Positive And Negative Reinforcement: The Pursuit Of Pleasure And The Escape From Pain
The reasons someone starts and continues using drugs depends on the individual, and may be influenced by positive or negative reinforcements.
In the midst of our addictions, we tell ourselves lie after lie. We convince ourselves that we are too much or too little; that we have to, deserve to, go through the struggle of an upward battle all alone.
“I am too much to handle”… lie.
“I am a burden”… lie.
“No one deserves to deal with my struggle”… lie.
“I have to go through this alone”… lie.
The desire to isolate keeps us stuck in the middle of our addiction with no exit in sight. The trouble with isolating ourselves during active addiction is that we continue to reinforce the lies that the drug is telling us. The drug tells us we need it, that we cannot survive without it. In order to keep that outlet in our lives, we have to shut everyone and everything else out of our hearts and minds.
It’s amazing what tricks addiction can play on us, like a master manipulator separating us from any lifeline around. Anything that comes in between our addiction is the enemy.
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Isolation can feel a lot like standing in quicksand: the more we fight it, the farther we sink. Our minds tell us to give in, our addiction begs us to stay alone.
Isolation is one of the main antagonists against recovery. Recovery asks us to step into the light, to accept others on the journey of sobriety, admit our powerlessness and embrace vulnerability.
Isolation tells us we don’t have to do any of those things, that we can stay perfectly content in the secret hiding place of our pain forever. The first step in confronting addiction is coming out of hiding and accepting the help and love from not only others, but from ourselves.
There are many aspects of taking the first step toward overcoming isolation that can be challenging in the start of recovery.
These fears include:
We are afraid of taking that first step and then quickly returning to the place of pain that told us that recovery would be unsuccessful, which opens the door for isolation to begin again. We are afraid of how we will face those we love, or how we will even face ourselves.
Coming out of isolation and taking that first step toward sobriety and recovery is one of the hardest decisions an addict has to make in their journey to health.
In that moment, we have to face all of the fear, all of the potential rejection, all of the negative things that we have decided about ourselves while we kept ourselves hidden. We have to face all of the lies. And that is exactly what they are: lies.
The truth is that the first step into recovery may be the most challenging one, but it will be the most rewarding. Let the truth in — you are valuable and there are others on this journey with you who want to support and encourage you.
You are not alone. All you have to do is take that first step.
About the Author: Niko McManus, MS, Registered Mental Health Counseling Intern, ES
Niko McManus graduated from the University of Central Florida with her Bachelors degree in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences and went on to obtain her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Niko decided to pursue her career in counseling after experiencing firsthand the healing power that comes from consistently processing through pain and finding freedom from past wounds and addiction. She is an equine specialist and avid proponent of equine therapy and the remarkable amounts of healing that can be found through the relationship between horse and human. She is passionate about walking alongside others who struggle with addiction and helping them on their journey through recovery toward discovering wholeness.
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