In order to effectively transform the person afflicted with the disease of addiction, we must understand the disease itself.  The word “addiction” is derived from a Latin term for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Anyone who has struggled to overcome an addiction –or has tried to help someone else to do so–understands why.

The most accepted definition of addiction is someone who cannot control his or her urge to participate in the activities they are addicted to. In other words, it is out of their control. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) base a medical definition of addiction on a set of criteria.

“An addiction is any behavior that meets at least three of the seven criteria during the same 12-month period.

1. Tolerance. Has your use of drugs or alcohol increased over time?

2. Withdrawal. When you stop using, do you experience at least one of the following symptoms: irritability, anxiety, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting?

3. Difficulty controlling your use. Do you sometimes use more or for a longer time than you’d like? Do you drink to get drunk?

4. Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?

5. Significant time or emotional energy spent. Do you spend a significant amount of time or thought obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use?

6. Put off or neglected activities. Have you given up or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?

7. Desire to cut down. Have you repeatedly thought about cutting down or controlling your use, or have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?” (Addictions and, 2008)

Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse results.

While traditional acute addiction treatment aims to treat the first way –by reducing the person’s cravings for the object of addiction, it fails to adequately address the latter two.

Our approach at Spark of Hope is to tackle all three powerful forces with equal diligence.  While the client is undergoing acute treatment to curb his or her craving for the addicted substance, our skilled team of clinicians and interventionists work concurrently to cope with the client’s loss of control and recurring patterns of behavior by rigorous transformations of the client’s thought process, self-worth & self-esteem, circle of influence, triggering mechanisms and other changes necessary to deal with the chronic relapsing nature of the disease of addiction.

Addiction is best understood as a chronic relapsing disorder.  For those affected by the disorder, it is not enough to “just say no”.  Instead, one can protect and heal by saying “yes” to positive transformations.  These transformations are designed to cultivate diverse interests that provide meaning to one’s life, and more importantly, to divert attention away from the negative influences of addiction, and to keep the client’s mind, body and spirit occupied in healthy pursuits.

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