Changing Substance Use: Drug, Set, and Setting

changing substance useWhile most of the folks I talk to want to start changing substance use for themselves or someone else, they’re not sure where to begin. Whether it’s abstinence that you’re after, reducing your use, preparing to quit, or wanting to use more safely, you know that wanting to change is only the first step. Learning how to change your substance use is key.

 

Managing your substance use can help you moderate your use successfully. And implementing the model I’m going to talk about in this post can help you learn to quit. As you’ll see, if you’re struggling with sexual behaviors that are out of control, this model can also help you be aware of what makes you vulnerable to acting out and to observe yourself.

 

And learning to observe yourself is the key to successful change. Most of the harm that results from substance use comes from how, when, where, and how much you use. You need to become interested in your habit, its impact on your life, and why you’re using. So try to be honest with yourself and be willing to try new things.

 

In this first post, I’ll talk about the model of drug, set, and setting. Then I’ll talk in my next post about how to use it to change your drug use. But first, a few words of caution: This way of looking at your substance use can help you change, but it’s not a guarantee. I’m also not a doctor, so please don’t take this as medical advice. Also, many drugs are illegal. I can’t protect you from legal consequences of using, so please don’t take this as legal advice either.

Here’s What I Wish I’d Said on My Recent Podcast Episode

alcohol treatment familiesIn early May, I was in Phoenix for the annual symposium for therapists who treat individuals struggling with problematic sexual behaviors and their partners. I was presenting on harm reduction at the conference on a panel discussing alternative paths of recovery that may not include 12-step recovery groups. I was thrilled to bring harm reduction to the field of sexual addiction and recovery.

 

While I was there, I spoke further with Jackie Pack, the facilitator of our panel. She invited me onto her podcast Thanks for Sharing to talk more about harm reduction. A couple of weeks ago, Jackie graciously hosted me and we talked about harm reduction, its benefits and rationale, and how it can help those struggling with addictive behavior and those who love them.

 

We covered a lot of ground, but there are some things we didn’t get to or that I wish I’d said more clearly. Here’s the rundown.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

How Alternative Addiction Treatment Can Work for You

Koorosh Rassekh, MMFT, is a licensed therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach, California. His mission is to break the stigma around mental health and create a world of healthier people, families, and communities.

 

I recently connected with Koorosh and invited him to share about how he helps his clients change their addictive behavior. Read more about my collaboration with him about sex and porn addiction here.

 

1) Evo’s website states that you respects “where you are and where you want to go.” What does this mean for how you think about and treat addictions?

 

Taking inspiration from one of my mentors and one of Evo’s key advisors, Dr. Gabor Maté, I would say that Evo understands that addiction is never the primary issue. It is a secondary response to something deeper happening for a person – trauma, marginalization, the impact of being different, bullying culture, rape culture, etc. When people suffer, they turn to whatever is available to address their suffering. With substances, people often use as a coping mechanism, and this coping mechanism becomes a problem within itself.

Making the Most of “Dry January” (Especially If You Keep Drinking)

dry januaryPerhaps you’ve seen articles and posts floating around on social media this time of year about Dry January. If you haven’t, Dry January is a one-month challenge to abstain from alcohol created by Alcohol Change in 2012. About 4 million people participated in 2018, and maybe you’re trying to decide if participating this year is right for you.

 

After all, January is a time of resolutions for the coming year. Many people use Dry January as a way to help them reevaluate their drinking, especially as drinking typically peaks during the last few weeks of the year around Christmas and New Year’s.

 

There are plenty of articles out there like this one to help you figure out if you want to participate in Dry January or not. If you do decide to keep drinking, here are some other ways to participate so that you can make the most of your Dry January.

If You’re Looking for Substance Abuse Treatment in Ventura County, Read This

substance abuse treatment venturaIf you love someone who is struggling with a drug addiction or a substance use disorder, chances are you’re in crisis mode. Most likely, something has happened—again—that’s prompted you to seek out addiction counseling for your loved one or family member—again.

 

You’re scared for your loved one. Probably, you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and lot a little resentful. “Why does this keep happening?” you say to yourself. “He needs to really work his program this time. He didn’t work hard enough last time.”

 

Meanwhile, you wonder if you’re codependent. At least, that’s what most of what you’ve read says. You struggle with the line between supportive love and destructive caretaking. So much of what you do seems to alienate your loved one. And he’s not getting any better. After all, this has happened before. Will this time be different?

 

The good news is that yes, this time can be different.

Create Your Optimal Use Plan

optimal use planThe New Year is right around the corner. Many make resolutions to change their relationship with alcohol or a substance, resolving to use it less or not at all.

 

Maybe you’re working on this already. If changing your pattern of using or drinking is important to you, perhaps it’s time to consider creating what’s called an optimal use plan.

 

An optimal use plan is a hypothetical plan or vision that you can create on your own, with the help of a loved one, or ideally a therapist. It’s a “working plan” that will help you name your goals for your drinking or using and includes strategies for how to achieve them.

 

So how do you create one? Let’s dive in.

Master Your Recovery Mindset

master your recovery mindsetIf you’re in trying to change your relationship with alcohol, a drug, sex, porn, or some other addictive behavior, you know it’s not a cakewalk. I want to walk you through an exercise today that will hopefully call attention to recurring thoughts that might be getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

 

I’m going to try something different here. I’m going to ask you to notice your first reactions to the statements that I’m going to give you. But in order for it to work, you have to promise to pause after you read each statement, taking note of what you’re thinking.

 

So don’t read on until you do that, okay? But first, a few words about why this is important. Let’s dive in.

Changing the Conversation with Your Addict

changing the conversation with your addictIf you’re in recovery, and especially if you frequent 12-step meetings, it’s not uncommon to hear about the “addict” in each person who struggles with addictive behavior. Often, using this term in this way refers to that part of the individual that wants to use, act out, or wreak havoc in some other way that is harmful to others.

 

I completely understand, then, why when I hear folks use this term in this way, they’re trying to prevent that damage from happening. They don’t want to lie anymore. They don’t want to hurt their partner with the “addict’s” hurtful words. And they really don’t want to use or act out.

 

So why am I about changing the conversation with your addict?

How to Find an Addiction Counselor

addiction counselorFinding the right help for an addiction isn’t easy. These days, there are quite a few options. Do you choose inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment? Intensive outpatient? An online recovery program?

 

And what do you do if you know you also have concerns about your mental health at the same time? How should you decide what you should do if you need chemical dependency treatment and also need help with your depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue?

 

Navigating all of this can be tricky, but there are a few considerations that might be helpful as you find an addiction counselor to begin your recovery.