cover bar Title: Everyday Detox: Taking a Stand Against Addiction
(Even If You're Hanging by a Thread)
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Date: March 2011
Catalog Number: 161

..Multiple Choice

You've woken up feeling

a) the way you're feeling now,
b) the way you felt this morning,
c) the way you felt some other morning, or even
d) all of the above

for the last time.

And while you might not think you're chemically dependent, you are prone to overdoing it. In fact, you've spent a big part of your life already overdoing whatever's been available to be overdone.

And though the substance you overuse is

a) alcohol,
b) marijuana,
c) pills, or
d) caffeine, sugar, and other dietary cheap thrills,

you've thought a lot lately about changing -- scrapping the junk-food, junk-feeling lifestyle you've gotten strung out on, in favor of something simpler -- and more real.

Congratulations! You're exactly where you need to be to create some value out of this pamphlet.

It's about detoxifying from everyday chemicals -- "hard" drugs and "soft," controlled substances and the ones that plop out of machines in cans. Even the one(s) you've been using for a while now.

In the sections that follow, we'll talk about ways to get off what you've been on, and how to keep your spirits up and your defense mechanisms down for as long as it takes for you to become yourself again.

What you do from there is up to you -- the real you. You remember him/her, don't you?

Sure you do.

..Facing Facts

The first step in overcoming dependency is recognizing it for what it is. That's as true for a six-cup-a-day coffee habit as it is for a 12-pack-a-day continual beer buzz or a 60 mg a day Valium addiction.

Your habit isn't any different.

If it creates problems in your life -- in your relationships or job or feelings about yourself -- the substance you've been doing is really doing you.

The point we're making has nothing to do with the pharmacological properties of specific substances.

And it's not meant to imply that dropping Drug A (say, crystal meth) is no different than stopping Drug B (Jolt® Cola) in terms of risk, nor is it intended to minimize the hazards linked to detox from long-term addictions.

[In fact, we strongly urge people with serious dependency issues -- particularly long-term use of alcohol, cocaine, depressants, or narcotics -- to consult a physician or treatment program before starting any detox regimen.]

Still, we think that there's a lot that's potentially useful in looking at substance abuse as a generic problem: generic solutions, for one thing.

Stick around. And see if any of the solutions we uncover are generic enough to cover you.

..Getting Off

Even though recognition is a first step in getting your life back on track, it's worth noting that simply noticing a problem doesn't make it go away.

The next step in resolving chemical dependency is to bring your use under control -- if you still can -- or to quit using altogether.

And while there are ways to contain a dependence on a psychoactive drug, there's only one way that's guaranteed to erase it, and that's to quit.

The specific forms that quitting can take can vary, depending on a user's biological and psychological make-up, the substance(s) involved, and the duration and extent of use.

Example? A high-octane coffee drinker might actually increase his or her prospects for recovery by withdrawing gradually, while a cigarette smoker or crystal freak might find it impossible to quit a little at a time.

An easy way to discover which way works best for you is to just quit.

Whether you're interested in cutting your use down or cutting it out altogether, it helps to discover the full extent of your involvement. And the only real way to do that is to stop doing what you've been doing and see what happens.

Still, whether you go cold turkey or slip into abstinence a little at a time, the ultimate outcome of detox is usually to stay off a substance for good.

And doing that takes a lot more than willpower.

It takes a revolution -- a real revolution of the body and mind and heart and soul. And it's aimed at a single goal: transforming the behaviors and beliefs that became a habit which eventually turned against you.

..Deconditioning the Mind

The main battlefield the revolution plays out on is in the hills and valleys and jungles of the mind.

Your goal here is simple: To become aware of the terrain and begin to reverse the processes that contributed to your dependency.

Emotional traits linked to "serious" drug and alcohol abuse aren't that different from those underlying "ordinary" dependencies, especially the tendency toward compulsiveness and a low tolerance to frustration.

But listing character traits doesn't explain addiction or help much to stop dependency once it's started. That takes commitment and patience -- and intentional change.

Here are some issues you'll probably want to focus your intentional changes on:

Avoid situations that trigger automatic responses, like hitting the bars during happy hour, if you're a problem drinker, or making detours past candy stores, if you're a chocaholic. Don't think of it as a life sentence. Think of it as the period on a life sentence.

Learn new ways to deal with stress. Almost everything from biofeedback to meditation and visualization techniques have been tried as anti-stressors and just about everything works, if you do. Don't know how? Check the public library for books or video- or audiotapes on stress management, then get busy at getting un-busy.

Develop a social support network. Get tight with new people who can reinforce and support the changes you intend to make. Rethink the role of drug-or-drinking buddies, and decide whether they're going to help or hinder your commitment to change. If not, you'll need to make changes there, too.

The technical name for all this is deconditioning -- breaking the stranglehold of conditioned responses learned in the past, in favor of self-generated choices more in line with the person you intend to be.

Revolutionary? Yes. Easy? No.

Because the simple truth is that deconditioning involves a conscious shifting of focus from past to future, from what we were to what we will be, from automaticity to awareness, from habit to choice.

It's not always easy -- or comfortable. In fact, it could be the hardest thing you ever do.

But people who've succeeded -- and created major changes in their lives -- swear that it's worth the effort.

Especially when you consider the alternative.

..Reconditioning the Body

Important as it is, deconditioning the mind is only half the story. Just as important are the changes you may need to make to recover your physical health.

That's because substances can wreak havoc on the body, and total recovery almost always requires havoc de-wreaking. Here are some places to start

Nutrition. Vitamin supplements can play a huge role in the early stages of detox to counteract nutritional deficiencies or metabolic problems linked to an addiction.

Also important, though, are dietary changes aimed at correcting long-term nutritional problems.

Regardless of what you may think (especially if your thinking on the subject is defined by junk- and convenience-food TV ads), what you put into your body has a real impact on how you feel and relate to others.

Programmers coined a word to describe the process in computers: "G.I.G.O." -- garbage in, garbage out.

It's the same with any machine -- and your body is a machine. Stop the flow of junk that you load up with and you'll see a similar halt in the flow of junk out of your life -- in the form of scattered thinking and the roller-coaster emotions that come with the typical high-sugar, high-fat American diet.

A diet better-suited to recovery from almost anything is one that's low in fat, low in sugar, and high in complex carbohydrates. Other recommendations:

  • Drink lots of water and avoid coffee and soda.
  • Lighten up on processed foods and red meats.
  • Eat natural foods, especially fresh vegetables and whole grains.

Still not convinced? Get convinced.

If you heed our earlier advice and head to the library for resources on stress management, check out the nutrition section, too. Two great overviews are Sugar Blues, by William Dufty, and The Hidden Addiction (& How to Get Free), by Janice Phelps, M.D. and Alan Nourse.

Exercise. Physical activity is another key element in detox, since exercise conditions the body at the same time it reduces stress and enhances mood.

Any type or combination of activities will do the trick, but jogging, especially, works wonders at dispelling detox-related anxiety.

In beginning your exercise program, start slowly and build up to a daily schedule that you can live with -- and stay with. Start each session by stretching and end with a "warm-down" walk or more stretching.

If you've never been particularly body-conscious, you may be surprised at how much fun getting physical can be after a period of inactivity.

And if you've been laying off jogging or working out for a time (while wreaking all the aforementioned havoc on yourself), you may be surprised at how far (and how fast) physical exercise goes toward getting you back in the pink -- and back in charge of your life.

..Staying Straight

Once you've beaten your addiction for a while, you may be tempted to prove how far you've come by "handling" what you couldn't handle before.

Don't bother. This is the last obstacle in the path of recovery and the place where thousands of cool, smart, no-longer-recovering people went down before you.

Why stay straight? To develop your commitment to mastery in your life. Chemicals -- coffee or cocaine, ephedrine or ecstasy -- are a mirror-image of that mastery. Because they work fast, they make us think they're the magic in our lives, and the problem is that just isn't true.

What is true is that the last stage of detox and recovery involves making the changes we've discussed part of who you are -- not just some of the time or whenever you feel the bottom's about to drop out of your life, but as a normal part of everyday life.

It doesn't have to be a burden. In fact, it won't be as big a burden as some of the problems you've been through already. And it can give the rest of your life the meaning you sensed was missing all along.

Why not give it a try? After all, you really don't have that much to lose -- only a few

a) problems,
b) dependencies,
c) insecurities, or (more likely)
d) all of the above.

How many reasons do you need?

..Sidebar | Wake-Up Calls

Want to get out of the rut you've been stuck in? Then get into a new rut -- one that you consciously choose, one that will even make the world a better place. It may still be a rut, but you'll like it better than your old one. Just don't forget to ask the desk clerk in your head for an occasional wake-up call, at least until you get over this darned amnesia.

Stuck for ideas? Try some of these:

  • Do what needs doing. Remember that candy wrapper you kicked on the street the other day? Pick it up next time, and throw it in the trash. When you do, you will have made the world a better place by exactly one iota. It sounds small, but it adds up. (Score 10 iotas for a broken beer bottle.)
  • Smile. You've got bills to pay, bumper-to-bumper traffic to contend with at rush hour, and a cold sore, but that's no reason to scare people with your face. If you really want to change, start by smiling at how ridiculous and wonderful and precious life is. It's another small thing, but if you take care of the small things, the big thingsyou know.
  • Volunteer. Feel strongly about the spotted-owl? Legal access to medical marijuana for AIDS patients? Saving the rain forest? Connect with a local group that's trying to do something about it. If your interests are more general, call a local nursing home or shelter-care facility to see who needs you. Somebody does, and helping them will help get your attention off yourself and onto something -- or someone -- who needs it more.

And it's nice to remember, at least once in a while, that life pays us back for the good that we do with interest.

This is one in a series of publications on drugs, behavior, and health by Do It Now Foundation.
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