Paul Chastain
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August 30, 2023

Dethroning the Dragon: Changing our Relationship with Addiction

Many people perceive addiction as a mere habit or choice. They mistakenly think that those who abuse substances lack willpower or moral principles. This misunderstanding often leads to blame and stigma, reinforcing the idea that those struggling with addiction lack the strength to control their actions. 

However, addiction is far from a simple matter of willpower or morality. It's a complex disease that reshapes the brain's chemistry and circuitry. This alteration in brain function makes quitting an uphill battle. Like a dragon, addiction takes over one’s life with a force that's difficult to comprehend. It takes a shift in mindset and a comprehensive approach to truly dethrone this dragon and change the relationship with addiction.

How Addiction Controls and Dominates Your Life

Addiction, at its core, is a pattern of compulsive behavior driven by the relentless pursuit of pleasure, relief, or satisfaction. Again, like a dragon, it starts as a small, harmless creature but swiftly grows into a powerful force capable of controlling every facet of someone’s life. Addiction can lead to:

  • A complete transformation of your behavior as you engage in behaviors you would have never considered before just to obtain the substance of choice. 
  • The rewiring of the brain’s reward system results in intense and compulsive cravings. These cravings can become all-consuming and make it hard for you to focus on anything other than obtaining the substance. Your rational decision-making becomes compromised as the brain prioritizes the immediate gratification of the addiction.
  • Loss of control over substance use despite knowing the negative consequences.
  • Isolation as you may prioritize your substance use over social interactions. Friends, family, and social activities gradually take a backseat to the addiction. 
  • Physical and psychological dependence. The body becomes reliant on the substance to function normally, and attempting to stop can result in withdrawal symptoms. Psychological dependence manifests as the substance becomes a coping mechanism for dealing with stress, anxiety, and emotional pain.
  • Strained relationships, job loss, academic struggles, and financial difficulties as you may neglect your responsibilities. 
  • A cycle of shame, guilt, and self-blame, all of which contribute to the addiction's hold, make you feel trapped and drive you to use more to temporarily escape these negative feelings.

Why is it Important to Change your Relationship with Addiction? 

Depressed young woman near window illustrating the challenges of addiction substance abuse and the need for rehabilitation

Recovering from a substance abuse problem is a challenging process. Unless you shift your mindset, it can be harder to reclaim control of your life. By mindset, we mean the way you think and your attitude about everyday life. So, instead of focusing on issues that led you to where you are or stressors that you can’t seem to shake off, you make a conscious decision to focus on your goal. 

A mindset shift is critical in addiction recovery for various reasons. For example, it will help you recognize that addiction is a complex medical condition and not a moral failing. This understanding can boost your self-esteem and make you feel more capable of overcoming challenges. Changing your relationship with addiction also makes you more receptive to seeking help and support. You're more likely to reach out to professionals, friends, and support groups when you understand that recovery is a valid and achievable goal.

When you understand the power addiction holds over your brain, you're better prepared to face, manage, and overcome potential relapse triggers. A mindset shift sets the foundation for lasting recovery. Instead of just aiming for short-term abstinence, you focus on building a sustainable, fulfilling life without the need for substances.

Strategies for Dethroning the Dragon of Addiction

Depressed man thinking about addiction and substance abuse challenges during group rehabilitation counseling session

Dethroning the dragon of addiction is a metaphorical concept of overcoming addiction by shifting your mindset and taking control over the powerful influence of the addiction, or the "dragon." Here are some strategies that can help change your mindset and aid in addiction recovery:

Acknowledge the Problem

This is the starting point. Recognizing that you have an addiction and admitting it to yourself is crucial. Denial can be a significant barrier in the recovery process, so being honest with yourself is the foundation for change.

Educate Yourself

Learn about addiction as a medical condition rather than a personal failure. Understand the brain's reward system, the impact of substances, and how addiction alters brain chemistry. This knowledge provides a foundation for recovery.

Shift from Victim to Warrior

This mindset shift involves changing how you perceive yourself in relation to the addiction. Instead of feeling helpless and victimized, see yourself as a warrior who is determined to confront and conquer the challenges of addiction.

Seek Professional Help

Engaging with healthcare professionals, therapists, and addiction specialists is a crucial step. They can assess your situation, provide personalized treatment plans, and offer therapy to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.

Set Clear Goals

Setting goals gives you direction and purpose. They can be related to abstinence, personal growth, relationships, or any area of your life that's affected by addiction. Having clear, achievable goals helps you measure your progress and stay motivated.

Supportive Network

Surround yourself with a support network of friends and family or peer support groups. These individuals can offer encouragement, understanding, and accountability as you work toward recovery.

Identify Triggers

Recognize the situations, places, emotions, or people that trigger your cravings. Developing awareness of these triggers allows you to create a plan to avoid or cope with them effectively.

Develop Coping Mechanisms

Learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions through holistic and evidence-based therapies. Most treatment facilities offer these treatment options as part of their rehabilitation programs. 

Celebrate Milestones

Celebrating even the smallest victories reinforces your progress. It could be a week of sobriety, completing a counseling session, or achieving a personal goal. Celebrations boost your morale and remind you of your achievements.

Practice Self-Care

Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is fundamental. Adequate sleep, nutrition, mindfulness exercises, and self-compassion contribute to your overall ability to cope with stress and triggers.

Stay Persistent

Recovery is a lifelong journey. Even during tough times, remind yourself why you started and how far you've come. Persistence and commitment are essential to overcoming challenges along the way.

Ultimately, changing our perspective on addiction and seeking professional help paves the way for transformation, personal growth, and a renewed sense of purpose. It enables you to break free from the shackles of addiction and rediscover a life filled with hope, health, and fulfillment. The path to dethroning the dragon of addiction is challenging, but with the right strategies and support, it is a path that leads to recovery and a brighter future.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, contact a healthcare professional, counselor, rehabilitation center, or addiction support helpline for guidance, assistance, and resources.

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