Alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. The disease is often progressive and fatal. It is characterized by continuous or periodic: impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial.

Many faces of alcoholism and addiction exist. Below is a list of celebrities who struggled with alcoholism and are in recovery, plus a quote from each about his or her recovery, admitting to their addiction, and how life has been for them in sobriety.

Robin Williams: "It's hard admitting it, then once you've done that, it's real easy."

celebrity alcoholic radcliffeDaniel Radcliffe: "I became so reliant on [alcohol] to enjoy stuff." "As much as I would love to be a person that goes to parties and has a couple of drinks and has a nice time, that doesn't work for me."

 

celebrity alcoholic

https://www.michaeljfox.org

Michael J Fox: ‘"Once I did that it was then about a year of like a knife fight in a closet, where I just didn't have my tools to deal with it … but then after that I went to therapy and it all started to get really clear to me. In treatment Fox said he learned to "take one day at a time." ‘

celebrity alcoholicJamie Lee Curtis: “My recovery is the single greatest accomplishment of my life. Without that, the rest of my life would have fallen apart... Recovery is an acceptance that your life is in a shambles and you have to change it. I was lucky, I didn’t have to lose anything.”

celebrity alcoholicDemi Lovato: Demi Lovato explains with regards to her drinking, "I've slipped up a few times, but each time I have learned from it, and it's become further apart."

Russell Brand: “If anything positive can come of the death of Philip Seymour, it’s that. His death doesn’t make sense unless you accept that addiction is an illness. It doesn’t make sense any other way. Otherwise, you think ‘hang on a minute why he’d do that?’”  “Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalize drug addicts.”

celebrity alcoholicJohnny Depp: “I was poisoning myself with alcohol and medicating myself. I was trying to numb things. I was trying not to feel things, and that's ridiculous. It's one of the dumbest things you can do, because all you're doing is postponing the inevitable. Someday you'll have to look all those things in the eye rather than try to numb the pain.”

Mickey Mantle: " ‘All you've got to do is look at me to see it's wasted,’ he says of his life, with tears welling up in his eyes as he alludes to his 40-year bout with alcohol abuse that led to his liver problem.”

celebrity alcoholicRobert Downy Jr.:  In reference to his addiction, he stated, “I don't pretend it didn't happen. “More than anything I have this sense that I’m a veteran of a war that is difficult to discuss with people who haven’t been there.” He also stated that practicing yoga was a big part of his recovery.

Kristen Davis:  “I believe [alcoholism] is a disease. I don’t think you can mess with it. There was a time when people who didn’t know me well would say, 'Couldn’t you just have one glass of champagne?' And I would say, 'No.' I’m doing well. I still have occasional bad days. Why risk it?"

Alec Baldwin: “God got me sober. That day, God was a black, 65-year-old retired postal worker named Lenny,” Baldwin writes. “Lenny said, ‘You never have to feel this way again if you don’t want to.’ ”

Alcohol addiction affects millions of people.  But there is help in overcoming this disease.  These celebrities show living in recovery is more than possible.

New Hope Recovery Center is available to answer your questions and help you or your loved one.  888-808-4673 (HOPE)

 

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

Sober HolidaysThe holiday season can be stressful for all of us, whether we are in recovery or not.  Overindulging in everything from food to alcohol, over-spending seems to be in vogue, and then we are expected to “hit the reset button” come January 1st.  Living in excess is not particularly healthy for anyone, but for those of us in early recovery, trying to avoid it can be extremely daunting.

Here are 6 tips for helping you survive the holidays in recovery by celebrating with sobriety.
1.  Plan Ahead

Doing some planning around the holidays can help decrease the stress associated with having to get through them without losing one’s sobriety.  First, it is important to talk to close friends and family members who will be attending parties and gatherings with you and ensure that everyone understands what you want them to say to others who may ask why you are not drinking.  There is nothing worse than someone approaching family members asking why you are not partaking in the holiday cheer and your family not knowing what to say, or perhaps telling more information about your situation than you are comfortable sharing.  Having this conversation well ahead of time can spare everyone involved the worry and possible hurt feelings and anger that could occur if we decide to “wing it” with regards to how to handle questions.

2.  Be Accountable

Have someone hold you accountable before and after holiday events.  “Bookending” with a friend, a family member, a therapist or a sponsor can really help put you in the mind frame to hold your boundaries and stay true to your sobriety.  It can also help you feel that you are supported and that you do not have to do this alone!

3.  Bring a Buddy

If possible, bring a recovery friend or sober buddy along with you to parties.  Feeling as though you have an ally in the room can decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as social anxiety.

Also, have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand at parties or gatherings to avoid having people offer you drinks and/or questioning why you are not drinking.

4.  Self Care

Practice self care.  Although others may be overindulging, there is no reason to feel deprived during the holiday season.  In addition to ensuring that you are getting proper sleep, nutrition and exercise, consider treating yourself to a massage, manicure, yoga class or spa afternoon.

5.  Start New Traditions

Create new holiday traditions that do not focus on alcohol or other excesses.  Consider starting a holiday get-together for your recovery friends that focuses on the importance of recovery and the gifts of sobriety.

6.  Prevent Cravings

Always remember the HALT acronym.  Do not let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.  Often cravings occur when we are experiencing these feelings, so recognizing them and working a bit harder to prevent them can make maintaining recovery much easier, especially during the holiday season, when we are all a bit more vulnerable to these emotions.

 Celebrate Sober!

There is no reason you can’t enjoy yourself during the Holidays, but do plan ahead and follow these 6 tips to help you stay sober and happy.

If you or someone you love would like more information or help with addiction or drug or alcohol abuse, contact New Hope Recovery Center at 773-883-3916 or info@new-hope-recovery.com

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

 

addiction in the familyAddiction doesn’t happen in a bubble, it has a way of altering a family and the interactions of family members.  The effect addiction in the family has becomes quite apparent when we look at the dysfunctional communication roles that family members often take on.  These interactions are fittingly called The Drama Triangle.  There are three roles in the Drama Triangle and each one is reactive and manipulative instead of honest and authentic.

What Are The Roles People Play When Addiction Exists In A Family?

Victim: This person continually feels victimized for what others are doing to him or her.    They feel helpless and hopeless.  Victims typically have unrealistic expectations and feel despair, vulnerability, and suffer chronic disappointment. Victims or martyrs tend to communicate in passive ways.  The victim avoids responsibility by blaming others and trying to control them with guilt.  This person feels “less than” the persecutor and often receives pity and is taken care of by the rescuer.

Persecutor: This person acts out in order to get revenge and/or offend others, as a way of avoiding his or her own discomfort.  Persecutors often communicate in an aggressive way.  They blame and criticize others.  They see everything as win/lose and insist on “being right”.  This person feels “better than” the victim and uses intimidation and threats to feel power and try to boost self-esteem.

Rescuer: This person is a natural caretaker and very non-confrontational.  They keep secrets and enable addictive behaviors.  Rescuers provide unasked help (while neglecting themselves) and often feel tired, depleted, unappreciated, and resentful. Rescuers communicate in a passive-aggressive way.  This person feels superior to both the persecutor and the victim.  Rescuers concentrate on others in an effort to avoid turning inward.

If you see yourself in different roles in different situations, that is expected!   

People will start in one role and often move around the triangle to different roles, sometimes within one interaction.  For instance, consider an alcoholic who is out late drinking while their partner is at home worried.  The alcoholic may come home to an angry partner (persecutor role) and instantly be in the victim role but then try to turn the blame onto his/her partner (therefore reversing the roles).  The interaction may then evolve further with the partner helping the alcoholic to bed and calling into work on his/her behalf the next day (rescuing role).

Also, don’t forget this is the drama triangle, so these roles are assumed when things are going awry.  These are not permanent roles.  However, as we know as an addiction progresses things go awry more and more often.

Why Would Anyone Participate In The Drama Triangle?

We take on these roles because subconsciously there is a perceived benefit to each one.

  • The victim receives pity and doesn’t need to take full responsibility for their actions.
  • The rescuer feels superior although over time they feel unappreciated, frustrated and tired from their attempts to rescue.
  • The persecutor feels a sense of power and entitlement and demands respect from others.

But these benefits are really an illusion, Claude Steiner comments, “The victim is not really as helpless as he feels, the rescuer is not really helping, and the persecutor does not really have a valid complaint.”  All the roles have something in common: by taking on a role, you don’t have to deal with your own issues or take responsibility for your own actions.  The roles serve the purpose of getting our adult needs met but in immature ways.  All three roles share a lack of boundaries and hinder one’s ability to be intimate and/or respond to others appropriately.

How To Step Out Of The Drama Triangle?

The only person you can control is yourself.  You can begin to step out of the unmanageability of the drama triangle by:

  • Recognizing that there is a Drama Triangle that is not working
  • Setting healthy boundaries
  • Taking responsibility for your own actions
  • Speaking honestly, calmly saying what you really mean
  • Having respect for yourself and others
  • Valuing the relationships more than being right, or better than

If you or a loved one is repeatedly in The Drama Triangle because of addiction.  You can get help getting out by contacting New Hope Recover Center at info@new-hope-recovery.com or 773-883-3916.  For more information about us visit our website at www.new-hope-recovery.com.

Other articles you may find interesting: Family Roles and Addiction

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

 

“We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character”

addiction recovery changeAfter completing the Fifth Step with our sponsors, recognizing and disclosing the exact nature of our wrongs, a realization sets in: without changing our destructive behaviors we cannot experience the full benefits of the recovery program.  In Step Six, a sense of humility is developed in order to see ourselves more clearly.  We have seen the wrongs we have committed and how they have harmed ourselves and others when we acted out our defects of character.  We begin to see patterns to our behaviors and also realize that we are likely to act on the same defects repeatedly. As we continue with our addiction recovery, in Step Six we become entirely ready to have our defects of character removed, without reservations.  The concept of becoming entirely ready does not happen suddenly.  It is a process which can take the course of one’s lifetime.

We have to identify, recognize and accept our defects of character before we can be willing to have a power greater than ourselves remove them.

Step Six is a step of willingness and action that prepares us for a launch to a higher level of consciousness. “We found that the higher our drugs took us, the lower they brought us” NA Basic Text, Step Three, page 24 (Fourth Edition). In other words, the more intoxicated one gets, the more toxic one becomes.

A very important way to identify character defects is by being receptive to the constructive feedback of others, particularly when we offend them with our behaviors.

Here are some common examples of character defects:

  • anger
  • resentments
  • sarcasm
  • cynicism
  • false pride
  • self-pity
  • self-doubt
  • self-indulging
  • perfectionism
  • defiance
  • distrust
  • dishonesty

There will most likely be layers upon layers of negative behaviors that point to these defects.  “When working this step it is important to remember that we are human and should not place unrealistic expectations on ourselves,” NA Basic Text, page 33 fourth edition.

Reciting this prayer during times of despair or when it seems to be taking a long time to reach a desired goal can help sustain us and renewing our willingness to have our character defects removed.

Sixth Step Prayer

I am ready for Your help in removing from me the defects of character which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery.  Help me to continue being honest with myself and guide me toward spiritual and mental health. 

New Hope Recovery Center, Chicago’s premier alcohol and drug addiction facility, offers treatment to those addicted to drugs or alcohol and their families.

If you or someone you love is affected by addiction, New Hope Recovery Center can help. Contact us at 773-883-3916 or info@new-hope-recovery.com.

Other articles on the 12 Steps:

Step 1 , Step 2 , Step 3, Step 4, Step 5

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

Addiction Recovery MonthSeptember is Recovery Month.  To celebrate this month, and inspire ourselves and others, we offer daily Addiction Recovery tips.

Today's tip is:

Make your own recovery the first priority in your life. Recovery is #1 - keep that thought at the top each day!

We wish everyone a Happy Recovery Month!

You can contact New Hope Recovery Center at 888-707-4673 (HOPE) or info@new-hope-recovery.com

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

vivitrol addiction treatmentAs the science of addiction medicine evolves, doctors have begun using new drugs in revolutionary ways that are changing how we think of and treat addiction.  Vivitrol is a drug used to treat both opioid addiction as well as alcoholism.  Since 2006, when it was first approved by the FDA for alcoholism, many patients have shown much success.  In October 2010, this injectable form of naltrexone was approved to treat opioid addiction as well.  It has since been used successfully by many with addiction to opiates and heroin.

What should you know about Vivitrol and it use in addiction treatment?

What Is Vivitrol?  Vivitrol is an extended-release injectable version of naltrexone that is given once a month.  It is known as an opiate antagonist, meaning it works by binding with and blocking the receptor sites in the brain that would normally be affected by opiates or alcohol.

How Does Vivitrol Work?  Unlike an opiate agonist, the opiate antagonist occupies the receptor site but does not activate the receptor.  This means that the site is tied up without the person feeling the “high” that would come with using a drug that activates the site.  Because the receptors are tied up, when someone on Vivitrol uses alcohol or opiates, they do not feel the pleasurable effects of intoxication.

How Is Vivitrol Different From Naltrexone?  Naltrexone requires a daily oral dose and has been used for years in addiction treatment  There are two main downsides to this self-administered daily dose:  1) it is easy for patients to forget the daily dose,  and patients who forget to take the medication are at a greater risk of relapse; and 2) there is a daily temptation to skip the dose for that day,  in order to drink or use or even to have the possibility to drink or use.

Vivitrol largely eliminates these issues.  It is a monthly shot administered by a health professional.  Its effects last for a full 30 days.   Two main benefits to the monthly shot versus daily tablets:  1) medical professionals can monitor a patient’s compliance and remind the patient when the next dose is needed.  Patients have someone to be accountable to and someone who will be talking with them if they are being tempted to use.  2) Patients are freed from the daily decision to take the dose or not and so there is no daily temptation to use.  Many patients report they have a greater peace of mind knowing there is no possibility to use.  (Actually they could use, but it would have no or very little effect on them.)

Pros of Vivitrol Use:

There are many benefits to using Vivitrol under the care of an addictions medicine specialist.  Vivitrol appeals to many doctors and patients alike, who do not wish to treat an opioid addiction with another opioid medication (also known as agonist treatment).

For individuals who have not been heavily addicted for more than a year and the brain has likely not been radically changed by drug abuse, Vivitrol is an ideal tool to use in early recovery.

Vivitrol drastically reduces cravings for opiates and alcohol.

For some, using Vivitrol while actively engaged in counseling and self-help groups such as AA, NA or SMART Recovery results in lasting sobriety, even after Vivitrol is discontinued.

Vivitrol is an ideal choice for patients coming off of methadone or buprenorphine (maintenance drugs) especially in the first few months, when they are at greater risk for relapse.

For those that work in jobs with frequent travel, such as pilots, business consultants, flight attendants, Vivitrol is appealing because it is a safe, supervised method of treatment that does not require daily dosing.

Cons of Vivitrol Use:

Perhaps the biggest con to Vivitrol is its cost.  Unless one has private insurance that covers prescription drugs well, Vivitrol is very expensive.  The shot can run up to $1200 per month (even higher in some cases).  Even with insurance, copays and deductibles can leave a patient paying quite a bit on a monthly basis.  The company that makes the drug offers patients up to $500 to cover copays or off the cost of the shot for those without insurance.  Even with this financial assistance, Vivitrol can be quite expensive.

Another drawback of Vivitrol is that patients can only get started on the drug after all alcohol and opiates are out of the patient’s system.  Generally this means that the patient has gone through detoxification and has been sober and clean for 7-10 days.  This usually only occurs when the patient is an inpatient program or a hospital setting.

Also, Vivitrol is currently only FDA approved for those 18 and older, although it is used “off label” for younger patients successfully and safely.

Finally, as with all prescription drugs, there are side effects.

Individual Decision

Vivitrol has many advantages and several disadvantages.  It is important for patients and healthcare professionals to understand the full picture when considering Vivitrol for substance abuse treatment.  The decision whether or not to take a drug like Vivitrol is an individual, case by case decision and should be made with a doctor who is properly credentialed.  If the decision is made to use Vivitrol, it should be done in conjunction with formal treatment and/or individual or group counseling for the best results.

New Hope Recovery Center has seen good results with clients who have used Vivitrol.  Most report drastically reduced cravings, increased confidence in their sobriety and a greater peace of mind.  Many have reported that they know it kept them sober and clean.  They realized there are points in any month where the stressors and temptation to use may become very high, but by getting the monthly shot, they knew they would find ways to cope that did not involve using.  You can contact New Hope Recovery Center at 888-707-4673 (HOPE) or info@new-hope-recovery.com

Written By: New Hope Recovery Center

Looking into addiction treatment programs (rehab) for yourself or a loved one can seem overwhelming.  Generally life is already stressful and unmanageable.  Trying to understand what options are available within the treatment world and what would work best is not an easy task.  To give you a starting point, here are 5 frequently asked questions about rehab and addiction treatment that will lead you in the right direction.

1.  How Much Does Addiction Treatment Cost?

The cost of treatment varies greatly based on the provider. It could be free or it could cost over $50,000.00. Many addiction treatment services are covered by insurance.  However, insurance coverage varies greatly by the carrier and the client's specific policy. Some treatment centers don't accept insurance, which means you may need to pay out of pocket at admission, and the provider will "Super Bill" you meaning you pay cash and they give you a bill to submit to insurance yourself. Insurance does not reimburse this amount at 100% or sometimes at all, which can be financially draining on the client and their family members. To avoid this, call your insurance carrier and ask them who is in network, your insurance company should be able to give you a list of facilities to choose from.

New Hope Recovery Center takes most major insurance and can check your benefits for you to determine what coverage you or your loved one has for addiction treatment.  Its important for treatment centers to review your insurance benefits with you and let you know if there are any costs you will need to pay prior to admission. Unexpected financial burdens can just cause more heartache during the recovery process, so if you ask the right questions up front, you should be able to alleviate unexpected bills later on down the road. Some questions that will be helpful when finding out about your insurance  coverage are: (1) Is there is a deductible and if so, how much has been met?  Are there any co-pays? (2) Is pre-certification required? (3) Do you need a PCP (primary care physician) referral (HMO policies only)? (4) If there is a maximum out of pocket cost and if so, how much has been met? (5) Is there a maximum number of sessions available? 

If you do not have insurance and cannot afford out of pocket expenses, state funded programs may be available in your area. Unfortunately, many state funded programs have wait lists and it can be difficult to qualify for treatment. The sooner you call, the sooner you can get in treatment. Always leave your name on the wait-list, they occasionally go quicker than than expected. Not all treatment centers participate in state funded options, but some may have scholarship opportunities or sliding scales. The important thing is to ask the questions about cost before your loved one gets admitted. It is important to remember, some people need to go to treatment more than once to obtain long term recovery, so find a place that fits your needs and is within your budget, paying tens of thousands of dollars on a treatment center will not guarantee your loved one will stay sober. 

2.  How Long Does Treatment Last?

Treatment will depend on the severity and/or type of addiction(s) a person suffers from. Treatment may range from:

  • Hospital based detoxification – Generally 3 to 7 days
  • Residential treatment program – 30 to 60 days
  • Partial Hospital Program (Day Program) – 1 to 4 weeks
  • Intensive Outpatient Program – 4 to 6 weeks
  • Aftercare Program - 6 to 24 months 

Providers offer different levels of treatment, you may need to go to a hospital for detoxification, and then transfer to a residential facility for treatment depending on the provider's continuum of care. Many treatment programs works with each other to ensure a smooth transition from one treatment center to another. 

3.  How Do I Know What Treatment Program Will Work For Me?

Treatment will only really work for you if you work it. Most addicts exhibit impulsive, compulsive, and obsessive thoughts and behaviors which will need to be overcome in order to succeed in rehab.  Also other areas of life can directly affect the chances of a successful treatment outcome. Having supportive friends and family, living in a safe environment, devoting time to your recovery can all  increase the chances of a successful recovery.  It is essential to be open, honest and willing to do whatever is necessary to begin living a sober life. What you put into it will be what you get out of it. It is important to put recovery first.

When looking into a treatment program, ask what the program consists of, visit the location, meet with counselors and staff. Most treatment centers will offer a free assessment to determine what level of care is most appropriate. The best treatment facility for you is one where you feel comfortable, where you feel welcomed and where you will want to stay.

4.  What Kind Of Family Involvement Is Needed?

For the best possible treatment results, family involvement is crucial. Addiction is a family disease, which means treating one member of the family will not ensure long term recovery for the family.  It affects everyone in the family and so the family must work toward wellness.  Even if there have been previous treatment episodes, family involvement is one of the most effective ways to heal the family and its members. Some providers have extended family programs which include support groups, such as, Al-anon and Family Anonymous.

5.  What Is The Process For Getting Into Rehab For Addiction?

The process begins by calling and speaking with an intake person and/or a certified alcohol and drug counselor who can answer any questions you may have. If you and the treatment center feel there is a good fit based on your situation, there will usually be an assessment to establish the severity of the addiction and other problem(s) and to determine what level of treatment is necessary. Information about the process at New Hope Recovery Center: Admissions Process.

Addiction is a progressive and fatal disease.  The longer an addicted person remains in treatment, the better the outcome.

For more information about finding a treatment center right for you, contact New Hope Recovery Center. If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, it is important to call and go in for an assessment with a professional.  All assessments at New Hope Recovery Center are confidential with no obligation for further treatment. Recovery is possible, let us help. Call us at 888-707-4673 or email us at info@new-hope-recovery.com.

If you are considering addiction treatment, you may find these articles helpful as well:

Prescription Drug Rehab: 5 Important Questions to Ask

Overcoming the Fears of Going to Addiction Treatment

Intensive Outpatient Treatment: The New Standard?

Drug or Alcohol Addiction Rehab in Chicago

How to Find the Best Treatment Center in Chicago

 

There are differences between the men and women who enter drug rehab and alcohol rehab for substance abuse.  The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) conducts a census of all yearly admissions to addiction treatment facilities that are reported to SAMHSA.  A report issued in April 2014 shows the results from 2011 as compiled by SAMHSA.  Interesting differences between men’s and women’s use of drugs and alcohol are highlighted.

More Men Than Women in Rehab.  The SAMHSA report shows the gender differences and primary substance of abuse across different age groups.  The numbers show that of those who enter treatment (or rehab) for substance abuse 1/3rd are women and 2/3rd of them are men.  This is an increase from findings even in the last decade that showed 1 woman to every 4 men entering treatment.

Younger Females (Ages 12-17) Equal to Younger Males in Rehab.  Men 18 and older have almost twice the rate of substance dependence as women.  However, the rates for males and females are about the same for adolescents age 12 to 17.

Younger Women (Ages 12-17) Are Twice as Likely to Report Alcohol as Primary Substance of Abuse Versus Young Men (21.7% vs. 10.5%)

Women More Likely to Abuse Prescription Drugs Versus Men.  The SAMHSA report found statistically significant differences between the primary substance of abuse for women and men.  For instance, women are more likely to abuse prescription pills as their primary drug compared to men.  In the 65 and older bracket women are almost 3 times more likely to primarily abuse prescription pain relievers compared to men.

Young Men More Likely to Abuse Marijuana vs. Young Women.  Women were less likely to abuse marijuana compared to men in the 12 to 17 and 18 to 24 age brackets.

Women More Likely to Abuse Methamphetamine/Amphetamines.  Women 18 to 34 are significantly more likely than men to abuse methamphetamines/amphetamines as their primary drug of abuse.

Gender Differences and Primary Substances of Abuse

There is no denying that women suffer from the disease of addiction differently than men.  The research also shows that women have better outcomes in treatment when they have gender-specific programming.  New Hope Recovery Center is proud to offer gender-specific programming to meet the unique needs of women.  Our staff is culturally competent and attuned to helping women find their place in recovery.  For more information please call  888-707-HOPE (4673) or email us at info@new-hope-recovery.com.

 

From all the research that has been done in the field of addiction over the past 30-40 years, we know several factors are involved in the development and continuance of addictive behavior.   Within the disease model of addiction, we understand the development of an addiction stems from the genes we have inherited.  Once these particular genes are activated, the disease progresses, from the point of onset to chronic and often fatal stages, unless it is treated.

Through this medical model, we learn that addiction is a biopsychosocial disease, with many factors contributing to the development of an addiction including our biology or genetics (bio); our thoughts, feelings and emotions (psycho); and our personal histories: the way we were raised, the environmental and cultural cues and messages we are exposed to (social).

Traditional learning theory (specifically operant conditioning) states that we tend to repeat behaviors that are pleasurable, thereby setting up a pattern of action, reward, repeated action.  Our brains are hard-wired to be able to learn this way, as it is critical for our survival.  For example, when we eat, dopamine is released in the brain, sending the message to repeat the behavior.  The concept of making associations is key to learning theory as are the concepts of reinforcement and punishment.   Getting a pleasurable response to a behavior (i.e. feeling satisfied after eating a tasty meal) increases the chance that we will seek opportunities to repeat the behavior.  On the contrary, being punished after doing a behavior (i.e. getting burned from touching a hot stove) drastically reduces the likelihood we will repeat the behavior.

When looked at against the backdrop of addictive behavior, it is easy to understand how one can get caught up in the cycle of repeating certain behaviors.  Although in time, addictive behaviors come with negative consequences (punishments), they are initially paired with the experience of pleasure.  In the case of certain drugs and routes of administration (for example shooting heroin), the behavior is paired with extreme pleasure.  In learning theory, the stronger the experience of pleasure, the stronger the association will be and therefore, the more likely one will want to repeat the behavior.

Classical conditioning, another subset of learning theory, can explain why formerly neutral stimuli become paired with the anticipation of pleasure as they become cues for the target behavior.  Environmental cueing and classical conditioning are theories that account specifically for relapse.  For example, a previously neutral or even negative stimulus such as a needle can in and of itself set off the phenomenon known as craving in an individual who is addicted to heroin or crystal methamphetamine.  In this case, one may experience intense psychological cravings without even coming into contact with the actual drug, only with the stimuli that have become paired associations with the drug.  These intense cravings can easily lead to relapse, if not addressed and dealt with properly.

Further, social learning theory, first explained by Albert Bandura in 1961, also explains addiction in terms of the biopsychosocial model.  Social learning theory posits that we can learn and make associations in a social context, simply by observing and imitating the behaviors of others.  The behavior(s) being observed are most likely to be repeated if reward is part of the observation.  For example, a person watching his/her peers drink, laugh and have fun will pair that association and increase the likelihood that he/she will attempt the behavior as well.  This is known as vicarious reinforcement.

With a pattern of addiction, social learning is often responsible for the initiation of drug/alcohol related behavior.  Once the addictive process has taken over, social factors fade out and become largely irrelevant to the maintenance of the addiction.  As the addiction progresses, opportunities to learn from healthy individuals engaged in healthy or adaptive ways of coping with stress become scarce, as healthy people begin to disengage from the addict and as the addict associates almost exclusively with other addicts or users.

Learning theory, including operant and classical conditioning and social learning can be applied to recovery as well.  In recovery, we re-learn the associations made in the brain during our addiction.  We pair craving and/or stress with picking up the phone and reaching out to our sober network.  We learn to avoid things, people or situations that will lead us back to using.  We make daily associations such as waking up in the morning and praying or meditating.  And finally, we learn socially acceptable behavior from our sober mentors, family and friends.

New Hope Recovery Center is an alcohol and drug rehab treatment center located in Chicago, IL. We provide Partial Hospitalization, Intensive Outpatient, and Aftercare. We also have a LGBTQI specific addiction treatment program entitled "New Hope With Pride.” We offer personalized, holistic treatment by examining the whole person: mind, body and spirit.  Our small intimate setting caters to your specific needs and we provide place of support, nurture and safety leading to hope and healing. If you are interested in a confidential assessment, or you know someone who is, call 888-707-4673 to talk to a staff member.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

The risks and detrimental effects of alcohol abuse by young adults under the age of 25 can have life-long consequences.  In a recent survey, nearly 80% of 17-18 year olds had consumed alcohol, with over 47% of these 17-18 year olds using alcohol regularly.

To help your young adult/teenager get the fullest from life, it is important to have an honest discussion about alcohol and its effects.  But what do you say and how do you do it? Here is a helpful guide on how to talk to your teenager about drinking.

First, don’t expect to only have one big discussion on alcohol, the subject should come up many times as your child grows.  Start young by creating regular, open, honest communications with your child.  Be casual and relaxed.  Be open to what your teen says, truly listen.  Keep your emotions in check (remember deep breaths if you hear something upsetting or irritating).  If your child feels comfortable talking with you, your discussions will be more effective.

Once you have good regular communications, you can begin to discuss alcohol.

  • Start with asking what your teen thinks about alcohol?  What does s/he know about it?  If your teen has used alcohol, calmly asked what they thought? Why they used it?  What was the result?
  • Share facts about alcohol.  It is a powerful drug.  Regular drinking by teenagers can create many problems:  teens have the highest rate of traffic accidents and alcohol use increases these risks; drinking affects coordination, the ability to think and make decisions; teens who drink are more likely to be the victim of violence; as well as experience longer term injury or damage to their brain. Point out the teen brain is still developing and alcohol affects normal development.
  • Talk about any perceived attractions or myths about drinking:  Does your teen feel peer pressure to drink?  Do they think drinking will let them be more social or fit in better?  Discuss alcohol commercials on TV and ads in magazines, where everyone is fit, beautiful, having fun.  What do they think alcohol will do or does do for them?
  • Point out that alcohol is a depressant and although it may seem to provide happy or pleasant feelings, these feelings don’t last and often people feel down, sad or even depressed after drinking.
  • Drinking is illegal, and there are serious consequences for teens arrested for drinking alcohol.
  • Be prepared to discuss your own drinking and history.  Your teen will likely ask.  Even if they don’t, it is best if you volunteer things you learned about drinking.  Share consequences you have experienced from drinking.
  • Also discuss any family history with drinking. If you have a family history of alcoholism, let your teen know that this means s/he is much more likely to become addicted, its in the family genes.
  • Ask about your teen’s friends.  What do they think about drinking or drugs?  Do they drink? Has your teen had any experience with people drinking?

All this may not happen in one conversation.  Always thank your child for the talk and for sharing. Appreciate their insights and their honesty. It is important to let them speak and feel open with you, but do not blur the lines on the parent/child relationship. Never allow your teenager to drinking at your house. It is illegal and it portrays the wrong message. Never drink with your teenager, even at family gatherings, its illegal, inappropriate, and damaging to their health.

Finally, be a role model.  Your actions speak much louder to your teen than words. If you drink, do so in moderation.  When discussing alcohol, don’t state it is good or helpful.  Also emphasize that for those older than 21 and particularly over 25 experience less brain impairment from alcohol.  Discuss the rules you have for yourself: never drinking and driving, setting limits on your own drinking either by quantity or days or amount of time, only drinking with friends or family, etc.

If you know or suspect your teen has a problem with alcohol, there are resources available that can help you and your teen. Early interventions are proven to be a helpful resource for many teenagers. If your teenager is over 18 years old, you may schedule an appointment with New Hope Recovery Center for a confidential assessment.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center

Want more information about young adults and addiction? Check out our Journal for related articles or see below: 

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