Addiction can take many forms – from drugs and alcohol to food, gambling, shopping or sex. But no matter what substance or behavior happens to be driving an addict, one thing is for certain: It didn’t come into their lives overnight. That notion — that addiction happens for a reason, is the underlying idea of The Anatomy of Addiction: Overcoming the Triggers that Stand in the Way of Recovery, a new book by Drs. Morteza and Karen Khaleghi, founders Creative Care Malibu, a treatment center for addiction and mental health.
A non-traditional approach
The Anatomy of Addiction provides a non-traditional perspective on addiction and a fresh outlook on overcoming the triggers that can make recovery so difficult. Dr. Karen Khaleghi took some time to share her insights into addiction with SheKnows. In the book, the Khaleghis explore the idea that addiction doesn’t just happen out of the blue. There is always a contextual reason, such as a traumatic event or some physiological or psychological condition that preceded the addiction.
“It is our hope that the reader gains the understanding that every addict possesses an infinite ability to choose recovery, and that this recovery is possible through discovery,” Khaleghi tells us. “This discovery is an understanding of self and connecting the dots between emotions and behaviors.”
Addiction occurs when someone uses drugs and/or alcohol to cover emotional issues, Khaleghi explains. The substance is used to mask whatever discomfort the addict is experiencing, and one of the primary emotional issues that people seek to medicate is anxiety, she says. “While the basis of the anxiety may vary, it is the experience of anxiety itself that leads many people to use.”
It is the idea that every addiction has a root cause that the Khaleghis highlight in their book. If the underlying issues are not properly probed and dealt with, recovery can be very difficult and the result in many cases is relapse. “The addiction and the underlying emotional issues must be deal with concurrently or the addict will continue to relapse,” Khaleghi says.
The road to recovery
The first step for anyone trying to recover from addiction is to accept that they are powerless to control their addiction and then to begin to take direction from those who are there to help, explains Khaleghi. “It is important to note that in the first stages of recovery the person moves in and out of willingness to accept help and [the idea] that they are powerless, which is to be expected and is at the heart of work of addiction treatment.”
The most important next step towards recovery is that the individual stays in treatment, through their internal fight to ward off the sense of powerlessness and acceptance of direction.
The most common setback patients have is denial, Khaleghi says – denial that they are indeed addicted and denial of the work that needs to be done in order to prevent relapse.
When an addict comes in for treatment with the Khaleghis, they are placed in what Khaleghi calls a “contact-free zone.” This means that they do not have contact with anyone outside of the treatment program for at least the first week or two (depending on the needs of the individual). This allows the person to settle in and the staff to understand the dynamics of the individual’s relationships — who enables, who sabotages and who is supportive. These are all important clues into what makes a person turn to drugs or alcohol. “It is in this first phase of treatment when denial moves in and out, when willingness to take direction moves in and out and when the dynamics of relationships are shown, the triggers are revealed.”