Losing Hope Through Addiction
Addiction Guilt and Hope
March 23, 2015 By Pat Hartman
A new paper, Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model: A Smartphone App Pilot Study, will appear in the next print edition of the journal Childhood Obesity.
This publication signals another advance in spreading the idea of using the addiction approach as a treatment for child/adolescent obesity.
It’s mostly about the W8Loss2Go program, whose basic points Childhood Obesity News has covered in the past.
The paper’s authors were Robert A. Pretlow, MD, MSEE, FAAP; Carol M. Stock, JD, MSN; Stephen Allison, MBBS, FRANZCP; and Leigh Roeger, PhD.
Dr. Pretlow says his team hoped…
…through a process evaluation, to identify potential moderators of treatment effect as well as to better understand the most appealing and useful elements to children and adolescents of an addiction-based obesity intervention delivered through youth-popular smart phone technology.
Such a device can help very much with things figuring out the necessary math. The excessive food amounts withdrawal stage, which takes three months, requires lessening the amounts eaten at mealtime by small increments.
Obesity and Self-Blame
Pilot studies of the smartphone app begin and end with a self-reporting questionnaire, which includes the question, “Does calling overweight/obesity an addiction affect your guilt or self-blame about your weight?” Participants answer that the A-word makes the guilt worse, better, or makes no difference. About half of the participants said “worse.” In a similar vein, participants also rated whether the addiction model approach used in the program had caused their guilt about being overweight to increase.
The subject of addition guilt is very germane to the program’s goal, and may even be an area it is dangerous to leave underexplored.Many years ago, Doreen Virtue suggested in her book Constant Craving that guilt about eating is the mind admitting to itself that the hunger is purely emotional, and not physiologically real. In the W8Loss2Go pilot studies, Dr.
Pretlow has learned that participants who felt addiction guilt had poorer results in attempting to lose weight. Conversely, those who were not made to feel guiltier by the addiction model did better.
Gender Differences in Weight Loss
Dr. Pretlow’s team also learned that girls are more ly than boys to report that they experience addiction guilt. 66.7 percent of the girls admitted to it, against only 11.1 percent of the boys. The third pilot study turned up “the same findings on this question but not as dramatic…,” with 43 percent of females and 25 percent of males.
A vital thing to remember about addiction guilt is that it’s far more ly to be a problem that comes up during recovery, rather than during active addiction. The reason is not far to seek—any bad feeling can be smothered with the substance of abuse. New Life Recovery Program has this to say:
You may wonder why there is guilt and shame after overcoming your addiction..Seek professional help to deal with the guilt and shame…Make right your wrongs by seeking forgiveness of those closest to you. Remaining clean and sober is the greatest tool you have to repair the damage caused in active addiction.
Once you can truly forgive you, succeeding in recovery is so much easier.
Rev. Al Rosenblum adds:
When we lose control of our will to an outside force, it exposes our inner weakness causing guilt and shame.
The guilt and shame from our addiction causes an increased need for comfort driving us back to the addiction. When we enter into an addiction, we create a self-perpetuating cycle… that feeds itself.
We hate what we are doing but believe we need it to comfort us from the overwhelming pain of hopelessness.
A friend of the W8Loss2Go project makes this suggestion:
If there is a way to make females see “addiction” as a reduction of guilt, then resistance to addiction-based therapeutic techniques might decrease. Is there some education around the term “addiction” that would help females in particular understand that1) their overweight is not their fault and,
2) since it’s a addiction, it can be beaten — there is hope.
To which Dr. Pretlow replies,
“Hope” is a good idea, as many obese young people feel hopeless to do something about their overeating/obesity.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Treatment of Child/Adolescent Obesity Using the Addiction Model: A Smartphone App Pilot Study”, Liegertpub.comSource: “How To Deal With Post Addiction Guilt And Shame,” newliferecoveryprogram.com, 10/13/11Source: “Addictions, The Guilt & Shame Cycle,” go2grow.org, 2009
Image by Kevin McShane
It’s routine, comfortable, pleasing to the senses, and something we look forward to perhaps on a daily basis. It is also, however, something we hate and desperately want to remove from our lives.
It’s addiction, and it’s been winning for far too long.
The word has different meanings and connotations our experiences. The more tame and playful thought is of a person who simply “can’t live” without peanut butter, coffee or a favorite TV show every day. This tame version of the word, however, can obscure the wretched and miserable nature of true addiction and how it completely changes the lives of those who’ve been snared by it.
Yes, snared. Those who have taken the first step to recovery—admitting they have a problem—often view themselves as in bondage to a cruel overlord. They want to stop. They want a normal life back, not one that’s dependent on a substance for happiness. They just … can’t … stop.
The most obvious examples are addictions to narcotics, opioids and painkillers. These often result in trips to rehab centers and intense, medically supervised detox to get some sense of control back. However, what we should “just say no” to has expanded tenfold in recent years. Drugs are not the only things that mess with our minds.
Addiction can be seen in all of the following actions:
- Treating mind-altering drugs as more important than other people.
- Erasing an Internet history that includes evidence of hours of pornography and sex chat rooms.
- Sneaking outside to smoke and then using air fresheners and mouthwash to cover it up.
- Sheepishly trying to explain to a loved one why several thousand dollars has been gambled away.
- Clumsily getting ready for work in the morning after staying up all night playing video games.
- One drink leading to 10, with each new resulting situation being thought of as “rock bottom.”
Addiction generally eases its victim into ultimately destructive behavior by starting off slowly and promising that it is optional—until it becomes so powerful that it takes charge. It literally uses our brain against us, and we let it.
Remembering shortcuts to pleasure: addiction’s chemical warfare
The scientific background of addiction is widely covered in books and websites. Here’s a brief layman’s summary:
Addiction tricks our brains into thinking we are naturally happy and then enslaves us to that illusion. We use something ( pornography or drugs or high-risk public behaviors) to overflow our brains with pleasure neurotransmitters dopamine.
Gaining pleasure this way works so fast and so well that our brain dutifully remembers how well it worked and the conditions. Therefore, when the same conditions pop up again, our brain quickly reminds us of this quick path to pleasure.
It definitely wants that again.Everything can seem pretty great so far, except that the rush of dopamine and the manipulation of the neurotransmitter receptors actually force the brain to change in order to adapt. It either reduces the dopamine or the dopamine receptors.
So, once or twice a month watching porn isn’t enough now; neither is a slight buzz off two drinks or betting just $100 online.
It used to be enough, but after our brain adapts to such an unnatural rush of pleasure neurotransmitters, it starts to ask for more and more.
This process can go on to such an extreme that natural pleasure (sexual intercourse with a spouse, and even eating chocolate cake) can barely be felt at all. The only thing our bodies will want is the fake stuff given to us by the addictive habit.
After the brain keeps readjusting and adapting, it gets to the point that just the thought of the substance creates an overpowering compulsion (often referred to by addicts as “the wave”). It makes us so excited, and it entices us to do whatever it takes to achieve the high that we remember so well.
Porn addicts look to the more hardcore and bizarre, their natural sexual preferences shifting. Gambling addicts bet their life savings, unable to get pleasure from betting small amounts. Smokers go through several packs a day. Drug addicts overdose. Video game addicts completely drive away their loved ones.
But it all started so small.
Barriers to confronting addiction
With all this information readily available, why are so many receiving counseling for addiction? Why are rehab centers packed? Why is the number of addicted individuals, and the number of substances we can become addicted to, growing?
Many societal, cultural and technological reasons contribute to this, of course, but the personal barriers to actually confronting addiction are so powerful that people often don’t seek or get the help they need.
- Denial: “It’s a bad habit, but I’m not addicted. I’ll quit someday.”
- Shame: “I’m a Christian. How am I addicted to this? I must not be godly.”
- Embarrassment: “I can’t tell my wife about this; it’s I have no self-control!”
- Fear: “People are so judgmental. Everything I have will go up in smoke if this comes out.”
- Depression: “I’m just not strong enough. There’s no hope to beating this.”
- Reinforcement: “It feels too good to stop.”
Even with the insidious nature of addiction and the many barriers to confronting it, many have said, “Enough is enough!” Coming to this point—accepting that we have a problem and wanting to change—is an enormous step in the right direction.
The next step should be to the Creator of the human brain.
Start with the spiritual
Addiction treatment centers and programs often focus on the need to involve a higher power. There is something so empowering and helpful in realizing that we need not be alone in the fight against something as strong as addiction.
Christ became the perfect example to all those tempted, since He suffered through temptation and came through it without sin.We can go to the God for whom nothing is too hard (Jeremiah 32:27; Luke 1:37). He is eager to help us when we turn to Him.
So, we start off with the spiritual. We repent of our offense against God. We have put a harmful substance or sinful behavior before Him and before the well-being of someone He loves (us).We repent of our addiction’s offense against our loved ones: the broken trust, the deception, the infidelity, etc.
We pray for the God who created the brain to help heal what we’ve allowed our brain to become.
We ask for and learn about receiving the power of God, the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), for the strength to combat “the waves” of compulsion.
We study the powerful, living Word of God (Hebrews 4:12) to understand why God hates things addictions, which ruin people’s lives, and how to use His power to overcome them.
This is only the beginning. If we let Him, God will lead us further on the road to recovery.
Find a loving accountability partner
Too often people leave the battle against addiction up to just “me and God.” God, however, does not force us to do things. He allows us to mess up, backslide, relapse and make poor decisions. One of those poor decisions would be to not involve other human beings in our struggles.
Christians are to be so loving and helpful to one another that they can openly confess to each other their shortcomings and pray for one another (James 5:16). Due to the inherent risk of stigma in letting another human being know the thing we ourselves are most ashamed of, limiting the number of others who know of our addictions is natural.
But when we’re battling powerful, destructive addictions, we need someone who knows and is on our side. God often works with us through interactions with other human beings.These people are often called accountability partners, or sponsors. This person is someone who is loving, compassionate, merciful and humble enough to be trusted with such a heavy secret. Choose someone who will not add to the problem.
An accountability partner can be a spouse, minister, very close friend, family member or professional counselor. (Note that some addictions are medically dangerous and require professional intervention. In such cases, it is important to seek professional help in addition to having an accountability partner.)
Before asking someone to help us in this very personal and private capacity, it is important to know their “fruits” (Matthew 7:16). No one is perfect, including Christians.
But people who are unable to keep a confidence, very critical of others, unable to empathize with others’ situations, and who never seem to bring up any of their own faults are definitely not suited to be accountability partners.
People who listen more than they talk, attempt to understand and empathize with others’ experiences, and are not shy in talking about their faults are rare but do exist. They are the accountability partners who will actually help rather than hurt the situation, especially when discussing a relapse.
They provide a second conscience to encourage us to do the right thing, and they can be our help when we are too weak. They destroy the secrecy and isolation of addiction and help us get through failure. They are human beings God is working through to get us through the storm.
Set up supports
With the help of your accountability partner, you can now set up supports to combat the deception and alluring aspects associated with addiction. Here are some general ideas:
- Mobilize familiar scriptures to repeat aloud when “the wave” nears.
- Talk aloud to addiction, personifying it as something we can literally hate.
- Write down successes and relapses, including trigger situations and strategies that worked.
- Discuss healthy habits that can replace the addiction.
For specific addictions, the accountability partner needs to be directly involved with supports, such as:
Pornography: Have your accountability partner set up the necessary online filters that are password-protected and monitored by him or her. Designate times when relapse is more ly as check-in times on the phone or by text. Have daily check-ins.Smoking or drinking: Map out routes with your accountability partner that help you avoid familiar places that sell the substance. Share social calendars and favorite hiding spots with your partner.
Gambling and online games: Give your accountability partner access to monitor your online activity through software or check-ins with your accounts or browser history.
Dealing with relapse
Relapse, especially within the first few months of attempting to kick an addiction, is as inevitable as it is frustrating. An addiction 10 years in the making rarely goes quietly into the night.
It goes kicking and screaming, making life as miserable as possible.
Just imagine the brain itself thinking: “What? We are not doing that thing that gives me instant pleasure anymore? We’ll see about that!”
This is when loving accountability partners are really helpful. They can help us through the failures and keep us going in the right direction.
It is our responsibility to repent of any relapses and to work with God and our partners to do better in the future.
God remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:14), but He also knows that the righteous don’t stay down. They get back up, every time (Proverbs 24:16).
Replacing the physical with the spiritual
We are a habit-driven species. When we are trying to kick addiction, something has to fill the giant hole of fake pleasure that will now be missing in our lives.
We need to rebuild the natural pleasures, which include loving connections with others and a deep relationship with our Creator.
Most importantly, those recovering from addiction should develop a new habit of assisting others as they have been assisted. Giving back brings something good something awful; it allows our sufferings as addicts to not be in vain.Christ became the perfect example to all those tempted, since He suffered through temptation and came through it without sin (Hebrews 2:18), fully able to sympathize with our temptations (Hebrews 4:15).
Though Christ is uniquely able to sympathize with every sin, we are in a much smaller way able to sympathize with others in the depths of addiction despair. We can exemplify to them: “It can get better.
It doesn’t have to always be this.”
This is how to deal with addiction
Break free: Admit that you have a problem, break through the barriers to getting help, go to God, enlist a human teammate, set up lasting supports and continually replace the physical with the spiritual.
It can be done, so put addiction on notice: It isn’t welcome anymore. Read more about overcoming specific addictions in our online series “Freedom From Addiction.”
Sidebar: Accountability Partners’ Responses to Relapse
For any of us humbled and blessed enough to have the honor of serving another human being in such a powerful way as being an accountability partner, our response to a relapse is critical. It is a delicate balance between coming on too strong and demonstrating condemnation, or seeming too tolerant of sin and keeping the status quo.
The following examples may help us when that very awkward conversation comes along.
Harmful: “Not again! I don’t understand how you let this keep happening!” (Sounds self-righteous.)
Helpful: “I’m sorry, my friend. I can’t imagine how frustrating that is for you.” (Expressing empathy.)
Harmful: “What happened this time?” (Impatience.)
Helpful: “Was it one of the familiar triggers we talked about, or was it something new that you haven’t experienced yet?” (Genuine concern.)
Harmful: “You’ve gotta stop doing this!” (They know this, and they already hate that they do it.)
Helpful: “Try not to get down; God knows you’re trying.” (Encouragement.)
Harmful: “Here’s what you are going to do. …” (Dictatorship.)
Helpful: “Do you think we need to change or update any filters or supports we put in place? Why or why not?” (Partnership.)
Harmful: “Try harder! I don’t want to hear about you messing up again.” (Unforgiving and unrealistic.)
Helpful: “I’m here for you whenever you need me. Don’t quit!” (Moving toward perfection.)
- You've watched your son's or daughter's substance use go from “typical” to “troublesome” to “scary.”
- You've tried every parenting strategy in your toolbox, but frankly, nothing has worked.
- You've explored programs or treatment options, but you're overwhelmed and confused.
- You don't want to think it's that bad, but every time you think things are improving, there's another crisis.
If any of that sounds familiar, then you already know how hard it is for a family to get quality advice and support. That is precisely why we created Parenting Through Addiction ~ The Other PTA.
Parenting Through Addiction provides an affordable, accessible, convenient online way for parents to learn about substance use and how to address it at all stages on the journey.
Members engage with other parents who understand the full range of emotions; access resources to help know when, how and where to go for treatment; learn through online courses; and get daily inspiration and hopeful engagement.
With the opportunity to learn, connect and identify resources, parents feel more equipped, less alone and better prepared to parent through addiction towards recovery.PTA is staffed by addiction specialists with 40+ years of experience helping both those who have developed addiction and the families who love them. Ginny and her husband are also proud parents of a daughter in recovery.
Having professional knowledge didn't prevent her addiction, but it sure helped them know how to parent on her journey and how to take care of themselves.
Ginny and the PTA consulting team work together with parents to help them do the same thing.
If you're most parents we've worked with, it's ly that you are:
- Looking for answers and wanting to know more about what you can do to help (and what not to do that might hurt).
- Feeling more and more isolated as you pull away from old friends and family, rarely going out on weekends or taking vacations, and increasingly reluctant to share what's going on in your family.
- Getting more and more afraid as you watch and wait for the “rock bottom” you hope will finally get your child's attention.
I'm kind of confused. So, is this counseling, or what?! Exactly what is this?
No, The Other PTA is an education and consultation membership site, not counseling. While our consultants are also professional counselors, our role here is different. The Other PTA provides an affordable, accessible, convenient way online for parents to learn about substance use and how to address it at all stages on the journey.
There are online courses with video lessons and other resources by topic; inspirational and hopeful engagement; resources to help with treatment selection; and an opportunity to engage with other parents on the journey. Even the private consultations offered are not therapy.
Consultants collect information about each family situation and offer solutions and resources to match identified needs.
I know my son is using, and there have been SOME problems, but how can I know if this is really addiction? If it's not, is this site really for me?
We know that not all substance use results in addiction, but when it does, we advocate for early treatment (rather than waiting for the proverbial “rock bottom”).
The FREE mini-course will help you draw some conclusions about whether use has ly progressed to addiction — or at least if it has progressed enough to warrant engaging the services of a professional to offer further assessment.
Even if use is not yet addictive, you may find that having more information and support from other parents helps until it's clear one way or another. You will find other parents in similar situations in the Monday night Discovery Group just for parents who do not believe there is an addiction but who are worried nonetheless.
I must admit that I'm pretty anxious about privacy and confidentiality. How can I know that people won't “air our dirty laundry” or otherwise break my confidentiality? What if someone knows me in the private group or tells someone else I'm on here?
So we ask parents to “make a pledge” to honor the privacy and confidentiality of all parent members, demonstrate mutual respect for all, and honor the boundaries defined by all parents.
This is laid out in a document all parents receive and respond to prior to approval of their membership request. We know that this provision is adequate protection for many, but not all.
For those who feel great angst about privacy we recommend only engaging on the private forum (not the group) and participate in forum-discussions using a pseudonym.
Treatment centers are colleges, churches and Rotary Clubs. They may all study some of the same things, but they can vary a LOT depending on the culture, the values of the leadership, where they are located, and what kinds of facilities and services they offer. Sometimes treatment doesn't work because it's a bad fit for the patient, and sometimes it doesn't work because the patient is not yet willing enough to learn about addiction and to do the very hard work of recovery. If your son (or you) balked at aftercare recommendations, then that could explain why treatment didn't work. Our Parent Guide to Understand Rehab, Parent Guide to Choosing Treatment, and our ebook explaining the importance of aftercare could be very helpful. Other parents in the private forum discussion could be very helpful as well
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