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Resisting the Urge to Self-Medicate

April 17, 2020

When you are in pain, the natural response is to find relief from that pain. Some people self-medicate with exercise or other physical activities. Others try to self-medicate with food. The endorphins from exercise are a natural high. Eating food beyond what we need can also release chemicals that are like a reward in our brains. Both of these offer a little pleasure in the midst of our pain, which can distract. But even too much exercise can be harmful to our bodies, and we know that too much food can cause obesity and a host of other physical problems.
These problems pale, however, in comparison to the problems that other self-medication can create in your life. The most common way people self-medicate is with alcohol or recreational drugs. Because of the risks of health, addiction, and even death, self-medicating with substances is truly dangerous. That is why it is so important to resist the urge to self-medicate. 

Face the Pain

One of the biggest reasons that people go straight to self-medication is due to the fact that they have no idea what to do with their pain. They just know it hurts. But in treatment, you learned how to face the pain. You know that by acknowledging it and healing from it, that is the only way that you will actually be free of it.

Be Mindful

Facing your pain often means facing your past. You worked so hard in treatment, but you will undoubtedly find more pain in the future. You may not even realize that you are hurting, let alone why. But now you know what to look for and how to face it.
You can be mindful of situations that cause you pain, and be on the lookout for them. You can be mindful of the effect they have on you, and your body’s natural response to the pain. Most importantly, you can be mindful of that urge to self-medicate. Especially if you have used substances in the past, you have to be ever watchful for those triggers and be prepared when the cravings hit. And, of course, you should actually be literally mindful.

Accept the Present

Mindfulness is being present and accepting. If you are practicing mindfulness, then you can accept whatever is happening right now in the moment. If you remember what you learned in treatment, you have the tools to relax, be present, and just look at what is there in the moment. When you clear your mind, you can clear the pain, too. As the reasons for the pain surface, you can respond from a place of peace and calm because you are present and accepting instead of reactionary.

Respond, Don’t React

Other tools that you learned in treatment will help you to resist self-medication, including stress management. When there is a painful situation, you can remember to allow your body to put it into the correct perspective, which helps reduce the stress on your mind and body. As you advocate for yourself, you can respond to the situation speaking from you, rather than reacting from your emotions. 
Emotional regulation is another set of skills that you learned in treatment. Remember that there are no right or wrong emotional responses, just emotions. Sometimes, just letting go is the answer. Other times, you can look at your emotional vulnerability and how you can create more of a balance between joy and negative emotions. All of these skills, when practiced regularly, will help to diminish the pain and give you more control over your response to painful situations. 

Resist the Urges

If you have self-medicated before with substances, then you will likely have cravings or more intense urges to use substances again. Triggers can be more than just painful experiences, they can come from anywhere in your life. Whether it be places, people, things, music, thoughts… you will need to work extra hard to resist the urges.
Again, however, the tools you gained in treatment will help so much in being able to resist substances when those urges really hit. Staying present is massive because you know that the cravings and urges will pass. All of these coping mechanisms and skills only work if you remember them and practice them on a regular basis.

Live Free

As you practice the skills you learned in treatment, you can literally free your mind. You can tolerate cravings and reduce urges, and you can learn to face and accept your pain, rather than giving in and using substances to self-medicate. There is so much freedom in taking control of your life instead of letting the pain take control of you.
Whether your self-medication was exercise, food, or substances, you have developed the skills to resist self-medication. That natural response your body has given you to tell you about pain can be accepted, and then you have the power to make new choices about how to get rid of the pain. Using the tools that you have gained to face the pain at the source allows you to release the pain without complicating your life further. Take back your power and resist the urge to self-medicate. Your life will thank you.

You can resist the urge to self-medicate. Find the pain at the source and free yourself from the urges. Call Potomac Programs at 1-855-809-0409 if you need a refresher. You have the power to be free. 

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