Addiction of any kind involves being constantly off balance – the sufferer experiences extreme highs and extreme lows and seems to reside in a very black-and-white world. The addict spends the vast majority of his or her time obsessing over a chemical substance or an activity, paying very little attention to things like work or family. Individuals who struggle with addictive disorders often initially turn to drugs, alcohol, or certain behavioral patterns because they only want to experience good – they do not want to feel pain or discomfort. They turn to chemical substance as a way of numbing out innate or accumulated emotional distress, or compulsively engage in pleasure-seeking behavioral patterns geared towards providing them with enough temporary diversion to ease the vacant ache of that intrinsic void.
All prior sense of balance is completely discarded as life begins revolving around the coveted substance or behavior that seems to finally alleviate the pain. Eventually, however, this thing will stop working so effectively. Consequences will steadily accumulate, and it will become increasingly clear that a life of balance would ultimately be much more fulfilling than a life of persistent unsteadiness and impending collapse.
Addiction – A Life of Extremes
For those who have suffered at the hands of an addictive disorder, finding and maintaining balance is absolutely key to long-term recovery. For many recovering addicts, however, attempting to find balance can prove to become an unrelenting game of whack-a-mole. It may seem that once addiction is somewhat under control, another addictive behavior immediately pops to the surface. Some will turn to their careers, and begin overworking. Some will turn to food, and begin overeating or obsessively focusing on weight-loss facilitated by harsh restricting or cyclical bingeing and purging. Some will turn to a romantic relationship or promiscuous sex, and eventually fall victim to love or sex addiction. These newly surfacing behavioral addictions are merely indicators of persistent unresolved issues, and suggest that much more therapeutic work needs to be done.
Finding Balance in Addiction Recovery
Until all emotional trauma is resolved, behavioral addictions such as work addiction, compulsive gambling, and love addiction will likely continuously resurface, and unless all addictive disordered are addressed and treated concurrently, the addict will have scant chance at long-term sobriety.
Take a look at the five following aspects of life, and each of their subgenres. Honestly ask yourself how much time you are allotting to each.
- Physical self-care
- Sleep patterns
- Adequate nutrition
- Personal hygiene
- Regular check-ups
- Mutual self-help programs (Alcoholics Anonymous meetings)
- Relapse prevention
- Service commitments
- Spiritual advancement (prayer, meditation, exploration)
- Active application of spiritual principles
- Development of personal spiritual practices
- Mental Health
- Continued therapy
- Application of coping skills
- Medication management
- Life skill development
- Family members
- Romantic relationships
- Effective communication
- Boundary setting
- Putting effort into work/career
- Putting effort into academics
- Time management
- Extracurricular activities
As alcoholics, we have become so accustomed to chaos that living without it will likely be uncomfortable. We may reach towards other extremes in order to bring some of the customary drama back into our lives. In many cases, we will resort back to other addictive behavioral patterns in order to cope with the unresolved pain that still exists deep within us. Putting down the drink and the drug is only the very beginning – immediately after sobering up, we must begin to work on healing ourselves internally. Self-care must become a way of life, and seeking balance in all areas must replace an unhealthy temptation towards extremes. It is not uncommon for the newly sober addict or alcoholic to subconsciously turn to other addictive behaviors as a means of filling the void left by a swift cessation of his or her only known solution.
Self-Care and Obtaining Balance
Unfortunately, reaching towards such methods of temporary relief often results in the development of entirely new addictive issues, which must then, in turn, be worked through therapeutically. Or these co-occurring issues preexist, and must be worked through at the same time as substance abuse disorders. No matter what the case, achieving balance means working through all contributing issues, such as childhood trauma, codependency, and toxic shame, and laying a solid and stable foundation of self-care and healthy coping skills, geared towards the maintenance of long-term sobriety.
Achieving balance is difficult for the addict, considering the extreme, black-or-white lifestyle that he or she is likely so accustomed to living. However, with a little hard work and determination, finding and maintaining a healthy balance is more than possible. For more information, please contact us at Next Chapter Treatment today.