Behavior Modification for Recovery

 

The importance of change and what it takes to modify our behavior.

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Behavior Modification for Recovery from Alcoholism and drug addiction are primarily brain- and behavior-based psychological disorders that have foundations in neural and biological substrates along with persistent conditioning brought about by repeated behavioral patterns. There exists a strong reciprocal relationship between the mind and body of the addict and alcoholic. Science has revealed a variety of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to our current understanding of addiction and subsequent prevention and treatment approaches. Furthermore, these developments have helped to shape the current societal views of addiction from a moral failing to a health problem. This shift has consequently altered our focus on solutions from punitive measures to therapeutic treatments and preventative education.

Although medications can alleviate many of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms and side effects associated with substance abuse (along with assisting with some of the deeper, often undiagnosed, psychological phenomena that were being ineffectively self-medicated with the substance of abuse, such as depression, bipolar, and anxiety-related disorders), the need for behavioral modification and self-regulation is essential to long-term recovery and overall well-being.

There are numerous theoretical models which thoroughly outline the development and progression of addiction—virtually all of which posit the necessity for cognitive and behavioral modification. Essentially, it is well-understood, from a variety of perspectives and disciplines which deal with addiction in some capacity, that removing the substance of abuse alone is not effective in ensuring long-term sobriety, in that the underlying causes and conditions that led to the abuse (even in the wake of devastating consequences) must also be addressed and corrected.

 

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The second element necessary of behavior modification for recovery is one of unwavering persistence and dedication to the task. Because the modification of thought and behavioral patterns that have invariably developed over an entire lifetime can take a considerable amount time and energy, a certain level of tenacity and inner determinism to persevere is often required. Along with such a drive comes the need for an attitude of compassion and patience with oneself. Deep and enduring change is neither easy nor quick, and the probability of the recurrence of old behaviors and thoughts in certain familiar contexts is highly likely, if not inevitable. For example, no matter how much one commits to avoiding anger and frustration, given the appropriate circumstances (e.g. traffic, arguing with a loved one, etc.), the feelings are bound to be elicited because of their conditioned nature. The key is to constantly remind oneself of the desire to change the ruminative thinking and habitual responses which have always accompanied such emotional reactions. Compassion is necessary when undergoing this painstaking task. Cultivating this kind and loving relationship with oneself is what is often meant by “parenting oneself,”  or behavior modification for recovery, which is what the process of recovery demands. Moreover, it is important to avoid labels such as “success” and “failure,” and instead respect the evolution of change as you embark upon it. The specific practices and resources one incorporates to assist in this process depend on the nature of treatment and therapeutic services provided. Regardless of the specificities, in light of the difficulty this inner transformation presents to the addict or alcoholic, some form of treatment and support is highly recommended.

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