There is a promise that if you get into recovery for yourself that the best years of your life lie ahead of you. This holds true even for someone in their later years.
The reason this is true is that no matter what someone’s work status, age, wealth, or background if they do not feel they are their real self, there will always be inner turmoil. But recovery is about rediscovering and reuniting with the real self.
When this happens – and someone can truthfully say: “I am who I am” – they will feel the best, most complete and satisfied they have since their true self was broken or hidden away. This happens usually in childhood due to such trauma or toxic shame.
But when these unresolved histories are looked at under the guidance of someone with expertise in these matters, the real self is recovered – hence why the word “recovery” is used. Now, sometimes for the first time they can ever remember, someone’s inside can match their outside.
To thine own self be true
As Shakespeare wrote: “To thine own self be true.” Yet so many people are not their true selves due to the coping mechanisms they’ve developed in an attempt to deal with certain things that have happened to them (most frequently in childhood).
So recovery can give someone who even starts in their 70s or 80s the best years of their life. They will know an inner peace like never before.
But ask any of these people about it and they will always say they wish they’d started their recovery decades earlier. Thankfully, due to raised awareness of mental health problems, an increasing number of people are starting their recovery sooner – in their teens and 20s.
This is extremely positive as not only will they avoid years of pain from such as depression, anxiety, or addiction, they will be able to start living the life they were born to live. With the knowledge about the human condition they will gain in helping themselves get better they will also be able to understand and help other people – and much sooner than if they had delayed their recovery.
As well, of course, they will actually stay alive. Tragically, as an increasing number of people are suffering, it means more deaths from such as suicide and overdose.
Why doesn’t everyone start recovery while they’re younger?
Mental health conditions get progressively worse. For instance, anxiety usually starts as occasional “twinges”, but can soon become so bad that the same person has terrifying panic attacks.
Or someone starts drinking alcohol on Friday nights in their late teens. They are just a social drinker, like most people who go out.
But ten years later it’s developed into alcohol addiction. They are drinking much more and on most days.
Mental health illnesses are like most physical illnesses in that if they are not treated they will get worse. A cut that is not cleaned and protected with a dressing is very likely to fester.
So most people don’t start recovery while they are in their teens and 20s because perhaps things are not quite painful enough to get their attention to make changes or they have not been painful enough for long enough.
There is also the belief and clinging on to this that the person can “fix” themselves. This is nearly always not the case, but all ideas of how to mend might have to be tried and used up before the person asks for help from someone else. This can take many years.
Another factor is that in the case of addiction to drink and drugs, a great many young people are using these. Young people socialize more often and very often drink and drugs play a part in their socializing.
However, for most people these act as social lubricants, but they will grow out of them as they settle down. Or they will at least use them only occasionally.
So for those people who have a problem with them, it can take some years for them to realize that their use has continued, that it is not normal. In most cases it will also become more prolific – and it might be that only then can it be noticed that there is a problem.
Another reason is that whatever they are using to push down negative memories and feelings might stop “working”. It is then that the person will crave more. Or they might try other types of alcohol or drugs that will most likely be “harder”.
What can a younger person do to get into recovery?
If addiction is the problem there are thousands of 12 Steps group meetings across America and around the world. These have proven to be successful now for more than 80 years since Alcoholics Anonymous was formed in the US.
But a growing number of younger people are choosing to stay at a recovery center such as ours at Tikvah Lake. Here there is dedicated help from experienced professionals on a one-to-one basis every day. Our experts are on hand 24/7.
The environment and setting of a recovery center is also a valuable aspect for gaining a swift and enduring recovery. Everybody who stays with us as our guests appreciate the comfort here, delicious healthy food as well as the beautiful scenery that includes the tranquil lake that laps up to the edge of our lawn.
Then there is also the togetherness of being at our recovery center. This comes naturally as we are family-run – but also from the other guests here, many who are younger people too.
Any addiction can be defined as doing something that is detrimental to you and usually those around you too – but not seeming able to stop and stay stopped from doing it.
Relationship addiction is when someone has what seems like uncontrollable cravings and powerlessness when it comes to being in a relationship with a particular person. Strongly connected to love addiction, someone who has relationship addiction can be addicted to the feelings of euphoria and the energy boost that comes with a new relationship.
There are actually noticeable changes when a relationship starts. This is because various chemicals such as dopamine, which is sometimes known as our “pleasure chemical”, are released.
Then such as cuddling releases the “love hormone” called oxytocin. It’s a hormone that’s involved in childbirth and breastfeeding but is also linked to trust, empathy and sex.
But a relationship addict, usually unbeknown to them, is seeking these “love highs”. They cannot really be on their own – and consequently are often in and out of different relationships, even if this has an overall negative impact on them as it most likely will.
An on-off relationship means that it is often, in a manner, at the start again – with another new love high. The drama when it is ending (with arguments and temporary break-ups) or when it has completely ended also acts as a distraction from the relationship addict’s deep-down issues.
All the drama enables them to avoid looking at what they really need to look at in order to deal with their unresolved histories that are clearly still affecting them in the present day. In looking at it with someone who has expertise in these matters, such as a therapist, they will finally be able to heal from it.
What are the signs of relationship addiction?
Relationship addiction means someone thinks they need a relationship to be happy and feel full inside. It’s why someone addicted to relationships is often obsessed with a particular partner – yet is uncomfortable with the sense that they are emotionally out of control.
Some major signs of relationship addiction are:
Falling for someone too quickly, almost instantly – such as living together within weeks or even days.
A need to keep “falling in love”.
Continuing to compulsively and obsessively crave relationships, including towards someone who doesn’t feel the same way.
Not really caring who they date, so long as they are in a relationship. So such as staying in an unhealthy, perhaps even abusive, relationship rather than being on their own.
Changing who they are and doing things they don’t want to just to keep a relationship.
Feeling anxious or depressed because of a relationship, but never leaving or talking about it.
Drinking excessively, using drugs or indulging in other addictive behaviors such as binge eating, gambling or shopping beyond their means in an attempt to cope with the relationship.
Feeling emotionally worn out and confused by the many ups and downs in the relationship, but never feeling capable of doing anything about it or leaving.
Not being able to think of anything else except the relationship.
Feeling unloved in the relationship, but staying in it.
Justifying abuse (emotional, sexual or physical).
Not seeming able to quit a relationship despite knowing there are warning signs of major problems, often right from the beginning.
Not knowing the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.
Frequently breaking up and making up, and often dating other people in-between.
Thinking that having sex will always fix the unhealthy relationship – so frequently craving sex.
Having no other interests outside of the relationship. So, quitting time spent with friends, family or doing hobbies to be in the relationship as much time as possible or all the time.
Dependence on a relationship for a sense of self and security, and feeling devastated – even terrified – when not in a relationship.
Being needy all the time.
Blaming themselves for their partner’s unhealthy behaviors.
Returning to the relationship or letting the partner return after poor behavior, including abuse and fights.
Why does someone become a relationship addict?
It’s unlikely that somebody will become a relationship addict if they have seen a healthy relationship between their parents. But, generally, we are all taught about relationships from our parents – so if their relationship is unhealthy, we are learning how to have unhealthy relationships.
Then we do not even know where to begin spotting if we are in an unhealthy relationship. In fact, an unhealthy relationship can feel deeply uncomfortable, but familiar.
Trauma, toxic shame, and a “failure of love” – of having our needs unmet as children – can often be behind relationship addiction. Then a relationship is an attempt at seeking external validation.
A relationship addict is using their relationships to feel that they are approved and loved. They are desperately looking for external validation that they are actually lovable.
Some relationship addictions come from a fear of being alone or abandoned. As with all addictions, the reasons behind it are complex, but many people find that looking back at their childhood with a therapist will allow them to heal.
Taking part in therapy lets them understand why they are behaving in such a way. Then they can gain self-love and self-esteem and move forwards into a healthy relationship.
Compulsion is defined as having a seemingly uncontrollable urge to do something or behave in a certain way. It plays a huge part in many mental health conditions, including alcoholism, drug addiction, behavioral addiction, and of course obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
In fact, if people could conquer their compulsive behavior they would not have such a problem at all. But to do this means not so much looking at what the compulsive behavior is as to what is behind it.
Or what is driving it. Here it’s interesting to note that the word “compel” derives from the Latin compellere that’s from com– meaning “together” and pellere that means “drive”.
For someone who is displaying compulsive behavior, it is exactly what it feels like. Despite their very best thinking and often knowing what they are doing is not healthy, it is as if something bigger than them is driving them to do it, and continue doing it – against their will.
Despite attempts to ignore, control, or be rid of intrusive thoughts and overwhelming urges, sufferers feel powerless. Attempting to stop them usually causes deep despair and anxiety.
So in an attempt to stop their negative feelings, someone with a compulsion feels increasingly compelled to repeat whatever their compulsive behavior is – and this creates a vicious circle. Frequently, people get extremely depressed and everything about it can mean normal daily living becomes harder, sometimes even seeming impossible.
What compulsions are there?
There are many types of compulsive behavior. Here are the most common ones:
OCD is defined as having a pattern of unwanted thoughts and fears that compel someone to perform repetitive behaviors. Compulsions include cleaning, repeatedly checking (for instance, to ascertain if a window or door is locked), excessive hand washing, and counting things. Around 50 million people in the world are believed to suffer from some form of OCD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), it affects two million Americans.
Including alcoholism, drug addiction, and behavioral addiction.
Compulsive gambling is having the desire to gamble – and feeling powerless to resist. A survey from 2013 found that around six million Americans had a gambling problem. Also known as gambling addiction, pathological gambling or gambling disorder, it is classified by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as an addictive disorder. As with any addiction, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can be a huge factor behind compulsive gambling. It acts as a distraction from negative memories and feelings. As well, it releases a brief high as dopamine and endorphin are released. But because the high does not last long and more distraction is needed the compulsion keeps returning.
Compulsive eating is the inability of someone to be able to limit how much and how often they eat. It is most often a coping mechanism that has developed in an attempt to deal with unresolved histories such as trauma or toxic shame. A compulsive behavior that frequently starts in childhood and teenage years, compulsive eating causes great despair and a great number of physical issues.
Hoarding is the excessive keeping of possessions – and having problems in ever throwing them away. Things often kept by hoarders include newspapers, containers, junk mail, clothes, and books. A characteristic difference between a collector and a hoarder is that a collector will have things in order.
Skin picking & trichotillomania
Compulsive skin picking also involves scratching, rubbing, or digging the skin. It is to get rid of unwanted skin marks or blemishes that may or may not actually be there. Trichotillomania is the compulsive picking of hair from anywhere on the body. It often results in bald spots.
This is the compulsive and excessive playing of video games. A gaming addict feels to have no control over their gaming compulsion. It can mean not doing much else in life – and that can clearly cause problems at college, home and work.
Just as with almost everything that is done excessively, exercising excessively is unhealthy. It will strain the heart and can damage muscles and joints. As with any compulsion, it means the person is likely to have little time for anything else, which can obviously negatively impact all parts of life.
Compulsive shopping, shopping addiction, or compulsive buying disorder (CBD) is the compulsion to buy things without regard for whether they are needed or if the person can afford them. It is believed that worldwide nearly six percent of people have some issue with this compulsive disorder and that it affects more women than men.
Is compulsive behavior a sign of weak willpower?
People are compulsive because they are driven by something. If someone doesn’t like the way they feel, then anything that changes the way they feel has got the power to get them to feel compelled to do it.
With compulsions, they are often thinking about the next time they are going to do it, the planning for the next time – and it is all-consuming. It’s not about having weak willpower as many people claim.
Willpower is something we use to pass an exam, get over the line in a race, or reach the top of a mountain. So willpower is a temporary boost and not a state of being that’s sustainable.
In fact, many alcoholics and other addicts have very strong willpower in many aspects of their life. But over a particular thing that they have discovered that seems to alleviate painful and negative feelings, they feel powerless.
They are guiding principles for recovery from addiction, compulsion, and other emotional problems. Everyone has choices, but sometimes people do not realize this freedom we all have.
Yet as Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl wrote about in his recovery bestsellerMan’s Search For Meaning about how he survived Nazi concentration camps: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Tikvah Lake’s team of professional mental health experts has great experience in treating people with all conditions. Reach out to us today to find out how we can help you or someone you know.
There are so many Facebook groups now for music and fashion “scenes” of the past. These are very popular with people looking for some nostalgia from when they were younger and were perhaps a hippy, punk, or raver.
There’s a common question on these groups – and it’s also one that’s often wondered and asked to many therapists: did all the drinking and/or recreational drugs I took when younger cause my mental health problems today?
Looking for an answer to this question is not just limited to people who were part of a youth “tribe”. Others realize that, for instance, in their teens and 20s they drank too much and too often or that they smoked far too much marijuana.
Many people are convinced that all their frequent drinking and especially the use of drugs, including marijuana, LSD, amphetamine, ecstasy, and cocaine, is behind their emotional and mental struggles now. Others are left pondering about their younger excesses: “Did I get away with it?”
Physical and mental harm
Medical research has proven beyond doubt that excessive use of alcohol and other drugs physically harms us. For instance, excessive alcohol use can cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, digestive problems, liver disease, as well as cancer of the voice box, colon, breast, mouth, and throat.
Then, using amphetamine can cause gastrointestinal issues and increase the risk of stroke as well as lead to heart muscle deterioration and bleeding in the brain. In emotional and mental health terms, excessive use of drinks and drugs is linked to all manner of mental health conditions.
But an important question that many people want to know the answer to is: would I have got my mental health problems if I had not drunk and/or used drugs so much in the past? Many are convinced that it is their abuse of alcohol and drugs that has left them struggling now.
Cause and effect
For anyone who’s struggling today with mental health problems, it cannot be said for certain whether any past abuse of alcohol or drugs was the only cause. But it most likely is not.
From then on, into teens and adulthood, people try to find ways to cope with what has happened to them or that they may have witnessed too. What we often think of as character traits are frequently in fact coping mechanisms. They’re not the true self.
Our modern-day society plays its part as well. As physician, addiction expert and author Dr. Gabor Maté says: “Illness in this society, physical or mental, they are not abnormalities. They are normal responses to an abnormal culture. This culture is abnormal when it comes to real human needs.
“It’s not a conscious choice; it’s more an automatic decision the young self makes to stay afloat in stressful emotional waters. Through no conscious will of your own, and for perfectly understandable reasons that had to do with your own emotional survival and thus were valid at the time, you have developed a personality style that has turned out to be bad for your health in the long run.”
So with all this in mind, it is perhaps to be thought that it is not the drink or drug abuse that has caused – or at least solely caused – the mental health issues someone has today. What they can do is make it more obvious that there is a problem or make problems worse.
This is the reason that psychiatrist and author of one of the world’s bestselling recovery books, The Road Less Traveled, said that alcoholism was the “sacred disease” – because it brings people to their knees sooner than most other mental health illnesses. Consequently, with no denial that there’s any problem, those people are more likely to seek the help they desperately need much more swiftly.
A chemical taste
Consider that esteemed psychiatrist Carl Jung said of excessive alcohol use that it was: “The equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.”
In the hippy and rave scenes in particular there was clearly a spiritual element and attraction about them that many people were seeking through such as marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy. But there was also the great togetherness of people, as with all of the cultural movements.
For many people involved it gave them the loving family they’d perhaps never had. Excessive use of drink and drugs is often a way of trying to push down trauma, toxic shame, and overwhelmingly painful negative feelings about a failure of love.
When it started in the late 1980s, the rave scene was driven by house music, but also the drug ecstasy. The word “ecstasy” itself derives from Greek words meaning “standing outside oneself”.
For many who did not like what was going on in their insides, it was the greatest antidote for a while. It can be the same with drink, other drugs, and behavioral addictions such as work, relationships, sugar, gaming, and gambling.
Before people danced all night on it, ecstasy had been nicknamed “empathy” and had even been used in relationship counseling. It is a drug that gave people taking it at raves and in clubs from the 1980s onwards the chemically enhanced taste of togetherness, a family, which they craved – that perhaps was missing for many of them from their family of origin.
This can be said to be the same for any of the “tribes”. Also, there is an element of it for sports fans.