That Pesky Thought, “I Must Get High”

That Pesky Thought "I Must Get High"

Lindsey kicked my butt in yoga last week. As the owner of the studio, she has a reputation for teaching beautifully choreographed classes that can be challenging. So while I was holding a pose, I had the opportunity to observe my thoughts. 

“I’m too old for this.”

“Has she even tried to do this herself?”

“Does she have any idea how hard this is?” 

“This can’t actually be good for a person.”

And as these thoughts inevitably and invariably flowed in and out of my head, I continued to strengthen my core and completed the class.

ACT and CBT for Recovery 

The following day I listened to Dr. Tim PychyI, an expert in the science of procrastination,  interviewing Dr. Frederick Dionne,a psychologist who uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), about research into procrastination. I couldn’t help but draw parallels between people’s devotion to their fitness regimens and people’s devotion to their recovery.

ACT teaches you to move forward with action in the service of what you value, despite the suffering thoughts or feelings that may pull you in another direction. ACT encourages you to experience and acknowledge the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings you are having. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) teaches you to develop strategies for reducing the impact of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings; a subtle yet powerful distinction.

Recognizing and Reducing Urging Thoughts

With ACT, if a person committed to recovery experiences an urge to use or drink, he learns to recognize when he is fusing with his thoughts. Then he creates distance from the thought (or defusing), which can be as simple as moving from:

“I have to get high!” to “I am having the thought, ‘I have to get high!’”

When thoughts are recognized and separated from the mind, the freedom to choose is revealed.

With CBT, the focus is on reducing discomfort and tension, or controlling the intensity and frequency of thoughts with breathing or some kind of cognitive restructuring.

While ACT wouldn’t label that approach as necessarily bad, it might suggest that it is a form of experiential avoidance. Because the truth is, uncomfortable urges and thoughts are simply never going to go completely away. 

Cultivating the ability to notice a difficult thought or sensation, allowing it, then moving forward with committed action toward your values is a practice. For any success with ACT or CBT, your brain will need to be detoxed from addictive substances. 

A Comfortable Outpatient Detox Program 

This is how the Coleman Addiction Medicine can play a large part in a successful recovery. For over 25 years, we have specialized in Accelerated Detox programs, helping people safely and comfortably get off opioids such as hydrocodone, Vicodin, Vicoprofen oxycodone, Percocet, Roxicet, Dilaudid, fentanyl, heroin, methadone and buprenorphine products. We also help people stop drinking alcohol and using benzodiazepines.

If you or a friend or family member would like to put a little space between “I can’t stop using these drugs” and “I’m having the thought, ‘I can’t stop using these drugs,’” let us help create a new reality for you. 

Joan R. Shepherd, FNP

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