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Are You a Codependent?

Are You a Codependent?

Many of us dive head-first into relationships, losing contact with friends, family, and yearning to spend every moment with our new partner. Because we often start relationships wearing rose-colored goggles we may be missing something critical about how this new relationship can consume our quality of life. Too often, we become dependent on a partner, even one who is bad for us or downright abusive. If a partner is encouraging some detrimental behaviors, from experimenting with drugs and alcohol to taking time off work, to isolating ourselves, it might be an unhealthily codependent relationship. At our Orange County rehab and detox center, many patients who went through recovery were in this kind of toxic codependent relationship and may not have even realized it. Because of how important healthy relationships are to long-term health and recovery, we focus a lot on how to build and form mutually beneficial relationships, and how to repair relationships that are unhealthy, unproductive, or that could inhibit our drug and alcohol recovery and detox. First, we have to identify what codependency is and how it affects us.

Codependency Can Make Us Vulnerable to Addiction

Because a codependent relationship allows someone to diffuse serious issues, like drug use, financial instability, and isolation, to their partners, it provides an all-too-easy excuse to become hooked on a certain lifestyle and abdicate control of our lives to someone else. This kind of complacency can lead to a slow erosion of our values and gradual progression into more risky, sedentary, and unhealthy behaviors. Many people relapse post-detox because they end returning to the same enabling environment that encouraged addiction to begin with. While a lot of text refers to women in codependent relationships, the truth is any kind of relationship can be an unhealthy codependency if one person gives up their own self-interests to have their decisions controlled by another. There is obviously some appeal to giving up responsibility and control of your life, especially if you’re not confident or unhappy, but this is always unhealthy and will revert any progress towards bettering yourself.

Are You in a Codependent Relationship?

Life is full of challenges to make friends, find love, and to blossom into our true selves. Unfortunately, a lot of people use these challenges of life to manipulate or control our emotions. Have you done something you knew you’d regret just to impress your partner? Do you frequently feel you have to be validated by your partner, or that you have to always check with them before you do anything? Do you often put your own needs, comfort, and safety behind their needs and wants? Are you unhappy in your relationship, and if so, are you or your partner blaming you for that lack of fulfillment or excitement? The Pharmacists Recovery Network has a full list of such negative self-reflections at their site.

These are all signs of a controlling or unhealthy codependent relationship. In rehab and recovery, we focus a lot on a concept called the Locus of Control. Locus of control simply means whether we feel in control of our own lives or actions, or if we feel outside forces control us. For example, if you are late running late and hit traffic, do you blame the traffic or do you decide you’ll check the traffic before you leave next time and perhaps leave a little earlier? The difference between these mindsets is taking ownership of your own life and choices.

Freedom from Addiction and Codependency

While life does throw challenges at us, and sometimes we do just have bad luck, having an internal locus of control empowers us to seek solutions and seek self-improving behavior to avoid or overcome these challenges in the future. Codependent relationships often erode this sense of self-ownership, which is why they can be prone to enforcing addiction. Rather than saying “I can do better,” codependent relationships often have us saying “I deserve this.” If you feel like you’re frequently looking down on yourself, blaming yourself for problems in your life and the lives of others, and struggling with drugs or alcohol, we encourage you to talk to us about a way forward. Reach us as soon as you can at (714) 782-3973.

The Importance of Identifying Triggers

The Importance of Identifying Triggers

Identifying Triggers is Necessary for Recovery

Many people mistakenly believe that quitting drugs or alcohol is just simple matter of quitting. They think, “What’s the big deal? Just don’t put drugs or alcohol in your body and move on with your life!”

We wish it were that easy. If it were, our country wouldn’t be smack dab in the middle of the opioid epidemic. Fatal drug overdoses are at an all-time high. An estimated 70,000 people died from a fatal overdose in 2017 because of addiction. We believe it is fair to say that most of them desperately wanted to get sober.

If addicted people could simply make the decision to get sober, snap their fingers, and turn their lives around; they would. But, having a substance use disorder is a complicated endeavor. Recovery is not easy and most people require addiction treatment to reclaim their lives once they become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Triggers provide a perfect example of why staying sober isn’t as simple as it seems. Unless you have experienced them personally, you cannot imagine how difficult it can be to navigate a trigger without giving in to temptation.

Let’s talk about triggers and explain why identifying them is vital to the recovery process. This will not only help sober people stay sober; it will also educate those who don’t fully understand the disease of addiction.

What Are Triggers?

In simple terms, a trigger is anything that brings back thoughts, feelings, or memories of an addiction.

Triggers happen for people who are in recovery from a substance use disorder. But, they can also happen for people who have been hooked on gambling, sex, food, and other types of behavioral addictions. Sometimes, a trigger can lead to a craving, which is defined as an intense desire to do something.

Here’s how it works:

(1) someone will experience a trigger that will remind them of drugs or alcohol

(2) as a result of their thoughts or feelings, they experience an intense desire to get high or drunk (3) the person either manages the craving and stays sober or they experience a relapse

Identifying triggers and coping with cravings is absolutely necessary for those who want to enjoy ongoing sobriety.

A Few Examples of Triggers

Here are just a few examples of triggers that can spark the memory of drug or alcohol use:

  • Seeing drug paraphernalia
  • Using the ATM to withdrawal cash
  • Seeing cold beer on ice at the convenient store
  • Driving through neighborhoods where you used to score drugs
  • Seeing people you used to get high or drunk with
  • Certain songs or types of music
  • Seeing someone else using drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Certain smells (like the smell of alcohol or marijuana, for example)
  • Movies or TV shows that depict drug or alcohol use

Also, situations or uncomfortable feelings can become triggers:

  • A romantic breakup or divorce
  • Getting passed up for a promotion or getting fired from a job
  • The death of a loved one (including your pet)
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Stress
  • Financial difficulties
  • Loneliness
  • Family problems

Identifying triggers is an essential component of relapse prevention. Once someone in recovery knows what triggers them, they are in a much better position to stay sober one day at a time.

What to Do After You Identify Your Triggers

As the old saying goes, “Knowing is half the battle.” When you know what your triggers are, you are halfway there. Of course, there is still half a battle left to fight!

So, what to do about those pesky triggers? In early recovery, it is a really great idea to avoid them altogether if you can. For instance, don’t go to bars or hang around with people who do drugs. Stay away from those old neighborhoods. If a song comes on the radio that triggers you, change the station.

Also, keep in mind that a trigger is a temporary, fleeting experience. Recognize it for what it is when it shows up in your life. Know that it is completely normal to feel triggered. After all, you were once hooked on highly addictive substances. It is going to take awhile for your brain to return to normal functioning in sobriety.

Before a Trigger Becomes a Craving, Reach out For Help

You don’t have to walk your recovery journey alone. Your sponsor or mentor, sober friends, and supportive family members are available to help you along. They want to see you succeed.

If you find yourself experiencing a trigger, call someone who cares about you. Tell them what is going on. Ask them to remind you of all the reasons why you quit using drugs or alcohol. You may even request that they meet you somewhere until you feel like the situation has passed. And, if you don’t drink or take drugs, IT WILL PASS!

The good news about triggers is they lessen with time as you create new memories. Before long, you will evolve beyond thoughts that generate intense cravings. You may see something that reminds you of your addiction, but you will be indifferent to it.

What if a Trigger Leads to a Relapse?

If you are in recovery, please don’t lose hope in your ability to enjoy sobriety if you experience a relapse. Relapse happens – and believe it or not, it happens to many people who complete addiction treatment. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Learning to cope with the stresses of daily living without turning to alcohol or drugs is not easy for someone who has repeatedly used these types of substances. After months or years of chemical dependency, the brain must relearn how to a live sober lifestyle.

If you experience a relapse; pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and recommit to your sobriety. Be kind and forgive yourself. You can do this!

Staying Sober

Coping With Cravings and Staying Sober

Cravings Are a Normal Part of the Recovery Process

If you have been using drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time – and you make the brave decision to get sober – you should expect to experience frequent (and random) cravings for awhile. This is completely normal.

Many people make the mistake of believing that once they leave an addiction treatment program, they have been cured. They view cravings as a sign of weakness. They believe there must be something wrong if they are having them. This is simply not true.

Cravings are part of the recovery process. Everybody has them at first. There is no way around them. They are going to happen. And when they do, you need to remain firm in your commitment to stay sober.

What are Drug and Alcohol Cravings?

Drugs and alcohol have a very profound effect on neurobiology. Cravings are the brain’s physiological response to the absence of the addictive substances it once relied on to function. In simple terms, they are the brain’s way of protesting loudly to early sobriety.

It takes several months for the brain’s reward circuitry to return to a place of normalcy after heavy, prolonged drug or alcohol use. In the meantime, the brain will send signals that it wants the chemically induced high it was dependent on for so long – the one you are no longer giving it.

Cravings are kind of like the brain throwing a temper tantrum and saying, “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” You might experience very uncomfortable physical manifestations of this temper tantrum; including sweats, chills, anxiety, depression, or other symptoms. You will also experience obsessive and compulsive thoughts about your drug of choice. Your mind will try to manufacture reasons why it will be a good idea to drink alcohol or take drugs.

Although they can be quite intense and downright uncomfortable, you can successfully navigate cravings without giving in. You have to be stronger than the lies your brain tells you about getting high or drunk. You CAN do it. It is a skill that can be developed with commitment and action.

Five Activities That Can Help You Cope With Cravings

Having a relapse prevention plan in place greatly increases your chances of ongoing sobriety. This should include activities you can engage in when you are experiencing cravings.

Here are five suggestions to get you started:

#1 Go For a Walk

Taking a brisk 20-minute walk is a great way to cope with cravings when they hit. Moderate exercise releases feel-good chemicals (like Serotonin and Dopamine) in the brain, which help to calm feelings of anxiety and elevate mood. Walking is also a great distraction.

You don’t have to go to a park or wear fancy workout gear to experience the immediate benefits of walking. You can just walk out your front door and head in any direction. Walk for ten minutes and turn around and come home. Chances are, the craving will pass by the time you get back to the house.

#2 Call a Friend in Recovery

You don’t have to cope with cravings alone. Recovery is a “we thing,” not a “me thing!” Call someone who is living a sober lifestyle. Be open and talk with them about what is going on with you. It definitely helps ease uncomfortable feelings when you connect with someone who can relate to what you are going through.

If you are feeling particularly triggered, ask your recovery friend if they can meet you somewhere for coffee or a bite to eat. It will get you out of the house and in the company of someone who can help you stay sober until the craving passes.

#3 Attend a 12-Step Meeting

If you are working a 12-Step recovery program, going to a meeting is an awesome idea when it comes to dealing with cravings. Be sure and share openly in the meeting about what you are experiencing and ask others for solutions.

Everyone who enjoys a life of recovery once battled (and overcame) cravings for drugs or alcohol. They can share their experience, strength and hope with you to teach you how to can stay sober in the face of uncomfortable cravings.

#4 Meditate

Meditation is another effective way to overcome cravings. Many people are intimidated by meditation because they don’t like the idea of sitting alone quietly with the chattering of their own mind. Not to worry.

There are hundreds of guided meditations on YouTube that allow you to listen to someone else’s voice. This will distract you from the craving and allow you to transcend it. Plus, you will feel grounded, calm, and spiritually connected once the guided meditation is over.

Remember, Cravings Will Pass – Stay Sober No Matter What

Cravings and withdrawal symptoms are at their peak during detox. Generally, they get much less intense as time passes.

Before long, most sober people report that they no longer experience cravings at all – only fleeting thoughts about drug and alcohol use. However; in early recovery, cravings can strike at any time. You should be prepared for their occurrence.

The most important thing to remember about cravings is that they do pass – and usually relatively quickly. Sure, they are going to feel intense and uncomfortable. In fact, it may even feel like you are going to die if you don’t have the alcohol or drugs your body is craving. But, we promise you this: you WILL NOT die!

Cravings are temporary. But, getting high or drunk can have permanent consequences. You could overdose, end up in jail, or experience any number of negative outcomes if you decide to give in. Make the commitment now to stay sober NO MATTER WHAT! You will be glad you did.

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