One of the most distressing things about being caught up in addiction is that it can feel as if your own mind is working against you. Maybe you have already decided that you have had enough, yet every time you try to break free of alcohol or drugs you find yourself obsessed with thoughts of relapse and severe cravings. Giving up an addiction is all about freeing your mind, which would not only make it possible to escape this behaviour, but it will also lead you to happiness.
Why Does it Feel like Your Mind is Working against You in Addiction?
The reality is that your mind is not your enemy; it just feels that way because of the process of addiction. What happens is that connections have been made in your brain that mean that alcohol or drugs are now associated with your internal rewards system. Your brain is actually trying to be helpful by creating cravings to engage in substance abuse because you have taught it that this is a good thing to do. It is not possible to get rid of these connections completely (this is why you can never drink or use drugs safely again), but you can make new connections that would make staying sober much easier.
The other reason why it feels like your mind is working against you is that you have picked up many unhelpful thought patterns as a result of engaging in substance abuser. Your brain will always try to make sense of the world, and there are processes that are built in to protect your ego. People do not like to think too badly of themselves, so there are inbuilt coping mechanisms to prevent this from happening.
A good example of how your mind works to protect your ego would be in regards to cognitive dissonance; this is a type of mental discomfort that occurs when you believe in too many things that are incompatible with each other. Deep down you will know that abusing alcohol or drugs is bad for you, but you also have a strong urge to engage in this behaviour. These conflicting thoughts in your brain lead to cognitive dissonance so, in order to cope, you develop new thoughts that make your behaviour appear reasonable. In this case, you will probably decide that being sober is boring, so you are doing the right thing by continuing with the substance abuse; you are subconsciously able to accept this lie because it eases your mental discomfort.
How to Free Your Mind in Recovery
One of the benefits of entering a rehab programme is you can get plenty of help to begin freeing your mind from detrimental conditioning. Giving up alcohol or drugs is only a small part of the overall aim for this type of treatment approach – the real prize is mental freedom. With the help of a therapist, you can begin to uproot some of the defence mechanisms you have been using to protect the addiction. You can also begin experiencing better ways of dealing with life so that your mind stops focusing so much on alcohol or drugs as a reward and source of comfort. Once you have found a more effective way of dealing with life, your mind will not be working against you.
There are many paths that can lead to mental freedom and recovery. The 12-steps is another option, and this programme can provide you with a life-long strategy for dealing with life in a new way. There are also other options like SMART Recovery or Rational Recovery. Some people find that spending time with a therapist after rehab is another excellent way to increase their mental freedom.