How To Avoid Addiction: The Characteristics of Healthy Relationships

Posted by admin on January 31, 2014

It’s almost cliché to say, I really need a drink after a tough day. Did you know that even the smallest amount of alcohol changes our biochemistry in terms of the shape and blood flow of the brain? Stress often leads to inappropriate coping skills such as substance abuse and addiction. Let’s face it; until we learn appropriate ways to cope, we use what we have. It’s sad: I know, but there are strategies to alleviate this. These steps can be used in any situation. I urge everyone to copy this and put it into use. Have a family meeting and adjust your ground rules. These are tools for conflict resolution and peace in the home and workplace. How many of the following attitudes and behaviors are present in your relationships?

∙ Communication is open, assertive (not aggressive) and spontaneous…including active listening.

∙ Rules/boundaries are clear and explicit, yet allow for agreed upon flexibility.

∙ Individuality, personal freedom and identity is encouraged and ultimately enhanced.

∙ The ability to enjoy doing for self as well as for others. Avoiding codependent behaviors.

∙ Play, humor and having fun together is commonplace.

∙ Each does not attempt to “fix” or control the other.

∙ Acceptance of self and other for their real selves.

∙ Humility: the ability to let go of the need to “be right”.

∙ Conflict is faced directly, communicated assertively, not aggressively, until resolved.

∙ A commitment to openness, constructive feedback and trust of the other.

∙ Attempt to balance giving and receiving, negotiating fairly and democratically.

∙ Practice tolerance: forgiveness of self and others. Until we are perfect we should avoid pointing fingers.

∙ A commitment to accept and learn from our mistakes. This is crucial.

∙ Allowing other meaningful relationships and interests to exist.

∙ Personal space and privacy is respected. Personal growth, change and exploration is encouraged.

∙ Avoid blaming and shaming. Take responsibility. It always feels better.

Substance abuse and ultimately addiction, create one of the biggest obstacles to the formation of healthy relationships. The drug of choice will always take priority, with the abuser telling him or herself that the relationship will be attended to after this one last use, this one last time.

The answer to the question, why can’t they just quit, is rhetorical at best. The fact is that we have changed our brain’s chemistry. “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Dr. Daniel Amen demonstrates these changes with SPECT scans showing a three dimensional picture of the damaged brain, with significant holes in the frontal lobe, our decision making part of the brain.

We might as well deny gravity, insisting that with enough will power, we can hover two inches off the ground. That’s how “ logical” the why don’t they just quit comment is.

We would all agree that healthy relationships are tough, but with substance abuse and addiction, they become nearly impossible. Imagine being taught the aforementioned characteristics both in the home and in the elementary and secondary educational system, from day one, with continuous reinforcement. Can you imagine these characteristics becoming second nature?

The family and our children are being shortchanged by our lack of commitment to healthy relationships. We simply cannot continue to cope with alcohol and drugs. Even “moderation” changes the brain as SPECT scans clearly demonstrate. It is sincerely hoped that the aforementioned helps; our loved ones deserve nothing less.

D.J. Diebold is a board certified, state licensed behavioral health therapist specializing in substance abuse and addiction. He can be reached at: or at (480) 650-1020.

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