Feeling out of control in our lives is a scary thing. Within a society with so many incentives towards unrestrained appetite, it’s not abnormal for people to find some area of their life becoming compulsive or addictive. Some of these challenges have been designated as more “socially acceptable” then others. It appears that binging or restricting food, social media, video games, shopping, and alcohol receive far less attention than alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drug abuse, and sexually compulsive patterns.
For all these reasons, we are so grateful for the powerful resources that have been developed to help those of us who have faced these kinds of painful and persistent challenges. We summarize some of the supports we’ve found most helpful below.
1. Twelve Step Support. Since it’s 1935 birth in Akron Ohio, the 12-steps have made a substantial difference in millions of lives of both men and women all over the world. Today, the same steps have been applied to compulsive-addictive patterns of many kinds – overeating (and restrictive eating), prescription drug abuse, smoking, marijuana, illegal drugs, pornography and risky sex. No approach to encouraging healing has reached more people in history – with millions attesting to its benefits.
Many have found the Principles and Practices of The Twelve Steps helpful as they discover “foundational roots” of the challenges underlying human nature and the distorted thinking patterns common to us all. As one of our Council Participants noted, “All the knowledge in the world can’t take the place of actually understanding what happened to you in the past and what you can do differently now.” Some of the lesser known resources applying these steps and traditions to remarkably universal struggles in the human experience are here, here and here. For those wishing to address more of the emotional components associated with addiction challenges, whether for yourself or someone you love, you can also connect through the 12 step online options linked here and here.
2. Comprehensive therapeutic lifestyle change (TLC). Although the 12-steps have proven transformative for many, there are other ways to strengthen sobriety and increase freedom. Our experience has been that adjustments in nutrition, physical activity, sleep and other lifestyle factors can make a difference in strengthening resolve, motivation and reducing vulnerability to relapse.
There are those among us who have helped to develop two online platforms and apps for those facing chemical dependency and sexual compulsivity. These platforms are designed to help explore lifestyle adjustments that can lead to long term sustainable healing:
- Turn – Help with Substance Abuse: Web experience | iOS App Store | Google Play App Store
- Fortify – Help with Sexual Compulsivity: Web experience | iOS App Store | Google Play App Store
3. Mindfulness for compulsive-addictive patterns. Mindfulness-based Relapse Prevention has become widely used as a way to strengthen people in their recovery process. The Turn & Fortify apps mentioned above have a great deal of mindfulness-specific support – including specific meditations tailored to those facing chemical dependency and sexual compulsivity. There are also a ton of great mindfulness books, apps, and free practices available.
If you are interested in a gentle way to get up to speed with how to be present and work with painful emotions mindfully (and not just numb out), Mindweather 101 is online course developed by mindfulness teachers with mental health expertise and includes 7+ hours of guidance from 32 different mindfulness teachers, clinical researchers and therapists (see bios here) exploring a gentle, and creative approach to intense, painful emotions and dark, disturbing thoughts (click here to access a full written transcript; although the full class is available at Mindweather.org, direct links to the videos are available here as individual class segments; check out an analysis of sustainable healing themes in the class here). We would invite those facing compulsive-addictive patterns of any kind to check out these resources:
- Lesson 7 One way of responding to mental distress (Part I, Part II)
- Lesson 8 Can making it go away, make it worse? (Part I, Part II)
- Lesson 9 Another way of responding to mental distress (Part I, Part II, Part III)
- Lesson 11 Can a gentle approach make a difference for mental and emotional pain? (Part I, Part II)
We’ve also included amongst our resources several powerful books that provide practical guidance in how exactly lifestyle adjustments (including, but going beyond mindfulness) can make a difference in deepening freedom from compulsive-addictive patterns.
4. Healing deeper pains that may be contributing. Over the last decade, there has been a flowering of fresh, innovative approaches to support people in finding deeper healing from the past abuse and trauma that very often influences our present emotional/mental state. Along with help for the grief of losing a loved one, or other experiences of loss, and including various levels of help for the addictive-compulsive behaviors that often accompany these experiences, these resources are a valuable tool for recovering emotional stability. From tailored trauma-oriented therapy to various kinds of body-work focused on similar healing, we’d encourage you to reach out and explore some of these approaches as applied to your own situation. Because the effects of serious trauma almost always go beyond mental/emotional experience to the body itself (The Body Keeps the Score), it can be especially encouraging to consider the cutting-edge science of epigenetics and the exciting research on the brain’s ability to change, known as neuroplasticity – both fascinating discoveries that you may wish to investigate to inform your plans for deeper healing.
5. Nutrition improvement for struggles with addictive/compulsive behaviors. There is new evidence that changes to diet can make a measurable difference for some facing addiction. “In many cases, dietary imbalances relating to amino acid, vitamins, healthy fats, good carbohydrates and proteins, can lead to a wide variety of medical problems such as cognitive impairment (memory), heart disease or diabetes. These are often accompanied by a host of psychological and behavioral issues. For many people struggling with drug dependence, learning about good nutrition is critical in the recovery process and is often instrumental in securing long term success.” Additionally, a variety of peer-reviewed articles have now confirmed the value of targeted nutritional supplementation for individuals and adults facing the emotional/physical challenges that often undergird patterns of addiction.
If you have questions about any of these options, consider joining one of our online Community Meetings offered for individuals, families and professionals. We have frequent, regularly scheduled options, and you are always welcome to participate! (If you would like to consider joining any of these meetings please click here).