A large part of recovery from any addiction, whether it be to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sugar, or anything else, involves addressing the various associations that someone has made involving their addiction. Addictions can cause many different associations, some more prevalent than others. While someone who is suffering from an addiction to drugs may associate their use with happiness, the connections that someone may draw can run much deeper. There is a myriad of different ways that someone’s environment, actions, company, or even time of day can influence how they are perceiving things, and this can have some drastic effects for someone suffering from addiction. However, there are also positive ways to harness associations, as well as ways to begin creating new patterns in one’s mind that can help them continue down their own sober path.
Associations Becoming Stressors
Associations can also be described as stressors, depending on how deep the association runs. Certain rooms where someone would typically drink alone or with friends can quickly become associated with drinking as a whole, and someone can feel the urge to drink again whenever they are present in the room. As practices become normalized, as in the previous example, someone can become so conditioned to engage in certain practices in certain places that they may begin to act on these associations without realizing it.
These associations can form around anything. For someone, a certain time of day can become synonymous with using drugs as it was the time that they had to themselves and thus used regularly at that time of day. Watching football can become synonymous with drinking, or certain groups of friends may develop entire relationships revolving around gambling. Without realizing it, it is possible for the body to begin to program these expectations into itself, and someone can then quickly develop an addiction as a result. These associations are also one of the first things that someone has to challenge in recovery, as their presence can cause someone to constantly experience urges, or tempt someone into relapse as their body is expecting them to reengage with these behaviors at a certain place, certain time, or with certain people or activities. These stressors are dangerous, but this doesn’t mean that all associations are bad. Rather, it is just as possible for someone to create positive, healthy associations in the recovery process, and utilize the mind’s ability to be programmed to their advantage in order to establish a new, sober, normal.
Creating Positive Associations
In the same way that someone can condition their minds to expect them to act on an addictive substance, they can also begin to create new associations with therapeutic practices. Making physical adjustments to a room can help someone physically begin to deconstruct their previous associations, such as with drinking, by implementing new decor or engaging in new activities. This can mean turning what was once a lounge into a yoga studio, in an effort to both begin to construct new associations while fundamentally removing the previous connotation.
Other efforts can also help program the body, and one of the most common occurrences that may happen throughout recovery will be urges. However, someone can begin to use these urges, or feelings of anxiety, as a signal itself to engage in a new, therapeutic action, such as taking a walk. Each time that someone denies their urge to use drugs or alcohol and instead, partakes in physical activity, the body will begin to associate the stresses of urges, and anxieties therein, with a commonly helpful therapeutic practice. As much as someone keeps their responses and coping strategies consistent, the faster and more effective someone can begin to create these kinds of positive associations.
Understanding the many different ways that someone can begin to create these associations with an addictive substance or practice can also help someone identify their stressors earlier, while also providing them with a place to start their recovery journey. As each person takes steps through their journey to sobriety, these associations will have to be dealt with, and instead, replaced with new, healthy connotations. While one’s environment or company can be the cause of a lot of ill memories, it can also be the place where someone begins to exercise their agency and change their situation to be more conducive to birthing new, healthy associations. Addressing addiction means challenging all of these preconceived practices and then using them to one’s own advantage as they form their new path for the future.
There are many different ways that someone can create associations in their lives. When it comes to recovery, that means there can be both an innumerable amount of ways that thoughts of using drugs or alcohol may seep into someone’s mind, as well as an innumerable amount of options that someone can choose to change. If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, Lighthouse Recovery can help you take the first step towards realizing these associations and can work alongside you to address them. With a myriad of programs, from sober living to intensive outpatient, there is always a way for you to take the next step. Each program can be customized and catered to your particular needs in recovery, and the caring professionals can work closely with you to establish the coping strategies and life skills that are more pertinent to your unique circumstance.