We are in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in the history of this country. Everyday more and more addicts and alcoholics are dying of drug abuse and overdoes. It appears that nothing that is currently being done to help has had any positive effect on stopping or even reducing the devastation that is now taking place. The treatment industry is totally inadequate for helping with this serious social problem. I believe that we need a new paradigm that will enable us to better understand drug and alcohol addiction and as a result, allow us to develop and provide more effective, efficient treatment services. The intention of this post is to start that needed and overdue conversation.
Based on my research and clinical experience, I believe that the fundamental cause of drug and alcohol addiction is ideational in nature. The primary cause of substance abuse is to be found within the addict or alcoholic, in his thinking or thought process, not outside him. The addict and alcoholic have a core belief that they are not good enough, a belief that defines the fundamental nature of their self-image and negatively impacts every area of their life, financial, employment, relationships and health. This negative self-image produces negative feelings and poor self-esteem resulting in a lack of self-love, eventually resulting in negative physical consequences for his health and well being.
This core belief, what I refer to as the self-limiting belief, has been in existence within the addict or alcoholic for years, getting its birth between the ages of three and six. The self-limiting belief tells us that we are not good enough and is created by us from the reactions of the adults around us early in life. We are the authors of this self limiting belief and fully responsible for its origin and continued existence. The self-limiting belief was not imposed on us or caused by others. The self-limiting belief is solely of our creation, created from our perceptions of our interactions with others. This self limiting belief sets limits on what we can experience and even creates the possibility of our demise.
While we do our best to change the core belief that we are not good enough it continues to exist inside us like a deadly virus. We try our best to eradicate this belief, sometimes consciously but mostly unconsciously, by doing and having things, to be good enough in the eyes of others. Our efforts to change are mostly external, rarely internal. While we may get some temporary relief from doing and having things that make us feel good, at night when we are alone we continue to feel the existence of this self limiting belief, we continue to think and feel that we are not good enough regardless of what we have accomplished or accumulated that day or in our life. As a result of this thought process, we continue to experience this low grade depressive, anxious feeling.
Living in our society we eventually discover the existence of drugs and alcohol. When we first experience drugs and alcohol we tend to feel good as a result of using them. While we are not necessarily conscious of the fact, the using of drugs and alcohol also gives us relief from the emotional experience and impact of a negative self-image. It is at this point that we begin to form an addiction to or habitual use of drugs and alcohol to make us feel good, or at least better. Simply stated, addiction is the repetitious use of drugs and alcohol to help us to feel good and give us relief from the emotional impact and even psychic pain created by our self-limiting belief.
As stated above, we created our self-limiting belief from our perceptions of other people’s actions and behavior towards us. Having created the self-limiting belief we are also completely responsible for its existence and everything that it eventually sources or attracts into our life, including the drugs and alcohol. The self-limiting belief is like a magnet, a magnet that attracts experiences that must be a match to the self-limiting belief. If the core or our self image belief is negative it will only attach something negative in nature. As we created and are responsible for our self-limiting belief you could also state that we choose it. Creating and choosing thoughts are synonymous in this respect.
Drugs and alcohol are sourced into our lives to serve us. Initially we bring them into our lives to help us feel better and to reduce our cognitive and emotional pain produced by our negative thinking and thought process. While the self-limiting belief determines the context from which we make our decisions and choose our experiences, we are responsible for the existence of and our relationship with drugs and alcohol, for the bringing of them into our life. While a dependency on them may get created, our addictive relationship to drugs and alcohol only exists because of the existence of our self-limiting belief. When our negative self image is transformed the use of drugs and alcohol will cease. The dependency is not physical in nature but rather mental or emotional.
Now there are implications for treatment. If the cause of drug and alcohol addiction is in our thought process and specifically with our self image, what we think of our value and worth as a human being, then the individual addict or alcohol needs to transform their primary beliefs about themselves if they are to stop using drugs and alcohol. To be in recovery the addict or alcoholic has to reinvent themselves, from one that believes that he is not good enough to an individual that believes that he is perfect, whole and complete. While this sounds simple, it is not easy for the addict and alcoholic to do. Treatment programs today do not do this type of work, rather focusing only on having the client do and have certain routines and rituals that they are told will keep them clean and sober.
Unfortunately this type of approach to treatment and recovery does not work as there is no focus on the inner self image. Self esteem is not considered to be an important factor in current treatment programs. However, the primary focus of the holistic outpatient counseling services offered at Enhanced Healing Wellness Center in Miami is on helping the individual learn and implement the tools necessary for him to change and transform his thinking process, for him to eventually come to create a personal, holistic plan of accepting, respecting and loving himself. The individual has to do this work and will only do so by taking complete and full responsibility for his situation and in addition, implement what is necessary for him to change his thinking. The individual will transform himself and his life when he learns to authentically love himself. We know that the individuals that we serve have the power to change their life if they do the work.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
We need a new paradigm for understanding and treating drug and alcohol addiction. I believe that a new paradigm must value human consciousness and not negate it. You are more than a mechanistic, physical machine. There is a powerful ghost inside your machine. The new paradigm will be built on three ideas or concepts that honor the existence of your ghost. The three beliefs that will form the foundation of the new paradigm shift will be responsibility, choice and power.
Responsibility: I believe that you are responsible for all of your experiences. You are responsible for everything that you think, say, feel and do. What you give out in life will eventually come back to you. You need to stop blaming and complaining. No one is to blame for your condition in life. You are not a victim. You never have been nor will you ever be a victim. You are completely responsible for your addiction.
Choice: I believe that life is about choice, that you are always choosing and creating your experiences. You chose your thoughts, what you think and believe to be true and as a result you chose what you experience. You are not your thoughts or thinking, you created or choose your thoughts and then created your experience as a result of your choices. You choose your addiction and the using of drugs and alcohol.
Power: I believe that you are very powerful. I do not believe that you are not powerless. I believe that you have the power to create and determine your experiences and life. You always have had this power. You never stop having this power even when you use drugs or alcohol. You are never powerless. You have the power to change your thinking and as a result transform your life and end your use of drugs and alcohol.
If you are to find a true and lasting resolution to your drug and alcohol addiction you have to come to believe that you are completely responsible for your addiction, that you choose it and that you and you alone have the power to transform your life and end your addiction forever. Currently you want to believe that you are not responsible and that you did not choose your addiction, that your addiction is the result of something happening to you and that you are powerless. However, your beliefs are only thoughts and thoughts can be changed, if you are open minded and willing to learn.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
The benchmark for your recovery from drugs and alcohol is not whether you are clean and sober. The true indicator of your recovery program from drugs and alcohol has to do with your relationship with the man or woman in the mirror.
The problem with your relationship with the man or woman in the mirror and your recovery is that you think you are not good enough and there is a lack of self love and self esteem. Your only problem is that you do not authentically love yourself. The problem is not the drugs or alcohol.
The true solution to your recovery and to having an authentic relationship with the man or woman in the mirror is that you have to learn how to respect, accept and love yourself just are you are in the present. The trajectory of your life will change when you learn to love yourself.
Once your learn how to truly respect, accept and love yourself you will only do things that will honor your existence and health and will immediately stop trying to self execute yourself with drugs and alcohol. Learning to love yourself is the real solution to drug and alcohol addiction.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
"Addictive behavior is another way of saying, "I'm not good enough." When we are caught in this type of behavior, we are trying to run away from ourselves. We cannot be in touch with our feelings. Something that we are believing, saying, or doing is too painful for us to look at, so we overeat, drink, act out compulsive sexual behavior, take pills, spend money that we don't have, and create abusive love relationships."
(page 81, You Can Heal Your Life Workbook by Louise Hay)
A negative self image and the poor self-esteem that is caused by our perception of our value and worth as a human being is the primary cause of drug and alcohol addiction. The cause of addiction is not the drugs or alcohol.
When we decide to focus on helping addicts and alcoholics to transform their self image, then and only then will we start to find authentic solutions to the drug and alcohol problems that we are experiencing today.
Individuals who authentically learn how to love themselves will not use drugs and alcohol. The solution to drug and alcohol addiction is to help addicts and alcoholic learn to respect, accept and love themselves as they are now.
Drug and alcohol addiction is not a physical disorder so much as it is a thought disorder. Addiction is a way of thinking, a way of thinking that tells you that you are not good enough. The only true solution to drug and alcohol addiction is to be found in a transformation of thought.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
Self Esteem and addiction go hand in hand. Low self esteem is considered the number one factor for causing a drug and alcohol addiction!
There is a concept in my profession referred to as co-occurring disorders indicating a connection between substance abuse problems and mental health conditions. It is my opinion that both of these disorders exist with the addict and alcoholic. I believe that all individuals who suffer from a substance abuse or dependency problems have a mental health condition. I believe further that the mental health condition is the primary or fundamental problem for the addict or alcoholic.
It is also my belief that both of these conditions have to be treated, the substance abuse issue and the mental health problem. Many people in the drug treatment industry minimize or deny the existence of a mental health condition. What happens when this is done is that the client will become abstinent from drugs and alcohol only to relapse quickly after treatment because the underlying mental health condition was not adequately dealt with and treated. The treatment of the mental health problem is something that is absolutely necessary for the well being and recovery of the addict and alcoholic.
While many addicts and alcoholics experience a great deal of anxiety and the underlying emotion of fear, I believe that depression and dysthymia are the primary mental health conditions and diagnoses that form the cornerstone of their drug and alcohol problem. One of the symptoms of major depression and dysthymia is poor self esteem. It is my opinion that poor self esteem is the root of the substance abuse and dependency disorder. It is also one of the symptoms that is not given a great deal of importance or even acknowledged in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction.
It is also my opinion that until we recognize, acknowledge and begin to treat the problem of poor self esteem that addicts and alcoholics will continue to relapse and in many cases even die. At the basis of the addict and alcoholic's poor self esteem is a negative self image, negative thoughts and beliefs about their worth and value as a human being. It has been my experience that every addict or alcoholic that I have worked with have serious issues with their self image even if in the beginning of their treatment they deny its existence.
It is my recommendation that if you are looking for a treatment program for someone who has a substance abuse and dependency problem that you insist that there are master's level, licensed and trained therapists on staff to adequately counsel and treat mental health problems. This particular requirement is crucial to the addict and alcoholic receiving appropriate care and treatment. When researching a potential residential or outpatient treatment center simply ask the administration of the center for the qualifications of the therapists and counselors that provide all of the counseling services to addicts and alcoholics.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
I believe that a negative self image and the poor self esteem that is caused by our negative perception of our value and worth as a human being is the primary cause of drug and alcohol addiction. It is not the drugs or alcohol that is the problem, it never has been. The real cause of drug and alcohol addiction will not be found in any other person, place or thing but only inside the addict or alcoholic.
When we consciously decide to focus on helping addicts and alcoholics to transform their self image, then and only then will be we start to find authentic solutions to the drug and alcohol problems and epidemic that we are experiencing today in this country. Until we help the addict and alcohol look inside and learn to heal their relationship with the man or woman in the mirror things will continue to be the same.
Individuals who authentically respect, accept and love themselves will not use drugs and alcohol. The real solution to drug and alcohol addiction is to help addicts and alcoholic learn how to respect, accept and love themselves as they are now, to let go of their belief that they are not good enough and as a result of this work to stop using drugs and alcohol.
Drug and alcohol addiction is not a physical disorder so much as it is primarily a thought disorder. The real addiction is to a way of thinking, a way of thinking that tells you that you are not good enough, that you are inferior. The solution to drug and alcohol addiction is to be found only in a transformation of the addict and alcoholic's thinking and specifically in their thinking about who they believe they are as a human being.
Dr. Harry Henshaw
Making the decision to change your life for the better is no small feat. If you’ve gotten to this place, congratulations! But the hard work isn’t over. Even though your mind is ready your body is still operating on its habits. To break a negative habit you must be aware of those negative habits you currently have; these can be actions or even self-sabotaging thoughts. You then have to replace your negative thoughts or actions with positive ones. Incorporating practical positive things that you can do daily will help with your recovery (or personal transformation of any kind).
Start to practice the 20 Ways to Daily Wellness listed below and watch as your life changes for the better; physically, mentally and emotionally. You may even experience a transformation of mind, body and spirit.
In order for an addict or alcoholic to be successful in their recovery I believe there are 5 things that need to be worked on. Self-Esteem, Building a Recovery Program, Anxiety/Stress Management, Independence vs. Co-dependence and Daily Planning. Addressing these 5 areas forces an addict or alcoholic to confront the things about themselves that weren’t working, while giving them the opportunity to re-create themselves into the person they want to be, for the life they want to live. These 5 things are a huge undertaking that require the help of qualified and understanding individual, such as a counselor and a sponsor.
The death toll from drug overdoses continues to rise all across our country as a result of the epidemic we are currently facing. Authorities project that the problem will continue to escalate with no end in sight. The shocking statistics and heartbreaking stories that are coming out leave one asking, “What is being done to begin to stop this epidemic?”