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Overcoming addiction

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One tried and tested method involved understanding what makes you feel happy and the NOURISH way to feel yourself says DESPINA NICOLA

We have no idea of the ongoing abuse others regularly undergo. Many live a life being bullied or harassed. They sometimes find an escape by turning to substances, finding it is easier than facing reality. The hardest part of giving up such a habit is taking on the responsibility for their life. If they seek treatment, they then must become aware of the shame and guilt of their self-sabotaging ways. The alternative is to live with the punishment and subservience of the addiction.

You would be surprised at how many people are secretly suffering from addictions. Jolene Park, a health expert, spoke at a TED Talk of how many therapists, attorneys, teachers, stay-at-home mums and others battle their demons that no one knows about.

While many high-functioning individuals have intellectualised how they have become addicted, they do not have the willpower to stop. However, Park claims she conquered her addictions by understanding neurotransmitters.

There are three main neurotransmitters. GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. When GABA is in short supply, it causes anxiety, worry and obsession. When serotonin is low, it instigates depression, a craving for sleeping and sadness. Finally, when dopamine is in short supply, it discourages you from your goals, and daily routines are difficult to keep. These short supplies lead to addictions.

Many substances, like alcohol/drugs, increase all three transmitters and neurotransmitters. GABA surges relaxation, serotonin creates happiness, along with dopamine, you interact with others easier.

Yet, these neurotransmitters will never be refilled by abusing substances. Substances have their way of destroying bodily functions. They lead to depression, and can rob you of your independence, time, money and friendships. Park says people need to live a sensible lifestyle, eat healthily, perform specific practices and continue to move, as this boosts the neurotransmitters.

This is done through an acronym called NOURISH.

N–Notice Nature: Pleasure and happiness is increased within 20 minutes of being outside in nature or near the ocean.

O–Observe and Breathe: This increases oxygen and moves all three chemicals around the body.

U–Unite with Others: The hugs and human touch found in communities, social connections and animals have a great impact on the nervous system.

R–Replenish with Food: Proteins break down amino acids. Park recommends eating omega 3 fats and carbohydrates found in vegetables and fruit. These types of food naturally increase GABA, serotonin, and dopamine.

I–Initiate Movement: This boosts the neurotransmitters’ circulation.

S–Sit in Stillness: Be in prayer or just be in silence. This creates a reloading of peace and energy.

H–Harness Your Creativity: Increase your GABA, serotonin and dopamine through activities like painting, cooking and writing. These are positive things to do. Other activities, like smoking, drinking and overeating will deplete you instead.

The following is an example of how a client went from consuming dopamine in a negative way, through drinking, to consuming dopamine constructively.

He was having issues with alcohol and said he did not have many friends and even his family didn’t want to spend time with him. Although his family and friends did care for him, he had an issue with abandonment. This is where dopamine became his support, his crutch.

At a young age, his parents made him live basically alone. At the age of 12, he had to fend for himself. That meant cooking, cleaning, going to and from school and being alone a lot. This led to his drinking addiction. He used alcohol as company when he was alone, and he soon bonded with it.

When he grew into an adult, he tried various programmes to cut the alcohol, but it was his dopamine fix, and he didn’t want to give it up. He was happy not taking on the responsibility of having to work like an adult. If he stopped alcohol, he would have to face the damage he had ascribed and laid down on his loved ones.

Then one day, he realised he was alone. He had absolutely no family or friends around. This was a reality he didn’t want to face. So, he drank himself into a catatonic state. He woke intubated in a hospital bed. He spent a week sober in the hospital and then went into rehabilitation, starting to become aware of himself again.

He realised that alcohol was not his friend anymore. He was in a relationship with his predator. Once he left rehab, he came to me for help. The best place to start was the timeline. It was there where his abandonment issues surfaced.

He started to write in a journal every day. He joined AA where he connected with a buddy network. He went through the year with support from AA. He had found tranquility and a new meaning in life. This transformation was using his natural increase of dopamine to create fulfilment.

One day at a party his ex-girlfriend turned up. They left to reminisce about old times. She brought out the alcohol and they drank until the early hours. He regressed to his self-sabotaging ways for about three months with his ex, because he felt he needed to rectify the abandonment issues that surfaced from the past.

Yet, she eventually left him for someone else, which was a recurrence of his past abandonment issues. He was devastated but went back to his friends from AA and to his spiritual. To this day, he hasn’t touched alcohol again. But, if his friends had not accepted him or if they rejected him for going astray, he wouldn’t have been able to heal.

Get involved in practicing NOURISH, be spiritual or join communities where they hold your hand when you are weak.

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