Written by Jane Pendry
Accepting you have an addiction problem is the first step towards resolving it.
If you are reading this for yourself, you are facing up to the problem of addiction. You are on your way to recovery and a new and better life.
Overcoming addiction can be very challenging. Keeping the secret from your family, fearing you might lose your job, and the strain of living in denial all create stress and take their toll. You may need a network of support to help you through.
If you suspect you have an addiction problem, your GP may be a good starting point. Your doctor can advise you and refer you to local addiction services which will support you on your journey to sobriety.
You may also choose to contact a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist through www.AfSFH.com, or another accredited hypnotherapist for complementary support and therapy (If you live in Oxford, do get in touch with me directly to find out more).
There are mixed emotions linked to addiction - shame, despair, anger, frustration, and deep sadness. A qualified and accredited Solution Focused Hypnotherapist will never judge you. They are there to support you, to believe in you and your recovery, and to acknowledge your bravery in asking for support.
The main difference with Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, compared to other forms of hypnotherapy, is that Solution Focused questioning enables you can create a powerful vision of a better future that pulls you forward towards your goal. This is considerably more motivating than the negative motivation of moving away from something harmful and will really help you maintain your resolve by creating a rich and vivid vision of a richer, more vibrant future.
Smoking and Vaping
Smoking and vaping are fairly easy addictions to break. The key is to make sure you are not under extreme stress when you aim to give up – going through a divorce, moving house, or going through the break up of a relationship. In that circumstance, I would work on reducing your stress and anxiety levels before undertaking the two-hour Stop Smoking Session. For most people, however, the one session is sufficient. It works, in essence, by convincing your subconscious that you are a non smoker.
My client Alan (not his real name) reported not only giving up compulsive vaping after one session, but alcohol with absolute ease. They were clearly associated in his mind so breaking one compulsion impacted the other bad habit. A few months later, Alan was still free of nicotine and just had the occasional drink. He was enjoying a new level of fitness and improved family relationships.
In the Grip of Addiction
If you have a more serious addiction problem, however, such as alcohol, prescribed opiates, or gambling, you may consider joining an appropriate support groups, such as Alcholics or Gamblers Anonymous. There is a list at the end of the blog.
Some addictions lead to serious health issues, debt and marriage break-ups so if your addiction is seriously impacting you now, do seek professional medical support or contact one the relevant addiction agencies.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can ease your passage through to sobriety, strengthen your resolve, reduce cravings, and help you combat the seductive messages of your addiction. The chemistry of your brain will have changed throughout your addiction, and so we need to help you rewire the brain and that can take time. It’s important that you see Solution Focused Hypnotherapy as a support mechanism and not an instant resolution by some trick or magic.
Some addictions have less of a powerful effect on the mind so it’s important we have a full and frank discussion in the initial consultation to determine that you have a genuine desire to give up your addiction, that you have decided to give up yourself (and are not being coerced or pushed to do so by a third party), and that you are happy with the level of support you have.
In our initial consultation we can discuss the nature of your issue, and decide together the level of support you need and whether this is an issue that can be stopped overnight, whether Solution Focused hypnotherapy alone over several sessions, or whether hypnotherapy is just one intervention among others.
How do you know you have a problem?
When an obsessive habit or behaviour is impacting on daily life, you may be addicted.
There’s an episode of Doc Martin, where Martin says to his receptionist, Pauline, “Are you in control of your gambling, or is your betting in control of you?” Often the first sign you have a problem is when others point it out to you. Even though you may initially resist it or deny there’s a problem.
Many of us experience obsessive, uncontrollable and sometimes harmful attachment to substances or activities. You may be addicted to nicotine, drugs, alcohol, food; or gambling, the internet, sex, work, and even computer games.
According to the NHS about two million people in the UK struggle with addiction.
When we think of an addict, we may picture a heroin addict living rough on the streets; and that requires a very special kind of intervention. But addiction is all around us and very common. You or someone close to you may be drinking half a bottle of wine or more a night, smoking twenty a day, or compulsively buying scratch cards.
Someone may appear to be functioning well, while their negative and compulsive behaviours are simultaneously dramatically and negatively impacting their lives and the lives of those close to them.
What’s the impact of addiction?
If you are concerned you might have an addiction problem, but you aren’t sure, stand in the shoes of your closest family member and ask, “Are they concerned about me? Is my behaviour affecting them?” If the answer is yes to either or both questions, then you have your answer.
In Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, I begin all sessions with an explanation of how the mind works, and, in this instance, how addiction is created and embedded. We then work from your Best Hopes for overcoming your addiction. Solution Focused Hypnotherapists ask open questions to help you imagine how your relationships might change, how your work-life could improve, and how good you would feel when you are back in control. This vivid picture acts as an anchor to keep you focused on the ‘prize’, which in turn helps you deal with withdrawal symptoms.
Through hypnosis, we can help you create new more positive patterns of behaviour, reduce general stress, counter withdrawals, and keep you feeling positive and motivated.
The ultimate motivator is believing that you have a better future without your addiction, and I can help you strengthen the visualisation of your goals, aspirations, and hopes.
We ask questions like, “What parts of your life are working well? What can you build on? Who is supporting you? How will giving up your addiction improve your family life, work life, and health? What or who is standing in your way? How can you manage any obstacles?”
Hypnosis also helps to keep the flow of serotonin steady, which will help you fight any cravings as you move forward. Each session helps to strengthen your resolve or helps you overcome set-backs.
Don’t give up on giving up
It is natural to have mixed feelings about giving up your addiction. The addiction may have served a purpose for you once - got through a difficult time, numbed pain, or drowned sorrows - but now it’s a problem. The reality is a hard reality to face.
Wanting to give up your addiction
It is very important to really want to give up your addiction; and to believe you can do it. It’s important your therapist is right beside you, believing you can overcome it too. It’s also important you are realistic.
One client, I will call him Frank, came to me with a serious gambling addiction. He wanted an overnight cure and indeed, after one session he did stop gambling instantly and dramatically. However, I explained to him the huge chemical changes that have taken place in his mind and the need to join a support group to counter all those persuasive and equally hypnotic suggestions in adverts and outside betting shops.
Three weeks later Frank started gambling. He then understood the need to commit to a series of sessions, the value of signing up to Gamblers Anonymous and an appreciation of the time it takes to embed new healthy patterns of behaviour in his addicted mind.
Identify the Problem
Addiction is about loss of control. What might begin as a habit, a pattern of behaviour that is frequent but not damaging, can, over time, turn in to a powerful compulsion. Habits can be positive or negative. But any habit or behaviour that is impulsive and compulsive is likely to be a significant problem.
What is the pattern or behaviour you think you have a problem with? We will call this The Problem.
Here’s the Sense-Ability Addiction Checklist – answer yes or no
- Do you feel in control of the Problem? Have you stopped the Problem before?
- Does the Problem override your feelings and emotions?
- Does the Problem distract you from day-to-day responsibilities?
- Have you abandoned other activities you used to enjoy because of the Problem?
- Does the Problem feel like a compulsion that you can’t stop?
- Do other people get upset about the Problem?
- Have you let down people you love because of the Problem?
- Do you have financial difficulties as a result of the Problem?
- Has a relationship broken up because of the Problem?
- Does the Problem currently impact on intimate relationships, friendships, or family relationships?
- Are you having nightmares or sleep issues because of the Problem?
- Has the Problem escalated over time?
- Was the Problem once an enjoyable activity you felt in control of, but now overwhelms you?
- Do you hate the Problem and want to be rid of it?
- Does the problem impact on your mood and sense of self worth?
- Does the problem impact on your physical or mental health and well-being
- Is the Problem underpinned by stress and anxiety?
- Is the Problem causing the stress and anxiety?
- Is the Problem related to chemicals or alcohol.
- Is the Problem related to behaviour such as compulsive working, gambling, or exercise?
If you scored 5 or more, that’s an indicator a problem is brewing. A score of 10 and you need support to break the patterns and get help now. More than 10, and you may need a series of interventions to help you.
Note this isn’t a scientific questionnaire, but just an indicator that helps you determine whether you identify the Problem as something that needs to be addressed.
The stages of addiction
- Trying something new, which has the potential to be addictive. Many people drink, smoke occasionally, or are occasional drug users, or they love exercise, or work or sex, but they never become addicted. But addiction always starts with an activity linked to pleasure.
- Experimentation. There is curiosity to try a substance or behaviour that could lead to addiction.
- Regular use. The original experience was pleasurable and either helped to dull pain and anxiety, or created an unusual high, and there is an impulse to try it again. At this stage, overall quality of life and wellbeing is not affected.
- Increased use. The temporary form of relief or pleasure is often repeated. At this stage, there may be warning signs, risky behaviour, impact on work (being late for example) and relationships (unreliability, impact on finances) but it is still possible to stop the behaviour for periods. This is a good time to seek an intervention like Solution Focused Hypnotherapy to stop the issue developing in to the Problem.
- Dependence. The behaviour or habit becomes a need. Users can no longer function normally or happily without taking the particular substance or carrying out the activity. Withdrawal symptoms are strong, mental health begins to be impacted, other people are affected and, despite the negative consequences, the user cannot give up. You have the Problem, and you may need a series of interventions and a network of support.
Factors that can impact on Addictions
Certain behavioural traits, influenced by genetic or environmental factors, can increase the likelihood of becoming addicted to activities or substances. These include:
- Trauma. A history of traumatic experiences, attachment disorders, or neglect can increase the risk of addictive behaviour.
- Genetics. Some genetic traits could delay the impact on how an addiction develops, and how much support you might need to overcome your addiction.
- Mental health. There is evidence that people who are anxious and nervous are more vulnerable to addiction. Individuals struggling with stress, or dealing with narcissistic abuse may lean towards addictive behaviour patterns or substances to cope.
- Chemical Factors. Some addictions create a chemical dependency which is rather more difficult to resolve. Nicotine is mildly addictive, but is relatively easy to give up.
The Chemistry of Addiction
With the advent of MRI scans, neuroscientists have observed the impact of addictive substances and activities on the pleasure centres of the brain.
An addictive behaviour triggers the creation of dopamine, an neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, or a mental high. The brain remembers the experience and wants to repeat it. You can imagine how those people who use substances or habits such as gambling to escape uncomfortable feelings like anxiety or depression, may be particularly susceptible to seeking pleasure and escape.
Take gambling for example, which is an addiction that is not substance related. This BBC Video, Inside the Brain of a Gambling Addict, illustrates just how powerful an addiction can be, and why not being able to give up alone is not a sign of weakness. Habit centres and parts of the brain are switched on by gambling, and once you are addicted, you need support to give up and to stay gambling free.
The problem with seeking a pleasure high is that taking a substance regularly, or undertaking a habit frequently, can create a high level of tolerance. Even eating chocolate creates a dopamine high at first, but frequently eating chocolate dampens the high over time. So some people want to eat more-and-more to experience the original high, which eludes them. As tolerance to a substance such as alcohol or drugs increases, withdrawal symptoms become severe which in turn increases the likelihood of addiction.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy - Complementary SUPPORT
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy doesn’t involve analysis nor does it seek to find the underlying cause of the addiction. Instead, we focus on how you want to feel, what you want to overcome, and what wonderful things you will be doing once you have faced your addiction and overcome it. This creative process uses a different part of your brain to help you focus on creating your Preferred Future, and then helps you keep that future picture firmly in the front and centre of your mind.
Some addictions are not hard to break. Smoking is a case in point. Smoking is just an unwanted habit and usually one two hour session can stop you smoking for good.
Other addictions are deeply psychological, or involve a chemical dependency and they are harder to resolve.
The key is to understand and believe that addiction is something you can control and overcome.
Help and support for Addictions in Oxfordshire and the UK
If your addiction is serious and you need help straight away here are some more sources of help and support:
Oxfordshire City Council Alcohol and Drugs
Addiction Services near Oxford
For families impacted by addiction
NHS Young People’s Gambling Addiction Support
Supportline: Listing many sites for addiction issues
Healthline: Exercise Addiction support.
Other sources of help and support
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a complementary healthcare. I do not diagnose nor claim to cure. I never claim to perform miracles, although some of my clients do.
There are many factors involved in managing and overcoming addiction and we recommend in the case of serious addictions that you contact your doctor or a dedicated support group.
However, Solution Focused Hypnotherapists can support you, and reduce your anxiety and withdrawal symptoms by helping you change your thinking about your unwanted habit.
You may respond very quickly to hypnotherapy and find you can overcome your addiction quickly, or you may need to commit to a series of sessions to support you, alongside other interventions, as you work to change your behaviours, habits, and the chemical responses in your mind
Any Solution Focused Hypnotherapist can help. Contact me if you live near Oxford and would like to chat through the options, or to find out how I can help you.
Sense-Ability Hypnotherapy & Coaching
07843 813 883