Monthly Archives: December 2015

Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

Most would agree that people with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using and need treatment to stop. Author, Jeffrey A. Schaler would disagree. In his book “Addiction Is a Choice” he states that ‘addicts’ are in control of their behavior. Further he believes that most people will mature out of addiction without treatment. Rather than a Disease Model, he proposes a Free-Will Model of addiction. Listen to a group of people, who were formerly dependent upon opiates, as they give their opinions on whether addiction is a disease or a choice. Where do you fall on this spectrum?

Discussion Guide:

Was it your choice to abuse drugs, or were you compelled to abuse substances because you have a disease?

Is addiction a disease? If so, in what way?

Is addiction primarily an environmental problem, a psychological condition or a biological condition?

When does recreational drug use turn into an addiction?

Are you able to use substances in moderation?

Can you stop a dependency on substances by your own will-power?

Is treatment necessary?

Supplemental Reading:

Addiction is a Choice, Jeffrey A. Schaler, Open Court Publishing Company, 2000

Addiction is a Disease, John H. Halpern

Keys to Success

Typically, people with substance dependence pay a heavy financial cost, in terms of the money spent on the substance, possible legal fees, and lost wages and job opportunities. They may have lost important years of development and find that they need to start over where they left off. Where do they start? What are the keys to success?

Discussion Guide:

Has your drug dependence caused financial hardship?

Has it interrupted your education or your stalled your career advancement?

What are your life goals?

Do you practice habits that will lead toward the development of your goals? What are they?


Supplemental Reading:

Why Broke People Stay Broke, Patrice Washington,

10 Most Important Things to Prioritize If You Want to be Successful, Lolly Daskal

How Did This Happen?

No one ever sets out to be dependent on a substance. Many people use recreational drugs and never experience addiction. But some do. How did it happen?

Discussion Guidelines:

1. Actions: Briefly describe your addiction. Which drugs? Progression of dependence?

2. Intents: What did you intend to happen?

3. Beliefs: What beliefs did you have to make it OK to abuse substances?

4. Feelings: What feelings were you having?

5. Minimization and denial: In what ways did you minimize or deny your problem?

6. Effects: What was the impact of your drug use – On you? On others?

7. How did your environment contribute to this situation?

8. What could you have done differently?

Holiday Blues? Try these tips to increase your happiness.

Holiday time is not always happy. People who have abused substances often suffer life consequences. Perhaps they experience unemployment or financial stress, legal problems and strained family relationships. These conditions make it difficult to feel joyful during the holidays. Author, Alexandra Duron, wrote “23 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier.” Listen into a group of recovering substance abusers as they discuss ways to increase their happiness.

Discussion Guide:

Are the holidays a joyful season for you?

Happiness has three parts: feeling good, living a good life, and feeling part of a larger purpose.

Do you feel good?

Are you living a good life?

Do you feel part of a larger purpose?

What activities do you engage in that increases your happiness level?

What practice are you willing to develop in an attempt to increase your happiness?

Supplemental Reading:

23 Science-Backed Ways to Feel Happier, Alexandra Duron

How to Get a Friend Help

Dan Gordon wrote an article “How To Help An Addicted Friend or Family Member Get Help.” He makes the point that substance abuse causes changes in the brain. These changes can include poor impulse control and lack of insight. These conditions make it less likely that someone who abuses substances will have clarity about their own growing problem. Gordon calls this a disease of denial. If the substance abuser is in denial, it is helpful for their family members and friends to intervene.  So, how do you approach the substance abuser? Listen in to a group of people who have been on the receiving end of other’s advice, and hear how they would help substance abusers get help.

Discussion Guide:

Was it your idea to enter treatment, or did someone recommend it?

Is this an addiction of denial? In what way?

Did others see your problem before you did?

What did they see?

How was it presented to you?

Were you open to hearing it?

How would you approach a friend who you believe has a drug problem?

Supplemental Reading:

Expert Advice: How to Help an Addicted Friend or Family Member Get Help by Dan Gordon

What Do I Replace My Favorite Activity With?

Giving up your favorite pastime can feel like a loss. When you stop excessive drug use, you are choosing to give up what has been a source of great pleasure. Illicit drug use releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical  in the brain, at a greater rate than life’s normal pleasures. Routine pleasures can feel flat in comparison, making you prone to depression and a relapse.  A  key to sustained recovery is replacing the drug with an active and satisfying life. Author, Rick Nauert, advises that you do one pleasurable activity each day, then reward yourself for having done it. Listen in to group of opiate dependent people talk about pleasurable activity.

Discussion Guide:

Name some activities that you enjoyed before you became dependent on a substance.

Have you experienced a period of feeling down or sad after starting recovery?

Have these feelings put you at risk of a relapse?

What activities would you like to resume that you enjoyed in the past?

What new activities would you like to try?

What rewards can you use to reinforce new activities?

Supplemental Reading:

Treating Addiction Recovery as Reward, Not Deprivation by Rick Nauert, PhD