response to particular situations. However, the duration, intensity and frequency of a chronically sad state can morph into serious depression. When substances are used to manage emotional pain some people are risk for developing an 1) addiction 2) addict self-image.  

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, a death of a family member, pet or friend, a health concern of financial difficulties. However, we do not want natural reactions to adversity to overstay their welcome and become habitual to the extent that an addict self-image is adopted.

The misuse of substances may also result from the anguish that comes with not living up to our potential. This awareness may be clear or it may be simmering below the surface. Being generally discontent with the state of our lives leads many people to find solace in a range of addictive substances and activities. 

When we medicate with substances, we miss the opportunity of resolving conflict and creating new associations and triggers. Capable, intelligent people who come to identify themselves as depressed lose ground and control of their lives. The self-image is impacted. The mind accepts an identity and responds accordingly. Further, it then is easily swayed toward accepting an 'addict" self-definition.

Our job is to ensure that sadness does not become habituated. Seeing sadness as having a habituated feature doesn't negate the real pain and suffering involved. But, this perspective does open the door to new tools. You may have been born with a predisposition to depression but we must remember that ways of being, (the use of substances to alleviate pain) left unchecked can become hard-wired. The mind is a learning machine and new ways of being can be programmed to offset natural tendencies.  

The misuse of substances is a clear example of original intention vs. manifested outcome. The desire to soothe the self is positive and loving. The outcome however, is often the creation of additional problems and an insult to the core identity. The choice to build a belief in one's ability to become the confident CEO of their lives means a commitment to growth. Learning to become someone who is in control of thoughts, feelings and behaviors is the exact opposite of allowing the mind to adopt the self-image of one who is sad, depressed or addicted.

Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW

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