Addiction is so common in our society that most people have battled it themselves, or have someone close to them who has struggled with it. While addictions to drugs (both prescription and illicit) and alcohol are the most common ones we hear about, addiction can stretch to anything including food, exercise, sex, sugar, even video games. Many things can lead to addiction and destroyed lives. Rather than go through a laundry list of statistics, I thought I’d discuss some common denominators that require attention if you want to make any headway with recovery, or if you think you might be susceptible to addiction and want to help guard against it.
Our bodies know when something’s missing, and they tell us in ways that are both subtle and not. We just have to be better about listening. For instance, when your blood sugar drops you may find yourself craving something sweet, but only if you haven’t already grabbed the first sugary snack in your vicinity. Similarly, vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies mean our bodies are no longer in a state of balance, and we begin to experience cravings. The nutrients we may be lacking — from Vitamin A to Zinc, as well as fatty acids, protein, and more — are necessary for the production of hormones, the functioning of neurotransmitters, and ultimately us feeling and living our very best.
Addiction can be both symptomatic of deficiencies, as well as make them worse in cases where the object of the addiction keeps you from nourishing your body well. That’s why it’s so important to get lab work that tests for nutritional deficiencies and work with your healthcare provider to come up with a diet and supplement plan that helps you get back in balance.
At some point in your life, a curious friend or a skilled massage therapist probably asked you some version of ”Where in your body do you hold your tension?” Well, what if I asked, “Where have you stored your past traumas?” A bit tougher. You might have an answer, or not, or you might wonder what trauma I’m even talking about.
The reality is our experiences and emotions are key factors when it comes to our tendencies, mindsets, and behaviors. Unacknowledged and untreated trauma plays a huge role in addiction. You may have heard the term “self-medicating” about people who deal with difficult emotions or states of being by drinking heavily, overeating, or engaging in patterns of risky behavior to “numb the pain” or “fill the void”. In the absence of healthy coping mechanisms and trauma processing, many people fall prey to addiction. It’s important to not only recognize your traumas, but to work through them so that they don’t sneakily control you.
Did you know that Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) sufferers are at a higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse and addiction? That’s because these injuries could disrupt the way the brain normally processes information, weighs risk/benefit, manages inhibitions, and makes decisions.
If you do sustain a head injury, get checked out immediately and also follow up with your healthcare provider for further tests and monitoring. If you’ve had past head traumas that have left residual impacts, it’s crucial to keep up with regular checkups and let your medical professional know of any changes in your behaviors, cravings, tendencies, and mental processes. And if a head injury is part of the landscape of your addiction, then it must be taken into account as part of the roadmap for your recovery.
Chronic pain is another circumstance that can lead to addiction, especially if you’ve been prescribed opioid painkillers or have used alcohol to make the pain more bearable. Being in a constant state of pain or discomfort can take a toll on a person, not to mention that many of the drugs in question are themselves highly addictive. It can be easy to seek relief in substances or even behaviors that seem like they take the pain away in the moment, but then harm you more in the long term.
If you suffer from chronic pain, work with your medical provider to develop strategies and find therapies and practices that can help you best manage it. This might include physical therapy, yoga, massage and other bodywork, meditation, and other alternatives.
Addiction, like other illnesses, can have a strong genetic component. While there’s nothing you can do about your genetic makeup, you can be aware of your risk factors and work to mitigate them. Maybe it means avoiding the substance or behavior you worry could trigger an addiction. Maybe it’s opening up to those close to you and ensuring they know which warning signs to watch for, and how to respond if they see them.
When it comes to recovery, it’s important to be aware of not just the genetic, but the social aspects of your family history. Are you aware of the unhealthy messages you grew up with around drugs, alcohol, food, or other things that can be abused and lead to addiction? Do you know your triggers and where they originate? These can be tough, painful questions, but ultimately being aware of where you are and where you’ve been can help you better plan your path forward.
Addiction Therapy with LENS (Low Energy Neurofeedback System)
LENS is a painless, in-office therapy that involves monitoring brainwave patterns, and sending signals to stimulate corrective brain activity. It’s benefited patients with brain injuries, insomnia, depression, and other conditions that affect the mind. There are also studies indicating that it can mitigate addictive tendencies and help those struggling with addiction find a way through and beyond it. It’s even been shown to be promising in preventing relapses. That’s because it can help retrain the brain to engage and work differently, breaking unhealthy patterns that have been wired in over the years, and getting patients “unstuck” from where they’re being held in place.
In addition to the research I’ve read, I’ve also personally seen patients succeed and thrive after the addition of LENS therapy to their holistic care plan. You can learn more about LENS and book an appointment to discuss whether it might help you.