I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “mind over matter” enough times in our lives for you to grow a little bit of hate for me just from reading the title of this article. I don’t mean to shove the phrase in your face like it probably has been so many times before, but there’s truth to it in most circumstances. Addiction treatment is one of those circumstances.

mind over matterIt’s not uncommon for people to want to leave detox before they’re ready. A treatment program can seem too uncomfortable, too foreign, or too weak against the call of your all too familiar drug of choice. And while there are many other factors that influence the desire to stay or leave, changing your mindset is one of the most effective ways to make sure you make it through this first step into recovery.

A Quick Lesson in Withdrawal

Withdrawal is no joke. It’s incredibly uncomfortable at best and downright deadly at worst. Withdrawal symptoms will occur when your body isn’t getting as much (if any) of the substances it was once dependent on. Detox essentially pushes someone into withdrawal. Detox is meant to rid a person’s body of the toxins that drugs and alcohol allowed. You can think of it as cleaning your body of substances before going into more long-term behavioral treatment. But unlike a cold-turkey withdrawal, a detox facility like New Start’s will try their best to make sure the client is as safe and comfortable as possible.

However, you don’t need to be in a detox program in order to experience withdrawal symptoms. An addict who has developed a physical dependency on drugs or alcohol will start to go through withdrawal if their body hasn’t gotten a sufficient hit yet. Think about how your body needs water. Everyone’s body needs water in order to function properly. If you don’t get enough water in a day, a week, or a month, you’ll start to feel dehydrated and your body will show physical signs of that dehydration. You’ll get headaches, your skin will lose elasticity, your hair will become brittle, your digestive system will suffer, etc. When you become addicted to drugs or alcohol, your body will react in a similar matter if it doesn’t get enough of those substances. You don’t even have to be trying to quit drinking or using. If your supply runs dry or you weren’t able to use for one reason or another, your body could start to go into withdrawal. And that physical discomfort and emotional distress will set in.

The Instant Switch

Some physical withdrawal symptoms cannot be altered by the mind. Delirium tremens of severe alcohol withdrawal, for example, can be deadly and is not something you can cure with a simple twist in mindset. Similarly, the vomiting, diarrhea, and hypertension of opiate withdrawal are also physical symptoms that your mind has little control over. But there is still some value to this whole mind over matter thing.

An addict can be insanely nauseous, vomiting up stomach acid while shivering and sweating at the same time. But as soon as his connect texts him back with that “Meet me” text, he instantly feels better. An alcoholic can be attempting to cut back after finally admitting that he has a problem with alcohol. The lack of alcohol can push him into withdrawal, forcing him into severe stomach pains and nausea while his heart races uncontrollably. But as soon as he decides it’s not worth it and gets in the car to make his usual liquor store run, he’ll feel better. Something switches in the mind almost instantaneously when an addict knows that next hit or drink is coming. Those physical symptoms don’t go away with the switch, but the mind is so overwhelmed by that anticipation that the symptoms might as well have disappeared. Mind over matter.

The same thing can happen in treatment.

People go against medical advice all the time. It’s dangerous and not recommended for a reason, but there’s a reason AMA even exists as an acronym. People do it. Leaving treatment before graduation is always going to be against medical advice (AMA) or against clinical advice (ACA). Detox and residential treatment can both be difficult and uncomfortable. It also could be hard to see the amazing benefits treatment is setting you up for when you’re in that transition period. The benefits of treatment can’t always cancel out the addict’s discomfort and anxiety, especially when paired up against the desire to keep using. The degree of intolerance to treatment doesn’t really matter… as soon as a recovering addict makes that decision to go AMA, leave treatment, and use again, he feels better. Again, mind over matter.

But feeling better isn’t always being better. Addiction isn’t good for you. I’m stating the obvious, I know. But it’s important to make that distinction between what feels good and what is good. Using feels good. That euphoric high and pleasurable numbness feels good. Using again for the first time after experiencing withdrawal symptoms feels good. But none of those things are actually good for you. They only feel good in the moment but will eventually (or even instantaneously) create major problems in a person’s social life, physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing, professional world, home life, etc. etc. etc…

The Positives of Mind Over Matter

So, we’ve pretty much established that mind over matter is very effective in helping an addict justify continuing his addiction to himself. But mind over matter works in positive ways too. It just takes an awareness of your own mental state. The addict who feels better as soon as he makes the decision to use again experiences a more passive mind over matter influence. Reversing that situation to make treatment feel better requires actively pushing mind over matter.

mind over matterIf a recovering addict can assert enough self-control over his mind to realize that recovery feels and is better than addiction, that switch can also be reversed. He’ll feel better in treatment, which will allow him to concentrate more and be more absorbent of the recovery and life tools he receives in treatment. And his overall life will have the chance to become better for it.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” – Buddha

How to Change Your Mindset in Treatment

  • Meditate

    Western medicine gets a lot of hype in our culture. But there’s also something to be said for more holistic health approaches. Meditation is incredibly effective in improving attention state. Attention training and attention state training have both been proven to be associated with higher levels of mind restraint. Mindfulness meditation is an attention state training tool. It increases relaxation and improves mood. People who practice mindfulness meditation have shown to exert more control over their minds in unrelated everyday tasks. As a bonus, meditation also helps to reduce stress, slow aging, and increase immune function.

  • Create Goals

    It’s difficult to focus on much else than your current state when you’re in detox. But if you can manage it, creating goals will keep your mind active and motivated, both of which will contribute to changing your mindset. Short-term goals are best for motivation because they’re typically quicker to accomplish. As you continue to complete those goals and experience accomplishment and success, you’ll be more focused on moving forward and feeling better than turning back towards addiction and toxicity. Long-term goals can also help keep your mind positive but they have a little less of a hold on putting mind over matter than short-term goals.

  • Practice Patience

    I know it’s easier said than done. But patience is an infinitely valuable tool when dealing with mind over matter. In the moment, it’s so much easier to just leave and go get high again. But if you take a second to listen to your program’s doctors or support staff and just think about the situation, you can turn your mind around.

    The same thing goes for long-term recovery. Even if you’ve been out of treatment and in recovery for a while, something can still trigger you and make you consider using again. But by giving yourself another day or even another hour to contemplate it, you’ll allow your mind enough time to take control of the situation and overcome that trigger. Of course, relapse is a very real part of recovery and it’s not always that easy and simple to handle. But practicing patience will definitely help in times of need and distress.

  • Challenge Your Thoughts

    If you’re considering using again, challenge those thoughts. Even if you don’t want to or you don’t agree with the challenge, just do it. Say things like, “Is treatment really not helping me, or do I just want to use again?” “Do I really only want just one more hit, or am I going to stay addicted?” “Can I really not do this, or am I just not willing to try in this one moment?” Even asking yourself, “If treatment sucks so bad, why does it work for so many other people?” can help give you that second of clarity needed to readjust your mindset.

I suppose saying, “You can do it!” is as cliché as telling you that putting mind over matter works. But you CAN do it. Treatment becomes significantly less difficult when you’re aware of the influence your own mind has over the situation. And I can’t emphasize enough how much recovery can turn your life around for the better if you try.

The first step to recovery is reaching out for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, New Start is here to help. Call our addiction staff at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential screening.