Trauma Theory and The Addicted Mind

hands holding a old lightbulb

Trauma Therapy And The Addicted Mind

Trauma therapy examines causes of addiction. Addiction can have different elements. Things that occur alongside it. Like mental illness. Researchers call this comorbidity. Memories of trauma can also occur comorbidly with SUDs.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What is trauma?
  • How is trauma one of the causes of addiction?
  • What is trauma therapy?
  • How can trauma therapy help me?
  • How can I learn more about trauma therapy?

What Is Trauma?

Nailing down a single definition of trauma seems complicated. It entails the ways we respond to extremely stressful events. Trauma can lead to a sensation of freezing. Like a person is stuck inside the trauma. As such, traumatic memories complicate the present. Trauma sufferers cannot live in the present. Because their bodies believe they still live in the past.

Symptoms Of Trauma

You’ve likely heard of PTSD. It stands for post-traumatic stress disorder. A recent discovery also includes complex PTSD or CPTSD. But a person needn’t have an official diagnosis with one of these disorders. Trauma affects people differently. Absence of a diagnosis doesn’t mean an absence of trauma symptoms.

Recent research draws a relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and trauma. Symptoms of trauma include:

  • Traumatic memories disrupting your thoughts
  • Evading specific things, places, or people
  • Persistent unpleasant emotions
  • Reacting above and beyond a given problem or situation

How Is Trauma One Of The Causes Of Addiction? 

Dr. Gabor Maté’s work provides help here. In his book In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Maté defines addiction as, “any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others.” The book explores the relationship between trauma and childhood brain development. Dr. Maté also indicates that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) shape how people deal with stress later in life.

Trauma can lead to maladaptive patterns of coping with stress. For example, a person feels stressed out. They’re having a hard time at work. So they begin drinking to relieve the stress. They feel a combination of anxiety and despair. Sobriety might help this person. So might an antidepressant. But these tools would just make symptoms go away. They would do little to address the person’s underlying trauma.

A few key things to remember about trauma and addiction:

  • Trauma (and its symptoms) cause stress
  • Trauma can lead to unhealthy means of coping
  • Trauma can contribute to the onset of mental illnesses
  • Trauma can likewise lead to struggles with substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Sobriety and abstinence, while helpful, do not represent the final goals of trauma therapy

What Is Trauma Therapy? 

Recovery can present a long journey. We’d all like it to be a gradual, though steady, climb. But it involves different challenges. Different obstacles for different people. Instead, recovery journeys involve sidetracks and rabbit trails.

Therefore, trauma survivors need therapy specific to their needs. It’s good to get sober. It’s wise to address mental health problems. However, trauma therapy focuses directly on what’s beneath the substance use disorder.

Find some examples of trauma therapy below.

Examples Of Trauma-Focused Therapy 

Sobriety makes for a worthwhile goal. Balancing one’s mental health is another. For some people, these might serve as endgame goals. But those coping with trauma require deeper measures. Examples of trauma-specific therapy exist. These treatment models help address trauma as one of the causes of addiction.

Prolonged Exposure Therapy 

Prolonged exposure therapy (PE) entails slowly wearing away traumatic feelings. It usually lasts for 9-12 90-minute sessions. With the aid of a therapist, clients will imagine traumatic scenarios. Over time, clients become strong enough to confront imagined trauma. From there, PE brings the client into confronting trauma outside of therapy.

Cognitive Processing Therapy

Trauma often results in inaccurate or false beliefs. We tell ourselves untrue stories about true events Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) teaches the client to ask questions. Doing so helps them uncover unhelpful beliefs about the trauma.

Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) 

During an EMDR session, the client recalls a traumatic memory. With the eyes, the client tracks with the clinician’s hand. The client moves the memory forward in their mind. Usually, with little input from the clinician, the client forms a new relationship with the memory.

Examples Of Non-Trauma Focused Therapy

Focusing directly on trauma can disorient some people. Not everybody feels ready to make that leap. Not even in a therapeutic environment. To that end, therapists have developed non-trauma focused therapies. Let us look at a few examples.


Techniques like mindfulness and meditation can provide relief from trauma. They can help offset painful automatic thoughts. Breathing techniques, like holotropic breathing, can improve feelings of self-acceptance. Yoga can also aid in trauma therapy.

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) 

Donald Meichenbaum first developed stress inoculation training in the 1970s. It offers limited exposure to minor stressors. This way, it treats stress like a disease. You get a small, controlled dose. Once you become accustomed to this dose, your body can defend against greater doses.

Interpersonal Therapy 

Interpersonal therapy attempts to help clients recognize emotional triggers. Once they notice a trigger, they can examine the underlying emotion. In understanding themselves better, they can articulate their experience better. IPT thus helps improve the client’s relationship with others.

How Can Trauma Therapy Help Me?

Sobriety can level out your body. Proper mental health care can straighten out your thinking. But for some people, those are just the first steps. Trauma therapy tries to uproot a painful memory. To detach you from it. To offer you freedom from a cycle of suffering. Wholeness is the goal. Healing, health, and completion.

How Can I Learn More About Trauma Therapy?

Recovery By The Sea offers numerous trauma therapy options. We offer trauma-specific therapy and non-trauma-focused therapy. No matter what you’re looking for, know that hope is real. Recovery is possible. If you or someone you love is suffering from trauma, call Recovery By The Sea now at 877-207-5033.

Addiction vs Habit: What’s the Difference?

man writing a list

Addiction vs. habit. Believe it or not, they are something like cousins. A lot in common, but with one key caveat.

Humans need order. We thrive more in order than in chaos. Habits can help give us order. Habits are neither good nor bad. It depends on what the habit is. And what it’s used for. Habits begin in the brain and extend outward.

Habits build from small changes over a period of time. We can form habits for nearly any action or behavior. Some habits we form on purpose. We say, “I’m going to go to bed at _____.” Or, “I’m working out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” But sometimes, we feel like we just “wake up” to a habit.

Whether a good habit, or a bad one, the brain works the same way. Processes like feedback loops allow the brain to form patterns around our behavior. Doing so helps the brain automate our behavior. This allows the brain to use less conscious effort to perform the action in the future.

With that in mind, let’s examine addiction vs. habit.

● What is a habit?
● What is an addiction?
● How are they similar? How are they different?

What Is A Habit?

A basic definition of habit has 2 components. A habit is:

● Any behavior or action performed repeatedly
● With little to no conscious thought

There are dozens of things you do every day. And many of them require no thought on your part. Things like turning light switched on and off. Cooking and eating your favorite breakfast. Getting dressed and putting on your shoes.

Most things we do involve a series of steps. Think of a simple act, like getting out of bed. First, you open your eyes. Maybe you check a nearby device for the time. You sit up. Throw your legs over the side of the bed. You move your hips forward, shifting your weight onto your feet. That’s a series of 5 steps. None of which required you to think.

How Do Habits Form?

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear identifies 4 stages of habit formation:

● Cue – sometimes called a “trigger,” this is what drives or provokes you to act or do something
● Craving – your motivation, your muse, your reason for doing
● Response – something you think or act out physically
● Reward – a good feeling of pleasure, happiness, or contentment

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power Of Habit, noted that the area of the brain most involved in habit formation is the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia serves as the epicenter for the cue, craving, response, reward process. Carried out over time, this process becomes automatic. The brain no longer thinks about it.

Why Are Habits Important?

Habits make life easier for us. They allow us to do things without having to think about them. Parents teach children basic life skills. Things like eating with silverware, or using the bathroom. Bathing ourselves. When we repeat these behaviors over a period of time, we don’t rehearse and analyze each step of these processes.

Can you imagine how hard life would be without habits? Think about adults having to put conscious effort into tying their shoes. We’d never get anything done! Not a very efficient way to live.

Can a “Good” Habit Become an Addiction?

Yes, even so-called “good” habits can resemble addictions. Behavioral addiction, or process addiction, involves a natural reward. This is a feeling of pleasure similar (though not exactly the same) as the euphoria experienced in substance use. Natural rewards impact the neuroplasticity of the brain. That is, the ability of the brain to change itself to better help us get what we want.

Behavioral addiction, or process addiction, can include otherwise harmless (even healthy) activities. Some research extends behavioral addiction into things like dieting, shopping, and working out. Technology brings with it its own share of challenges. Internet addiction, social media addiction, and video game addiction all represent new phenomena in the addiction treatment space.

What Is An Addiction?

Like habits, addictions are behaviors we repeat. Sometimes nailing down a single definition of addiction becomes difficult. A fundamental factor to keep in mind: addictions necessarily cause harm. They damage physical health. They interrupt a person’s daily life. Addictions have negative effects. To the point, you might say that an addiction is:

● Any behavior or action performed repeatedly
● With little to no conscious thought, AND
● That causes harm

How Do Addictions Form?

Addictions manifest in the brain. We do something, eat something, have something that makes us feel good. Various regions of the brain participate in the formation of addiction. As we expose ourselves to something, we feel pleasure or relief. In effect, this teaches the brain. The brain seeks ways to optimize. To make our lives easier.

Addiction Vs. Habit: Similarities And Differences

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s fluid ability to change itself. Neuroplasticity serves as a faculty behind both habits and addictions. The brain does not discriminate between them. The brain’s role is to acclimate to the data we present to it. And to change accordingly.

We experience a trigger. We feel a craving. Then, we nourish the craving. For satisfying the craving, we get a reward. For both habits and addictions, the process works the same way. Indeed, they have more similarities than differences.

With some conscious effort and willpower, most people could likely stop most habits. But addictions work differently. Addictions, especially substance use disorders, require more tools at one’s disposal. The chief difference between habit and addiction is the harm that addictions cause. Furthermore, a person suffering from an addiction does not stop the behavior even though it causes harm.

What To Do For Addiction (Behavioral Or Otherwise)

Habits help us orient ourselves in the world. They help us bring some sense and order to our lives. But sometimes the processes that help us can also hurt us.

If you’re feeling trapped by a habit or addiction, you’re not alone. Your life is not irreparable. Hope is possible and help is available. Call Recovery By The Sea now.

Is it OK to use CBD in Recovery?

cbd oil bottle on abstract background

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It is made directly from the hemp plant. Cannabidiol is the second most common ingredient in marijuana. According to the World Health Organization, consuming CBD by itself will not produce the same effects as marijuana. CBD is currently legal in all 50 states. Project CBD includes research that attributes CBD to reductions in inflammation, pain, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and more. Thus far, the only FDA-approved CBD medication is Epidiolex. Epidiolex shows efficacy in treating seizures. National Geographic’s documentary Cannabis For Kids shows medical administrations of Epidiolex to children while they are having seizures.

What’s The Big Deal?

It seemed like CBD took the world by storm. It became the latest health and wellness fad. Everybody was talking about it; everyone had an opinion. Some touted CBD as a miracle. They said it helped reduce depression and anxiety. It made you sleep better. It reduced your appetite, which made you lose weight. It’s supposed to improve your concentration and memory. Sounds good, right? Surely there mustn’t be anything wrong with using it. There’s no THC in it, so you can’t get addicted to it. Can you?

Is CBD Safe?

Much misunderstanding surrounds whether or not CBD contains THC. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, the ingredient in marijuana that produces the “high.” Some manufacturers of CBD do not label their products correctly. This means that a consumer could be ingesting trace amounts of THC without their knowledge. The FDA requires that CBD products contain less than 0.3% of THC. While the FDA supports sound scientific investigations into CBD and its benefits, they have also sanctioned manufacturers who make false medical claims when advertising their products. Using CBD oneself requires proper research into exactly what a certain CBD product contains. Know what you’re buying.

Isolate V. Full-Spectrum

Consumers can usually find CBD in 2 varieties: isolate and full-spectrum. CBD isolate contains cannabidiol only. By contrast, full-spectrum CBD also has terpenes and flavonoids. By virtue of these additional components, full-spectrum CBD may help ease anxiety, inflammation, pain, and more. Unfortunately, full-spectrum CBD products are more likely to produce a positive result on a drug test. A person looking for the benefits of a CBD product without this risk could look into CBD isolate. Knowing this helps clear up a common misconception. Drug tests don’t measure for cannabidiol. They measure for THC. The isolate does not contain THC, but the full-spectrum does. Even a minuscule amount (less than 0.3%) can show up in a drug test.

Should A Person In Recovery Use CBD?

As with most questions in life, the answer is: it depends. CBD does seem to show promise in reducing pain, stress, insomnia, and inflammation. A study in The American Journal of Psychiatry indicated that the CBD-derived Epidiolex may help reduce drug cravings among those struggling with opioid addiction. In the future, addiction recovery and treatment programs might indeed employ CBD. But that doesn’t matter. To a person in recovery, what matters most is what happens right now. Your life is not a study. It’s a life. Each action has a personal consequence that affects you. Each action likewise impacts the people around you.

Speak With Your Doctor

In recovery, you want the best for yourself. You want to have all the tools in your toolbox. Deprive yourself of nothing that might help you press forward. That said, make certain you assemble a trusted team of advisors. In recovery, you’re battling for your life. But you shouldn’t battle alone. Get counsel from wise people in your path. If you think a CBD product would help your recovery, ask your doctor. CBD might not mix well with some medications. Your doctor will be able to advise you of that. If your doctor does recommend CBD for your recovery, make sure you stick with the CBD isolate. Your doctor might have some particular brands to recommend. They might provide some product lines that they trust.

What If I Want To Use Full-Spectrum CBD?

You’re a thoughtful, thorough person. You’ve done your homework. You know your own mind and what’s good for you. The research indicates that full-spectrum THC helps relieve some of your mental health symptoms. You can quote studies that say so. But what’s your intention? Are you consuming full-spectrum CBD every time you feel stressed? “It’s better than drinking, smoking, or injecting,” you may think. Perhaps it is. But if that’s your reasoning, then you aren’t recovering. You’ve just substituted one substance for another. You’re still leaning on a crutch. You aren’t growing. You aren’t getting better. Whether or not CBD does what it purports isn’t the point. What matters most is what you are doing and why you are doing it. The purpose of recovery isn’t ceasing a certain behavior or exchanging it for another. Recovery involves newness and wholeness. It’s about changing your identity and your choices to make a better life. Therefore, if you’re asking whether or not something is “ok” for recovery, you’re thinking too small. If you must ask, the answer is “no.”

What If I Just Keep It To Myself?

You have an absolute right to privacy. Nobody should infringe on that. But what are you using your privacy for? In recovery, what is the purpose of your right to privacy? If you decide to use CBD, shouldn’t that just be your business? Perhaps the best way to answer these questions is with another question. If something is legitimately helping you recover from substance addiction, why should you conceal it? This is similar to substituting CBD for a different substance. Concealment, evading, secrecy – these tactics indicate that you’re still in bondage to addiction. Cloak-and-dagger behaviors like these prevent you from dealing with the problems beneath addiction.

What’s The Verdict?

In a word, if you’re in recovery then it’s best to avoid CBD. It’s in close proximity to other substances that alter your mood and mind. If you’re genuinely curious about it, speak with your treatment provider. If they opt to include it in your treatment plan, then use it as they direct you. No more, no less. If you need help relaxing, look for substance-free ways to do so. This approach will strengthen your mind, as well as your resolve. It will make you transparent and vulnerable. And that is where authentic wholeness and healing begin.

What to Look for When Seeking Addiction Treatment

man searching on laptop for addiction treatment

It Feels Like You’re Drowning

You took the first step. Then another, and another. A single choice led to more. Which gave way to a pattern. Then, before you knew it, you were well on your way. You’ve been on this path for a while now. This wasn’t what you wanted your life to be. You didn’t wake up one day and decide it. You found yourself swept away. In a current. You did your best to tread water. To keep yourself from going under. Seemed like everything you did just made it harder. Striving made you tired. Trying made you weak. Almost like it would be easier to just give up.

One Foot At A Time

Getting treatment requires you to leap. You’ll have to live in a new way. You’ll have to get familiar with what’s unknown. That can be terrifying. You’re unsure whether you can do it or not. That’s ok. Take a breath. It’s ok to be afraid of something you don’t know. You can’t be brave if you’re not afraid first. You’re putting things in order. Paving a new path. You may have taken the road into addiction step-by-step. You can take the road out the same way. One foot in front of the other.


Your decision to seek treatment deserves respect. Perhaps it feels like one of the hardest choices you’ve ever made. Rest assured, it’s ok to feel that way too. Your recovery deserves respect as well. You’re building a new life for yourself. Relying on total strangers with some of your life’s biggest problems requires a great deal of trust. You deserve to know that these strangers are who they say they are. How do you know that they are legitimate healthcare professionals? The Joint Commission (TJC) sets the standards for healthcare accreditation. That means they give doctors, therapists, nurses, counselors, and other healthcare providers the authority to help you. Double-checking helps protect you from those who don’t have your best interests in mind.

Addiction and Mental Health

Why do you use? To feel good. Or, at least, to feel “less bad.” People use substances because they want to feel better than they do right now. If a person is inclined toward melancholy, sadness, and depression, they might look to amphetamines to lift them out of that state. A person battling anxiety might want something to help them slow down, or chill out. This is where opiates and benzodiazepines appear attractive. But the addiction works like a fog, or a diversion. It masks the person’s genuine struggle. Just like the body, the mind can be wounded. It can get sick. It can even be injured. Addiction postpones our ability to heal the mind. More often than not, our addiction makes our existing mental illness worse. Take note: mental illness and addiction can trap you in a cycle. Your mental health suffers, so you use in order to feel better. But when the high wears off, you’re still suffering. So you use again. A proper treatment plan helps you get off this wretched cycle.

Dual Diagnosis

Addictions have underlying causes and contributing factors. Homelife, genetics, quality of relationships, trauma, you name it. A quality treatment plan not only addresses addiction, but also considers these variables. The point of treatment isn’t to be drug-free. Treatment doesn’t stop with sobriety. Rather, good treatment considers comprehensive health. It treats the person, not the addiction. To that end, look for a treatment program that caters to mental health. Those who struggle with substance use disorders likewise often suffer from mental illnesses. Mental illness and substance use influence one another. This is called a dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder. You ought to look for a treatment plan that covers both problems. In this way, you’re recovering from multiple angles. Getting this kind of clarity early on provides an advantage on your recovery journey.

Benefits of Sober Living

Having a dual diagnosis moves your emotional set point. That means that the “normal” way you feel changes. Think of it this way. If you broke both of your legs, you wouldn’t want to put a cast on just one. You’d want both legs to heal together. As quickly as possible. A dual diagnosis works the same way. With both of your “legs” (mental health and sobriety) underneath you, you’ll be in a better place. Once there, you’ll be able to think more clearly. Your memory and concentration will improve. Using what you learn in your therapy sessions, you can strategize about your life. Reevaluate your relationships. Examine which ones will help your sobriety and which ones hurt it. Design a daily routine that will continue your success. You’ll be able to organize a life that will allow you to keep getting better.

Treatment Options

Different people live in different circumstances. Treatment needs and experiences may differ from person to person. When looking into recovery, you’ll hear terms like partial hospitalization (PHP), inpatient program (IP), outpatient program (OP), and intensive outpatient program (IOP). No treatment option is better or worse than any other. Each treatment option offers a variable amount of personal freedom. Inpatient treatment is residential, which means you would essentially live at the treatment center. PHP is a step down; where those treated remain under care for a few hours a day 3-5 days a week. If your home life supports your recovery, then an IOP may suit you. IOP requires attendance to a few hours of therapy each week. OP and aftercare are further steps down, and provide the least oversight of your life and daily activities. Check with your insurance company to compare prices. More intensive treatment options tend to cost more.

Be an Advocate for Yourself. Ask Questions!

Be curious about your recovery and treatment. You have a right to know all the specifics of a recovery facility. You deserve to know who they are, what their credentials are, and how they can help you. If you’re unsure about something, then ask for an explanation. Ask “why” and “how” they do the things that they do. Any treatment center worth its salt will be completely transparent with you. If they aren’t, consider that a red flag.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and/or mental illness, call Recovery By The Sea now at 877-207-5033.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

female therapist providing patient with cognitive behavioral therapy

What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has become one of the most popular forms of mental health treatment in recent years. This is because CBT is based around empirical evidence, making it an evidence-based treatment (EBT). It works across a wide range of mental health issues, but is most effective at treating:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Criminal behaviors
  • Chronic pain

How CBT Works

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy gets its name from the idea that thoughts drive actions. It works by addressing a person’s thoughts – their cognitive process – to help modify their behaviors. By finding thoughts that damage their mood and perspective, the person then challenges those thoughts or replaces them with new ones. Through altering their outlook, the person can then transform their mood and mindset to one that is more useful.

Once the person identifies thoughts or beliefs which are hurtful, they then seek alternative beliefs to adopt in place of the negative ones.

Example: A person loses his or her job. While this event can be seen as negative, it can also be viewed as an opportunity to pursue new avenues, explore new interests, or seek new opportunities. By seeking a different set of beliefs, a person can literally change their mind.

CBT is particularly effective at treating addiction. It helps patients identify the reasons behind their substance use, better equipping them to combat the destructive state of mind that accompanies a relapse. They are then able to find solutions to combat cravings and helpful ideas to address the underlying causes of their addiction.

A Brief History of CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy came out of psychotherapy, frequently known as talk therapy. It is largely attributed to Dr. Aaron T. Beck’s pioneering work in the 1960s. Dr. Beck and other therapists observed that many patients were suffering due to erroneous beliefs. The theory arose that if a person’s beliefs could be altered, their mental state would improve.

Testing of this theory continues to this day, and the results have been profound. Nearly every type of mental illness is positively impacted by the use of CBT, according to extensive research. Even those with no diagnosed condition benefit from challenging beliefs or “negative thinking” which impact their mood. Clinical studies, as well as anecdotal evidence, show more constructive thinking assists anyone in living a happier, more fulfilling life.

It is this exhaustive research that puts CBT firmly in the category of evidence-based practice since it has been so thoroughly and repeatedly tested with similar results.

How to Use CBT

There are several forms of CBT. In the most popular form, a person uses the “ABC” model. In the ABC model, a person identifies an Activating event (A). They then identify their Beliefs (B) in response to the activating event. Finally, they look at the Consequences (C) surrounding the event. The idea is to determine what thoughts or beliefs create their behaviors. Writing out each step then allows the patient to review their thoughts – often with the aid of a therapist or mental health professional. The ultimate goal is to find what negative beliefs are leading to negative consequences.

CBT is best done with the assistance of a therapist. However, anyone can begin recording their thoughts and identifying patterns that are having an adverse effect on their life. Changing these thoughts may unlock a better state of mind.

What is EMDR Therapy? Can it Help My Recovery?

woman sitting in her therapist office discussing EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic practice for treating past trauma. It uses movement of the eyes to stimulate the brain in a way that assists in processing difficult emotions. Officially, EMDR can only treat trauma disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, emerging studies show it to be effective at treating depression, anxiety and stress. Research also shows it to be helpful in addiction, particularly if previous trauma helps drive that addiction.

How EMDR Works

The EMDR therapeutic method is simple. The patient sits in a comfortable position and moves their eyes back and forth along a horizontal line. They do this while recalling hurtful memories. Doing this allows easier processing of difficult emotions.

Biologically, it is still unclear exactly how and why EMDR works. Theories suggest that it stimulates better communication between the hemispheres of the brain. By engaging the brain in this way, the mind is better able to work through difficulties, because the movement forces the brain to employ more neurons in different areas of the brain. Stimulating different regions of the brain gives it more power of different kinds to work through painful issues.

Theories also posit that the back-and-forth action is similar to the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) experienced during dream sleep. The idea is that since people who have less REM sleep have higher stress levels, performing a similar eye movement can alleviate some of the pain of past memories.

EMDR does not only use eye movement for neural stimulation. Walking, tapping on alternate sides of the body or any motion that engages first one side of the body, then the other can work. Merely taking a walk to calm down is a simplified form of EMDR.

EMDR and Addiction Recovery

On some level, everyone suffers from memories of their past. These memories and their associated suffering help to drive addiction. Pleasant memories of previous drinking or using are frequently the cause of cravings. One of the other major causes of cravings is a desire to ease painful feelings.

EMDR strategies such as bi-lateral movement reduce all emotional reactions to memories. This includes happiness. Therefore, employing EMDR can lessen the joy from memories of using. Reducing the false happiness from the memories then lowers the desire to use.

Hurtful memories also drive the desire to use. These can be memories of past trauma, memories of humiliation or anything that brings about mental suffering. Addicts frequently report thoughts of the past help precipitate a relapse. Even memories of normal events such as the loss of a job, a relationship, or a family member can cause an addict to resort to previous behavior. EMDR helps to interrupt this cycle by easing the distress of these memories.

Though research on EMDR is positive when it comes to addiction recovery, it is rarely the only answer. It is merely one helpful tool for those who are haunted by the good and bad of their past.

If you or someone you know needs assistance in their battle with addiction, reaching out is the first key to success. Addiction thrives in isolation. Overcoming it requires help.

How to Help Someone Struggling with Addiction

woman comforts young woman with addiction

Have you ever loved an addict? Maybe an intimate partner or spouse? A sibling? What about a parent or a child? You may remember how happy they used to be. How they could light up a room just by walking into it. How just being around them made you feel a little better. And then they changed. And it likely wasn’t overnight. You probably noticed them behaving in a way that was out of the ordinary. Something about them just wasn’t quite right. And then you found out the truth – this person you love is an addict. And they need help. You know they need help. So what can you do? How can you help someone struggling with an addiction?

You Can Only Control Yourself

You might be familiar with what’s called the “Serenity Prayer.” It usually goes something like, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” It’s commonly attributed to the Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. But whether or not you are a person of faith isn’t relevant. What is relevant is the genuine and practical wisdom in that prayer. That serenity prayer isn’t just for addicts – it’s also very helpful for the people that love them through their struggle.

There’s a tremendous amount of freedom that comes from realizing that we can’t control other people. We can beg, we can threaten, and we may even try force. But ultimately, we only control our own thoughts and actions. Your loved one’s choices are their own. Their choices may hurt you; they may cause you grief. But you are only responsible for loving and supporting them, not fixing or curing them. That’s an unfair responsibility to put on yourself. You control you, and they control them.

Practice Active Listening

Most people don’t really know how to listen. Especially in a modern world with so many digital distractions. Listening is a skill. And like any other skill, it takes practice to do it well. Getting your loved one to open up about their addiction involves actively listening to them. To actively listen, first look at your loved one when they speak. Make solid eye contact, and communicate with body language. Nod, and give verbal affirmations that you understand them. Say things like, “I see,” “uh huh,” or “go on.” Focus not on their words, but on what’s underneath their words. The underlying thoughts and feelings below their actual words. When they finish, repeat back to them, in your own words, your understanding of what they have said. Start with something like, “Let me make sure I understand…” or, “So it sounds like you’re saying…”

Establish Trust

Active listening can help you establish trust with your loved one. If they trust you, they might be more inclined to follow your lead regarding treatment. Trust is elemental in your loved one’s recovery. If you say you’ll do something for them, then do it. If you make an agreement, then keep it. The life of an addict can be very unstable. Their trust in you might provide what little stability their lives have.

If someone you love is struggling with addiction, call Recovery By The Sea. Call 877-207-5033 now.

Can Someone Suffering From Addiction Be Cured?

man sitting on a bench smoking

Can someone suffering from addiction be cured? If you or someone you love is currently struggling with a substance abuse disorder, this is probably a question you’ve wondered about for a long time. If so, you’re certainly not alone. In the following sections, we’ll have a look at this rather thorny question.

Problem Use Vs Addiction

Before we can address the question of ‘curing’ addiction properly, there are a few basics we need to go over. First, most addiction professionals make a fairly sharp distinction between ‘problem use’ and ‘addiction.’ Problem use is pretty much just what it sounds like. It’s a term that applies to someone whose drinking or drug use has started to cause problems for them in one or more life areas. Perhaps the best way to think of ‘problem use’ is as an intermediate stage between, say, a casual or social drinker and someone who has developed a full-fledged alcohol use disorder.

Addiction is different. Although the DSM-5 has a fairly specific set of criteria for substance abuse disorder, things can get a bit more ‘fuzzy’ in real life. Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this article to delve too deeply into the technical definition of addiction. For our purposes, it’s enough to say that the term ‘addiction’ is typically applied to someone whose substance abuse has progressed far beyond that of a ‘problem user.’ In short, if drugs or alcohol are controlling your life, you’ve probably progressed into the so-called ‘addicted’ stage.

In any case, this is the set of people to whom the question ‘can someone suffering from addiction be cured?’ actually applies. Generally speaking, if someone is still in the ‘problem use’ stage of drinking or drug use, they can stop or reduce their use without professional help. But what does that mean for someone who is truly ‘addicted?’

So, Can Addiction Be Cured or Not?

The short answer to this very complicated question is a resounding ‘no.’ While there are exceptions, most people who have progressed into a full-blown substance abuse disorder need professional help to begin to recover. The word ‘recover’ can cause some confusion in this area. The same goes for the idea that addiction is a disease. After all, ‘recovery’ means ‘cured’ most of the time, right? And if you suffer a disease, you can sometimes be ‘cured’ as well.

Well, this is where it might seem like we’re crossing over into semantics. However, substance abuse involves a great deal more than words. Perhaps the best way to think about a substance abuse disorder is in terms of a ‘disease model.’ What this means is that a person who is suffering from addiction displays the characteristics of a disease and should be treated as such. When you look at it this way, it doesn’t matter if substance abuse is a disease like diabetes or cancer.

We can sum up with a brief discussion of the word ‘recovery.’ In terms of substance abuse disorder, recovery is a process, not a permanent state of being. At the present time, there is no cure for addiction. However, an addicted person can recover. But this can only come about with professional help and a consistent aftercare program.

Why is Fentanyl So Dangerous?

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl belongs to a class of drugs called opioids. Like other opioids, it has a legitimate medical use: easing pain. Opioids work by changing how the body responds to and deals with, pain. Fentanyl’s original purpose was to abate pain in cancer patients (1). Doctors will prescribe fentanyl to patients recovering from surgery, or to those experiencing chronic pain. Prescription fentanyl may appear under brand names such as Duragesic, Subsys, Ionsys, Actiq, and Sublimaze. These prescriptions may take the form of a dermal patch on the skin, an injection, or even lozenges.

Without A Prescription

On the street, fentanyl might be known as Apache, China Girl, China White, Dance Fever, Friend, Goodfella, Jackpot, Murder 8, Tango and Cash, or TNT (3). Since fentanyl is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine (2), a little goes a long way. For this reason, dealers will mix fentanyl with other drugs. It’s not unusual to see it combined with ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Buyers have no way to determine how much fentanyl is in their supply. Therefore, overdoses can be very common.

Where Is The Danger?

As with other opioids, fentanyl alters how our brains respond to pain. A person under the influence of fentanyl might feel relaxed and mellow. They could experience some drowsiness and be sluggish. Fainting, nausea, and seizures are frequent side effects. Users often experience shortness of breath and can stop breathing altogether. Subsequently, the blood is deprived of an adequate supply of oxygen, a condition known as “hypoxia” (3). If a person remains in this state for too long, they could become comatose. During the COVID-19 pandemic, opioids like fentanyl have caused a tremendous spike in overdose deaths (4).

Is Treatment Available?

Absolutely. No two recovery journeys are exactly the same. Different treatments provide different results for different people. But recovery is always possible.

One option, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), is a two-pronged approach to recovery. MAT combines the use of medication with counseling. In conjunction with medication, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide a person with a holistic path to recovery (5). Another alternative might be partial hospitalization (PHP), a semi-structured method of recovery that allows for plenty of outside activities. However, a recovering person might require less regimented options. Intensive Outpatient (IOP) programs could involve extended group meetings, taking place either in the morning or evening. Recovering persons might opt for family therapy, or nonverbal therapies like art, music, or yoga. For a person interested in learning more about aftercare, resources on future relapse prevention are readily available.

Recovery Is A Lifestyle

Outpatient (OP) treatment might involve a once-a-week commitment to group meetings, individual meetings with a therapist, or life-skills training. Continuing support is available from aftercare options like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous. Other alternatives include Rational Recovery and faith-based programs like Celebrate Recovery. Recovery doesn’t end with the completion of a program. Or even several programs. Recovery never ends; it’s a lifestyle.

What’s Next?

If you or someone you love is struggling with fentanyl addiction, contact Recovery By The Sea now. Hope is real, and recovery is possible. Call us at 877-207-5033 now.


What Does Evidence Based Treatment Mean?

male doctor holding a patient's treatment plan

You may have noticed some treatment centers describing their programs as ‘evidence-based treatment’. Your next thought may have been ‘what does evidence-based treatment mean exactly?

Evidence-based treatment is not limited only to the drug and alcohol rehabilitation sphere, but we will focus there. To understand how drug and alcohol treatment became what it is today, it’s helpful to know where it has been. Prior to the 1970s and 80s, drug and alcohol treatment occurred primarily in hospitals, psychiatric facilities and some dedicated rehab centers. The best most hospitals could do was to medically detox a patient safely and perhaps bring in a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Many people managed to get sober this way, however, the treatment providers themselves weren’t necessarily vetting every therapy for effectiveness.

By the 1960s and 70s, it was widely understood that the 12-step fellowships did help a great number of people when it seemed nothing else could. Hospitals, psychiatric facilities and rehabs relied on the fellowships to help patients remain on the road to recovery following treatment. In fact, 12-step programs are recommended to this day and they do help. However, what was largely missing in the treatment of addiction was a standardized approach to choosing treatment methods. Ideally this would mean using methods proven by peer-reviewed research. Furthermore, internal research, as to which therapies were working best for which patients and which were failing them was rarely done. The grim recidivism (relapse) rate was well known, but there were few concentrated efforts to determine what worked best and for whom. Without that critical information and a standards-based approach for therapies, the new substance abuse treatment facilities that began to appear in the 1980s were left to their own devices. Many had “alumni departments” that did some limited follow up, but almost no one was tracking the results of specific treatment methodologies. As a result, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse did not change dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century. New medications appeared and new forms of therapy, but there wasn’t a great deal of science or technology being brought to bear on the problem.

Several changes in the addiction medicine paradigm and the world around it came together to inspire adoption of the evidence-based approach. So, what does an evidence-based model look like?

A rehab that follows an evidence-based treatment model utilizes methods that have the following qualities:

  • The method has undergone study and research by reputable organizations.
  • The method has been proven effective and this is documented in peer-reviewed research.
  • The method can be repeated faithfully. There are guidelines that clearly define it.
  • The rehab rejects treatment methods that are not proven or may even harm the patient.

In essence, evidence-based treatment means using techniques that have been scientifically studied, are proven effective, and are standardized. (1) Examples of evidence-based methods include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR). It may surprise you to know that attending Alcoholics Anonymous is also considered a part of evidence-based treatment. While AA itself conducts no research into its members, numerous studies have shown the 12-step method and meeting attendance is effective. (2)(3).

The adoption of evidence-based treatment is improving the outcomes for addiction care patients. This approach is also contributing to the evolution of care as more facilities conduct their own internal studies. The National Institutes of Health received substantial increases in funding to facilitate substance abuse research. Studies from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and others have helped bolster certain methods and discredit others. Most importantly though, the quality of treatment is better than ever before thanks to the embrace of scientific validation.





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