Anxiety can be a very distressing emotion when a person is in recovery from substance or alcohol abuse. Everyone experiences a degree of anxiety at some point in their lives.
However for a recovering addict who is facing people, places and things that could at trigger a relapse, the degree of anxiety is severe. What drives and motivates this anxiety is also a little different from being nervous about a first date and our approach deals specifically with relapse prevention.
Self-medication with drugs or alcohol may provide temporary relief from anxiety and many other suppressed emotions but it doesn’t last. In the long run, it may actually exacerbate anxiety and panic attacks. This cycle can quickly become habit, which therapy seeks to address by teaching new copying mechanisms.
The cycle of self-medication can also cause an addict or an alcoholic to venture into cross addiction. This is where one drug or behavior is simply replaced with another one. For an example, a cocaine addict may stop abusing cocaine but then start to drink more heavily. This makes treatment and breaking this downward spiral difficult and increasing harder to manager as time passes.
Addiction often starts with self-medication and it is not immediately noticed because it’s a fairly common behaviour. Most people will engage in some sort of behavior to alleviate stress or heartache and we live in a culture where an after-work drink is the norm. When this behavior escalates to the point that it is negatively affecting relationships and work and the person has come to rely on a substance to deal with their feelings, then we see the seeds of addictive behavior beginning to take root.
Helping someone who is struggling with addiction is difficult. It may involve an intervention or even family therapy. Long-term recovery means being committed to a programme that aims to address the root cause of anxiety and the negative behaviours of drug and alcohol abuse and promote transformation that is meaningful to the client.