Battling addiction: Six strategies to recover from drug addiction

For most, battling drug addiction can feel just like that – a battle in a war against the drug that has taken over your life and taken camp in your mind. Like engaging in any war, it can feel scary to take on addiction, and at times it can feel helpless. But, this is a war that you can win! This article intends to help you arm yourself with valuable knowledge and proven strategies to give you the best fighting chance to overcome your addiction. 

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Strategy one - learn why you are at war with addiction

Before engaging in battle, surely you need to find out why the war broke out in the first place? Since drug addiction is a mental war, it can be helpful to identify the root cause of the addiction, which often means exploring your past. Sometimes negative or traumatic experiences can subconsciously affect our brains, making us vulnerable to addiction, and using drugs can be an unconscious attempt to self-medicate emotional pain. 

Strategy to uncover an underlying cause for addiction:

Ask yourself, is there something I can think of that my brain might subconsciously be soothing with drugs? This could have happened in your childhood, so I invite you to dig deep. If you believe that a past experience might be linked with your addiction, you might consider if talking these issues through with a counsellor could help? Although talking about your past can sometimes be painful, recognising why you were susceptible to addiction in the first place could aid you in your fight for sobriety.


Strategy two - prepare your mind for battle

To take on your addiction successfully, it is vital to have a healthy mindset. Drug addiction is often misunderstood as a moral choice. However, scientific evidence suggests otherwise, as drug addiction changes the structure of your brain, making it difficult to choose to stop. Unfortunately, this misconception can cause someone fighting addiction to feel fundamentally bad or flawed. Even worse, feeling this way can create feelings of shame, affecting your self-esteem. Improving your mindset is vital for maintaining recovery as feelings of shame feed your addiction.

Strategy to improve your mindset:

A counsellor can offer you a safe space to combat feelings of low self-esteem which nearly always accompany addiction. Reaching out for support can often feel challenging. Still, although it might be scary to trust a stranger with something as personal as your addiction, a counsellor can be the perfect person to confide in. Counsellors are skilled in being able to put themselves in your shoes and listen to you without judgement, making them an ideal ally to win your war against drug use. 


Strategy three - rally the troops

To maintain recovery from addiction, it can be helpful to have a like-minded network of people to lean on for support, especially when you go face to face with the thought of relapsing. Talking to others going through the same situation can boost your chances of recovery. Yes, you can win this war yourself, but recruiting some follow troops can make all the difference to successfully staying sober. 

Strategy to arm you against relapse:

Connect with people in a similar situation by accessing support groups. Group support is available in many forms; you could join SMART meetings or Narcotics Anonymous. Living in the technology era we do, you can even join Facebook and Twitter social media groups such as ‘Your Recovery Connect’, who offer a really great online space for people with addiction to support one another.

You can also download addiction recovery apps. Just one example is the I Am Sober app, where you connect with people in recovery whilst also benefiting from using the app’s motivational features. However you choose to connect with others, your newfound comrades can cheer you on. Others who are also fighting addiction can help you combat urges to use drugs again, and if you relapse, they can understand and support you while you regroup, dust yourself off, and get back into battle!


Strategy four - pass your medical before enlisting in the war

Sometimes you might be warring against drugs due to an undiagnosed mental health disorder such as bipolar, depression, borderline personality disorder (BPD), generalised anxiety disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to name but a few.

Understanding how your brain works could explain why you might be using drugs excessively in the first place. For example, someone with ADHD is up to 50% more likely to struggle with addiction than someone who does not. Brain scans of people with ADHD show they do not produce enough of the happy hormone dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for your motivation and impacts your ability to not act on impulsive urges, such as drug-taking. And, can you guess what drugs make you produce excessive amounts of? Yes, that’s right, dopamine, meaning someone with ADHD might be using drugs to self-medicate their symptoms. ADHD is not the only mental health disorder that can make you vulnerable to having an addiction due to having a lack of dopamine. 

Strategy to medically prepare you for battle:

If you are struggling with addiction, it can be helpful to speak with your doctor. Getting an appropriate diagnosis is essential because although drugs may appear to relieve specific symptoms, the relief is only temporary. In fact, it can be especially harmful to use drugs if you have a mental health disorder, and prolonged use often causes symptoms to worsen. It is important to get a correct diagnosis to manage your symptoms effectively.

You can also use online tests to determine the likelihood of having mental health conditions such as ADHD, but remember they are not always accurate, and a professional diagnosis is always recommended. That said, it can help you decide if a trip to the doctor is needed. Identifying and treating any underlying mental health conditions can dramatically improve your chances of beating your addiction. 


Strategy five - more than one way to fight drug addiction

What if I was to tell you that there is another war going on that could affect your chances of winning your battle against drug use? We all grow up in a society where people with drug addiction are often stigmatised.

The government raging ‘a war against drugs’ plays a massive role in stigmatising drug use. Yet, much evidence shows that the war against drugs causes more harm than good. It fails to recognise that addiction is often a means to self-medicate a past trauma or underlying mental health condition. Unfortunately, it leaves people who have an addiction feeling ashamed of themselves. And after 100 years of being at war with drugs, the government has still not been successful in stopping drug use. 

Strategy to learn from the mistakes of others:

Ok, so you might be thinking, why are we talking about politics? By recognising that the government’s tactics are failing, you can decide to take a different approach. Instead of feeling ashamed for having an addiction, you can say, 

Taking drugs does not make me a bad person, even when society says otherwise.

Recognising that you are not a bad person for having an addiction might help you challenge any feelings of shame caused by the government’s war against drugs. By reframing how you think about addiction, you can start to give yourself a break. In fact, being understanding of why you have an addiction, even when the government won’t, is one of the best things you can do because the remedy for shame is self-compassion! Leading us to our final strategy…


Strategy six - self-love is the best armour against drug addiction

Having love and compassion for yourself is a far better weapon than the self-destructive self-hatred that often people with addiction arm themselves with. Being compassionate toward yourself is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to achieve and sustain recovery. You need to be kind to yourself – because you cannot fight the hard fight against addiction if you are fighting yourself. You need to be on your side. Be your own army, sticking by yourself, as all good comrades do. 

Strategy to improve your self-love:

Enhance your relationship with yourself through examining your thoughts. You can ask yourself questions like, “Is the way I talk to myself kind and supportive, or am I often hard on myself?”.

If you find that you have a negative view of yourself, I urge you to try something new: from now on, talk to yourself as if you are your best friend. One way you can do this is:

  • First, write down any negative thoughts about yourself. 
  • Next, imagine it is a loved one who has said this to you about themselves. 
  • Then, respond to what you have written as if you were talking to your loved one.

A counsellor can also give you useful strategies to help improve your relationship with yourself. Being kind to yourself during your recovery is essential because it is nigh impossible to fight an addiction if you are at war with yourself. 

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Newcastle Upon Tyne NE13 & Newcastle upon Tyne NE20
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Written by Ashley Bloxham, BH (hons), MSc., BACP Approved Counsellor.
Newcastle Upon Tyne NE13 & Newcastle upon Tyne NE20

As the director of Mental Health School Ltd., my aim is to help people improve their mental health, even when facing something as tough and misunderstood as addiction. I like to combine counselling with learning about the psyche, but most importantly I work hard to build trusting relationships with my clients by listening to them without judgement.

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