Substance addiction: the facts, and how to get help

Local community wellness worker offers information on addiction

By Jenny Rudrum

Substance addiction is a brain disorder developed from continued substance abuse over a period of time in which the user cannot stop once they start and, once started, the user loses control over thoughts, feelings and behaviours, consequently affecting themselves and others namely in a negative way in order to get the desired effect.

The condition is treatable if the user is convinced that their substance use is the prime cause of the problems in their life. This “transitional” way of viewing the substance’s role in their life is the first step of treatment.

Following transition, stabilization is the next stage. Medically assisted detox is sometimes required followed by the introduction of a daily routine without the use of substances. Withdrawals during this time can mimic other disorders such as ADHD, Insomnia, Depression and Anxiety. These withdrawal symptoms diminish as clean time increases. If these symptoms do not improve with addiction treatment, the user should be assessed for other disorders and appropriately treated.

The stabilization stage also includes the user educating themselves about the disorder they live with and how it’s treated. Relapse prevention includes understanding and avoiding triggers, understanding addictive behaviours and cravings and the importance of a safe space to recover. Straightening out health concerns, finances and relocating for sobriety may happen during this stage for the user to fully stabilize.

After stabilization, early recovery starts. Working, parenting and establishing a strong recovery routine is required during this stage. Emotional regulation and therapy are known to strengthen sobriety. Middle, late recovery and maintenance comes after. This work includes living life and handling whatever life has in store without using substances no matter what. Making amends and enjoying life are two acts allowing recovery to flourish. Healing from the past with forgiveness for self and others is also something that helps recovery.

A number of people in our community are affected by substance abuse. Here are some tips to consider if you are:

A person who is family or friends with an alcoholic/addict:Do not give them cash

Always have a phone on you

Let your support system know what’s happening if you feel unsafe in your own home

Don’t let them convince you that they will feel better if they get more alcohol/drugs, what they need is detox!

If the user wants to bring up your past issues involving them or wants to make a business deal or anything that may affect you, calmly let them know that dealing with these problems/opportunities needs to be done when sober to avoid any regrets

Stick to the facts: Mind Altering Substances (MAS) are harmful to the brain and change the users thoughts and behaviours to the point where they have lost all control

Do not give into using or drinking with them

Accept that the user will have to stop using in order to improve their life

Accept that only they are responsible for realizing they are addicted and need to surrender and treat the disorder

Accept that your love and support will play a very important role in their recovery

When to call the 911 RCMP: If you are being abused or feel afraid of someone who is intoxicated and they will not leave your home after you ask them to; if the intoxicated person makes threats to hurt you, someone else or themselves; you feel children are at risk of being hurt; you see illegal drug activity.

A person who is in active addiction and wants to quit:

Consider that there is a way out. Substance addiction is a treatable disorder. Millions of people are recovering from addiction. It is not a disability

Open your mind

Educate yourself

Using the substance to deal with/avoid unresolved issues will not do anything but avoid problems/pain and will risk making problems worse

There is a process to recovery. Transition, detox, stabilization, Early, middle and maintenance. Recovery has to be done in this order. *see above understanding addiction

Let your support system know you want to quit and ask for their support

Abusive people in your life will not help your recovery. Leave them or kick them out!

Detox may have to be medically assisted –consult with detox centre before detoxing

A person who sells drugs/alcohol:

Accept that the substances you sell are hurting the people who are addicted to them as well as the people who love them

You are risking your own life and future by selling illegal substances

People under the influence can be violent and may hurt themselves, you and others

Illegal drug trade is dangerous

The people you sell to may die

The people you sell to may share with someone who may die

There may be abuse in the home when they use

The users may have children and are at risk of being hurt

There is a way out. Dealers can get help to quit dealing and live an honest life again while making money

Affirmations for the people who have found recovery:

“You never have to go back to that way of life as long as you don’t take the first drink/drug”

“You can handle anything that comes your way without using!”

“Stay strong”

“Do the next right thing”

“Recovery is based on progress not perfection”

“Every day is an opportunity to grow, learn, be with the ones you love and breathe in the goodness of life”

“Living life to the fullest is a choice away”

“Under any circumstance we shouldn’t feel afraid or trapped. It’s the RCMP’s job to keep the peace and keep us safe”

“There is always a way out. There are shelters and safety for everyone. There is counselling if you are tired of your old ways of thinking”

If you would like to improve your knowledge on substance abuse and addiction the government is offering a free diploma program. Visit the UBC, BC Centre on Substance Abuse Online Addiction Medicine Diploma.

Emergency contacts:

24 Hour Help Line: 1.800.784.2433

Alcohol & Drug Information & Referral Services: 1.800.663.1441

One on One Counselling, Northern Mental Health & Addictions: 250.996.7178

Group Support Meetings:

Narcotics Anonymous: Mondays at 7 p.m. at United Church

Alocohol Anonymous: Thursdays 8 p.m. at United Church

Wellbriety: Monday & Friday 12-1 at Nak’azdli Youth Centre

Jenny Rudrum is the Nak’azdli Community Wellness Worker.

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