In a book called “The Brain That Changes Itself”, Norman Doidge reveals the extent to which the human brain can adapt itself to traumatic events in such a way that anxiety and stress is minimized.
The essence of this capacity lies in neuro-plasticity – in other words the ability of parts of the brain to re-model themselves so as best to deal with the conditions of life. Survival is all about protecting individual integrity at both a mental and physical level.
If all adaptations of the brain are seen in terms of being a healthy natural response to conditions of life, then it should be reasonably apparent that when a person appears to be structuring and posturing themselves in an abnormal way, then it is their surrounding conditions which need to be examined, and perhaps brought into order, so as to enable the person to develop in a more normal and productive way.
To give an addict help means that you need to think outside the square of their limited ways of thinking.
If a person is “choosing” to shoot up heroin or drink alcohol to excess, such that their relationship with life is drastically reduced, you really have to try and understand what their experience of life has been that would make them want to act in that way.
In the book, an example is given of a person with cystic fibrosis who developed strong masochistic exhibitionist tendencies in an attempt to gain power and mastery over his pain, suffering and sense of futility in life. Denied a normal life, he sought masochistic pleasure.
In general, the more compulsive, destructive and inherently self defeating the acting out behavior is, the greater the emotional pain, and the less in touch with other peoples sense of what is “normal” the behavior will be. However, for the person involved, the brain has created for itself a means of emotional survival.
It is a fine line between pleasure and pain and the brain will always, no matter what the cost in real terms, adapt itself towards pleasure. Reward is obtained in a perverse or peculiar way because that person sees no other alternative.
When a person chooses drug addiction as a means of resolving their pain, addict help is needed to help them as far as possible to reach a solution to their problems that is not self-defeating.
Sometimes, a person may benefit from addict help which points out to them errors in their way of thinking.
When people are depressed or anxious, as they often are with drug use, thinking can become distorted. People think that they will never be happy again, that things will never go right, that they are a worthless person – everyone else in the world seems to be doing all right. Challenging the addict who is not too immersed in his misery can be very helpful to turn around depression and get a person thinking positively.
Sometimes we simply have to sit with a person whose experience of life has truly been traumatic. Unconditional acceptance, support and validation is useful and provides a basis for people to re-consider their alternatives and change their way of thinking.
Even if a person is a chronic drug user, addict help can support change. A person can change their ways of thinking back to being healthier, given enough support.
Using holistic detox and counseling methods can bring an addict back to more rational ways of thinking – and the start of a new life.