Monday, June 22, 2015


What are process addictions? 

Process addictions occur when someone becomes addicted to a rewarding behaviour that does not involve an addictive substance, such as gambling, sex, or eating. Sometimes referred to as behavioural addictions, or compulsive behaviours, process addictions involve compulsion to perform an action despite negative consequences. In this way people can suffer from dependence on certain processes — they are reliant upon and/or controlled by the addiction as their primary way of dealing with life. While the theory about behavioural addictions has been around for a while, only recently have we been able to look at the brain and determine how processes can in fact become addictive in the same way as addictive substances.

Process addictions vs. Substance addictions: How is the brain affected?
Addiction is a chronic brain disease that presents itself similarly whether you become addicted to a substance or process. Addictive behaviours such as gambling, sex, eating, and internet use all stimulate the brain's reward system similarly to addictive substances, by releasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine.

This stimulation leads people to seek out such pleasurable experiences more and more often. After repeated exposure some people will begin to seek out the experiences compulsively, while at the same time their ability to derive pleasure from the action decreases.

The difference between behavioural and substance addiction is that behaviours affect the brain indirectly while substances physically change neurotransmitters. As part of our ability to survive, we naturally experience pleasure from sex and eating. Drugs such as heroin provide a shortcut to the brain's reward system by flooding it with dopamine, which is what makes them extremely addictive.

Addiction is a disease that is present in the brain's reward system before an individual ever begins using drugs or repeatedly engaging in an addictive behaviour. Just as most people can drink alcohol without becoming addicted, most of us engage in gambling, sex, and eating without ever developing an addiction to these behaviours. However, these behavioural addictions are more common than the public currently believes.

Common process addictions: Some of the most common behavioural addictions are socially acceptable, and can even include necessary behaviours such as sex and eating. This contributes to a lack of awareness that a problem is developing while negative consequences keep piling up. The following is a list of the most common process addictions recognised at this time: 

GAMBLING: Gambling addiction is the most researched and talked about of process addictions. Consequences faced by compulsive gamblers are severe, such as financial and relationship difficulties which can frequently lead to death by suicide. Rates of suicide by compulsive gamblers is higher than that of alcohol or drug addicts.

SEX: Sex addiction has also recently received the attention of researchers and practitioners. Sex addiction occurs when people become preoccupied with sex and act on sexual compulsions without concern for the negative consequences.

EATING: Food addiction is a process addiction in which someone becomes addicted to the act of eating and the feelings they get from eating certain foods. A food addiction is emotionally, physically, and socially detrimental as it can cause extreme guilt, health problems, and interfere with relationships.

INTERNET: Internet addiction has become a serious concern worldwide. While most of us use the internet daily, there is a certain point in which the process is considered addiction. When internet use is more important that real life relationships or activities, or causes problems in a person's ability to function in daily life, they are likely suffering from internet addiction.

SHOPPING: While the term shopping addiction is thrown around lightly, compulsive spending is a form of process addiction that is serious and results in similar feelings of guilt and shame, loss of control, and financial, social, and emotional consequences as other addictions.

These are only some of the most common and researched process addictions, but a process addiction can occur when someone loses control over any process to the point where it causes problems in daily life. Process addictions lack the physical attributes that often alert people to problems with drug and alcohol abuse, such as visible intoxication, which makes them fly under the radar more easily. However, despite their relative invisibility, process addictions can lead to serious problems in a person's life and well-being.
Symptoms of process addictions
Process addictions share many of the same symptoms as drug addiction:
Cravings and inability to resist impulse
Narrowed interest
Irritability when access to process is limited (withdrawal)
Decreased pleasure in activity over time (tolerance)
Feelings of guilt
Hiding behaviour
Family, work, financial problems due to indulgence in the process

Addiction is highlighted by a person's loss of control; a loss of control that usually cannot be reversed by willpower alone and is not a moral failing. This loss of control is coupled with cravings, and continued use or behaviour despite negative consequences. Treatment is often necessary to completely recover from any addiction.

Process addiction treatment : Treatment of process addictions is similar to that of other addictions, but can also pose unique challenges. One of the greatest challenges when dealing with certain process addictions is that life-long abstinence is sometimes unrealistic or impossible. In these cases, such as with sex or food addictions, treatment must be tailored to address specific foods and situations that trigger compulsive behaviour and avoid them.

At Shafa Home, we utilise a unique addiction treatment method called Recovery Zones, which is effective in treating all addictions, but is a particularly useful model for treating process addictions where complete abstinence is not possible.

Because process addictions often coexist with other addictions, treatment must be holistic and aimed at a broad improvement in lifestyle rather than only addressing the specific behaviour. This helps prevent relapse and cross addiction, or addiction replacement from occurring. If you are struggling with a process addiction, be sure to get in touch with an addiction treatment centre that is right for you, so you can get the help you deserve.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015


The first 90 days in addiction recovery can often be the most difficult. Avoid relapsing during this time with these tips.
The first 90 days of addiction recovery is a critical and challenging period. A vulnerable, newly recovering addict is tasked with rebuilding life from the ground up — including facing previously ignored responsibilities, emotions, and fears. It is during these first three months that people are most susceptible to relapse, and therefore need the most support.

The early days of addiction recovery are overwhelming to say the least, especially after leaving the structured and supportive environment of drug or alcohol rehab. Some people fall into the false belief that simply removing drugs or alcohol from their environment is the key to sustaining their recent sobriety. While creating an environment free of temptations is important and helpful, it is only one piece of the overall picture. Drug and alcohol abuse are symptoms of a more complex problem, and without ongoing support and treatment that addresses the underlying causes of addiction one will eventually return to coping by using their drug of choice.
There are several strategies that those new to addiction recovery can use to cope and succeed from the start. Only you can determine what will work best for you, but these tips have helped many people get through early recovery and beyond.
Tips for Coping in Early Addiction Recovery
Create a structured schedule:  In drug rehab, each day is structured with specific meal times, counseling sessions, and even planned leisure time and activities. Keep this up in early recovery. When your days lack structure it is easy to fall back into old routines and habitual thinking patterns — which are not conducive to staying sober. But creating structure on your own, outside of addiction treatment, can be daunting.
First of all, keep it simple. ‘Structured' does not necessarily mean busy, but it does mean planned. Creating unrealistic to-do lists will only lead to repeated failure, stress, and negative feelings. Instead, choose a maximum of three important things that you want to accomplish in a day and focus on structuring your day around these activities, and create a routine.
Approaching each day spontaneously may sound enticing, but in early recovery you are still practising your recovery skills and having a daily routine will help you stay focused. Try to wake up at the same time every day and complete a simple morning routine. If you are working, follow the same routine each day before and after work — this will help regulate your schedule and environment.
Attend meetings and build a support network : One of the most important things you can do in the first 90 days of addiction recovery is attend meetings and work on building a positive support network. If you think recovery meetings are not important, think again. Maybe you have heard of the unofficial rule “90 in 90,” meaning attending 90 meetings in 90 days at the beginning of recovery. There is a reason this motto exists — the first 90 days of recovery are some of the most difficult any recovering addict will encounter. And thus, support is key to maintaining recovery.

Whether or not you attend 90 meetings in 90 days, attending recovery meetings as often as possible is crucial. It may take time to personally connect with other people in recovery and you may need to attend several different meetings before you find one that you feel most comfortable in, but do not give up! Also call on family and friends who are supportive of your recovery (not old drinking or drugging friends), and ask for help — because recovery cannot be accomplished alone.
Practise self-care: During active addiction, self-care takes the back seat — along with everything else. This includes caring for our basic health and hygiene, as well as caring for our emotional and spiritual needs without abusing substances.
In early addiction recovery, reclaim taking care of yourself as a number one priority. A good place to start is developing healthy eating and sleeping habits. Becoming tired or hungry are both relapse triggers. Relapse prevention can start with getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night and eating three meals a day. Plan meals ahead and keep your refrigerator stocked with easy and healthy snack and meal options.

In addition to good sleep and eating habits, take care of your body through participating in regular exercise and seeing a dentist and doctor to help repair any chronic problems that addiction has caused. Use meditation, hot baths, or other relaxation techniques that work for you to deal with stress. Talk with counsellors and friends and get help dealing with the troubling emotions that accompany addiction and recovery. Actively put your needs and recovery first.
Set goals: While taking it one day at a time is a useful approach in early addiction recovery, it is also important to set short and long-term goals. Having goals creates an undercurrent of hope. Of course, staying sober for 30, then 60, then 90 days are worthwhile goals, but think outside of sobriety itself and set some goals for 1, 5, and 10 years down the line.

First brainstorm and write down any personal goals that come to mind no matter how vague. As time goes by you can transform these ideas into more realistic and measurable goals. For example, at first you may think you want to eliminate debt. As you gain confidence in your money management skills you will see realistically how much you can decrease your debt in one year and can make a more specific goal.

Alternatively, set a goal for something you have always wanted to do but could not when you were in active addiction. Save enough money to take a holiday or road trip you have always wanted to take on your 1 year recovery birthday. This will keep you motivated to save money and stay sober.
Practise gratitude : Each day in addiction recovery deserves your gratitude. Start a daily practice of giving thanks for your successes, challenges, and support. No matter how stressful a day there is something to be grateful for. You can do this by creating a gratitude journal, or even setting a daily reminder on your phone — “What are you grateful for today?” 
Research suggests that people who practise gratitude daily are happier, experience more positive emotions, have lower blood pressure, and feel less lonely — all great things for successful addiction recovery.
Using these strategies to help you cope in the first 90 days of addiction recovery will create a solid foundation for long-term recovery. If you are struggling or have relapsed in early recovery you are not a failure! Seek help from an addiction specialist to get you back on track toward a life in recovery worth living.

(These articles are the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”, they are its original authors.)