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Addiction, Self-Awareness, and Recovery

By: Carol Morriscey

What is Self-Awareness?

Self-awareness, to be aware of your emotions and behaviours, plays a role in addiction, and can aid in addiction treatment and your journey through drug rehab. To be self-aware is to be aware of your feelings, motivations, behaviours, thoughts and sensations. For example, it may be understanding your motivations for drug use, instead of remaining in denial about your addiction. Self-awareness may also include an awareness of the triggers which lead to your drug use, such as certain emotions, situations, or people. This awareness allows you to take control of these behaviours, emotions, and situations, empowering you to make changes in your life. Further, self-awareness is seen as a mechanism of self-control, an important tool in addiction treatment.

What Happens to Self-Awareness During Drug Addiction

Addiction changes how we see ourselves, and in turn takes away a degree of our self-awareness. We are no longer able to accurately observe and assess our emotions, motivations, and behaviours. For example, many individuals who struggle with addiction deny that they have a problem with substance abuse. Denial is a huge factor contributing to a lack of self-awareness, and promotes the continued use of drugs and alcohol, preventing a meaningful recovery.

How Self-Awareness Helps in Drug Addiction Treatment and Rehab

Just as a lack of self-awareness can perpetuate an addiction, building ones self-awareness may aid in addiction treatment, while attending drug rehab. Self-awareness helps you to understand the root causes of your addiction, as well as your triggers. As you become more aware of these, you are better able to control your surroundings, and as a result gain control over your addiction.

Building Self-Awareness to Aid in Addiction Treatment

Self-awareness can be bolstered and developed, in order to support your addiction treatment and promote a full recovery. An important step in improving self-awareness is noticing your habits and patterns. In this case, specifically those patterns which lead to your drug use. Becoming more aware of these patterns empowers you to change them, and stop the drug use before it begins. The “Pause and Plan” response is often used as a tool to become more aware of ones patterns, and address them when necessary. The “Pause and Plan” response consists of pausing before acting, critically assessing the situation, and carefully planning your response. The hope when using this strategy is that unconscious thought patterns which have previously led to drug use will be critically assessed and overturned in favor of more desirable outcomes. This helps you become aware of the situation and react appropriately, allowing your actions to be in line with your values and objectives.

Another step in gaining self-awareness is becoming aware of your negative thought patterns. This can be achieved through monitoring your “self-talk” and asking yourself questions such as “What is my inner dialogue?”, “Is it truthful?”, “Is it affecting how I act or feel in certain situations?”, and “How can I change this?”. Through this process you will be able to address any false assumptions or beliefs you may hold. For example, drug use may occur because you are lonely, and believe using drugs with fellow drug users is the only way to make new friends. This, of course, is not true and by monitoring and critically assessing your self-talk you will be able to address this false belief.

Finally, an understanding of your motivations and beliefs should be sought. This understanding can be developed through journaling, and other forms of self-reflection. Writing about events that happen in your life allows you to see the experience in a more objective manner, giving a greater understanding of not only the situation, but also yourself.

Self-awareness and drug addiction are closely intertwined. While addiction can strip away our self-awareness, building it allows us to achieve a lasting recovery. At Searidge Foundation, we incorporate many alternative treatments into our drug rehab programs, allowing our patients to develop their self-awareness alongside their addiction treatment. This combination of alternative and traditional treatments allows a holistic recovery, and a sober life.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals