Moving Beyond Addiction

by Nirmala Raniga, Founder & Director

January should be dubbed “the quitting month.” This is the time of year when we all make our New Year’s Resolutions, and they all start with the words, “I will quit.” I will quit smoking, drinking, gambling, overeating, checking my email every 5 minutes, playing too many computer games, working too hard at the office, etc. etc.

Of course, all of those negative behaviors are not on everyone’s list, but even if there is only one habit you want to give up– there is still a problem with the “I quit” list. There is nothing to replace the offending activity. There is no adjacent list that says “I start”. So when we quit smoking or playing too many computer games, we are left with a vacuum in our lives. After dinner, with no cigarette, we feel lost. What will we do with ourselves? Without an alcoholic beverage, how will we socialize or even just relax after a tough day at work?

Dr. Deepak Chopra, a partner in Squamish BC’s Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center agrees that addiction can be difficult to treat; that people struggling with addiction and addictive behaviors become discouraged because of “failure” or being unsuccessful at attempts to stop.
It is important to understand and accept that ‘slips’ are common and can be recognized as temporary setbacks, and that healing from a long term addiction is a process that requires effort and support.

The first step is to understand how these negative behaviors got started. Dr. Chopra says that initially our addiction provided us with the rewards we were searching for in our lives; a sense of spiritual wellbeing. They fulfilled a deep seeded need in us to belong or to obtain relief. We thought they gave a sense of joy and meaning, but over time the search went the wrong way. Now, even though we want to stop the addictive behavior, we find we can’t because we would still be in need of that inner peace that’s missing in our lives. Quitting cold turkey works for a short period of time, then we’re right back to our old habits because we haven’t figured out how to replace the addiction with something that really gives us that peace and sense of joy we’re craving. Thus we feel helpless and become convinced that we can’t change. What we need, Dr. Chopra says, is to establish a state of awareness that is pleasurable AND free from cravings. This can be done.

New ways of approaching addictive behaviors have been developed, and new methods of freeing ourselves from negative activities are proving successful.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, treatment methods for addictive behaviours in the past have focused on the actual substances associated with addiction, such as alcohol, heroin, marijuana, or cocaine. But, the ASAM has redefined the meaning of addiction and now approaches treatment from a chronic disease perspective – a disease that can be cured. In their Public Policy Statement dated April 2011, the ASAM says that addiction is not about the substance or the activity being abused. It’s about our brains. Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic, biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

This new definition makes clear that it is not the substances a person uses or the negative ways they behave that make them an addict; it is not even the quantity or frequency of use. In other words, addiction is about what happens in a person’s brain when they are exposed to substances, or when they practice behaviours that “turn on” the reward circuitry in their brains. For more information about the work the ASAM is doing, visit – http://www.asam.org/advocacy/find-a-policy-statement/view-policy-statement/public-policy-statements/2011/12/15/the-definition-of-addiction

The Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center (CTC) helps people with addictive behaviors to “re-wire” their reward circuitry and create a new memory free from harmful cravings. Called neuroplasticity, this re-wiring of the nervous system enables the brain to reorganize itself so human beings can create new neural pathways through new experiences. Under the guidance of the professional staff at CTC, emotional pain can be identified and experienced with safety and support not previously possible. This “re-wiring” can produce new empowering and liberating experiences. New choices that nourish the mind, body and spirit, can be revealed and experienced, thus bringing about healing and transformation.
Unique to other addiction treatment centers, CTC offers the first truly holistic addiction recovery method in North America.

The healing team at CTC combines the latest breakthroughs in modern Western medicine with the healing arts of the East. The goal of the holistic health care experts at CTC is to restore balance and wholeness in the lives of the people who come for help. Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D., co-founders of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California, developed a recovery method, Freedom from Addiction, unlike any other. The four and six week residential programs offer individuals intensive, personalized treatment that address the deeper issues at the root of addiction and help individuals identify and release stored emotional pain, destructive thought-patterns and life-damaging beliefs. These are replaced with more nurturing, self-empowering behaviors and experiences.

An integral part of the program at CTC is inclusion of the ancient healing system called Ayurveda. Originating in India 5000 years ago, Ayurveda focuses on the individual as a whole; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Ayurveda uses various techniques and medical procedures to unlock the human potential that has been buried within a being to bring about healing and a return to wholeness. In addition to group and individual therapy, residents at CTC benefit from the mind, body, spirit healing that addresses the needs of all five senses: massage (touch), music (sound), vegetarian cuisine (taste) art therapy (sight) and aromatherapy (smell) along with meditation, yoga and acupuncture. Using this mindfulness approach and paying attention to all five senses, residents transcend and overcome addiction.

Learn about the programs we offer at Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center to assist you in integrating your New Year’s Resolutions in an achievable way to become your new life practices.