Addicted to Grief?

When time doesn’t heal, the brain’s reward system may be playing a role

When Anne Schomaker lost her husband in 2002, she did everything you’re supposed to do to heal from grief. She went to therapy, she volunteered, she traveled, she took up new hobbies, and she dated. To the outside world, she looked like she was moving on. To the outside world, it looked like she was healing the “right” way. But inside, she was frozen in mourning, unable to move forward emotionally. Nine years after the death of her husband, nightmares still haunted her in her sleep and she avoided reminders that would push her further into despair, such as the arias from the operas they had enjoyed. “I wasn’t really doing well. I had terrible pangs of sadness and despondency. I was missing my husband so badly. The pain just didn’t go away.”

Complicated bereavement is a disruption of the normal grieving process after a loss. While the loss of a loved one can be expected to be deeply painful and elicit emotional distress long after the loss has occurred, the symptoms of grief usually dissipate over time. Sometimes, however, healing does not occur. Instead, you become locked in a state of ongoing mourning; the emotional wound of your loss remains wide open and you are unable to move on. You may be preoccupied with constant thoughts of your loved one, experience intense longing, and be overwhelmed with feelings of sorrow, numbness, or anger. You may feel intense loneliness, even when you are surrounded by others, and may go out of your way to avoid reminders of the person you have lost. Or you may do the opposite—you may surround yourself with objects that make you feel close to your loved one, continuously return to the places that elicit memories of your time together, and live as if you are constantly waiting for their return. You are especially likely to experience complicated bereavement if you lost a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly, without the opportunity to emotionally prepare yourself for their death.

Many people with complicated bereavement are encouraged by well-meaning friends and family to move on, and you may feel that your emotional state is nothing more than a personal shortcoming. You’re told that you’re not grieving the right way. However, research indicates that complicated grief is actually a complex psychological illness with a neurological basis. A study by Mary-Frances O’Connor, published in NeuroImage, examined the effect of grief on brain function via functional magnetic resonance imaging. When people with complicated bereavement were shown pictures of their loved ones, “the nucleus accumbens – the part of the brain associated with rewards or longing – lighted up.” Those who experienced “normal patterns of grieving” exhibited markedly less nucleus accumbens activity.

This area of the brain is also associated with the longing for alcohol and drugs, suggesting that memories of loved ones may actually have an addictive effect on those with complicated bereavement, providing a new understanding of why you are unable to move beyond acute grief. As Dr. O’Connor says, “It’s as if the brain were saying, ‘Yes I’m anticipating seeing this person’ and yet ‘I am not getting to see this person.’ The mismatch is very painful.” Recognizing the neurological underpinnings of complicated bereavement may help researchers and clinicians develop more effective treatment protocols. More importantly, it may help you better understand your experience and reduce the feelings of self-blame and shame you may feel.

Unfortunately, the addictive qualities of your memories may also lead you to develop other addictions. In your attempt to cope with the overwhelming pain of your loss, you may have turned to drugs or alcohol or even food, compounding your emotional distress and presenting new dangers to your well-being. While using substances to escape psychological suffering is common among people experiencing grief, people with complicated bereavement are particularly vulnerable to developing substance addiction issues as they seek to soothe themselves from severe and ongoing mourning. However, any relief you find is only temporary and once the effects of the alcohol or drugs wear off, you’re back where you started or even worse off, as the effects of the substances themselves exacerbate your distress. The resulting cycle of grief and addiction can have serious implications for your ability to function, your physical health, and your fragile psychological state.

If you are suffering from complicated bereavement and a co-occurring substance addiction, healing is within reach. However, effective treatment requires specialized care designed around your unique needs to address the full scope of your emotional and behavioral health issues. In practice, this means that both your grief and addiction must be treated simultaneously to ensure that you process your state of bereavement while attending to the physical and psychological effects of your substance use.

Through comprehensive clinical care, you can develop the skills you need to move forward with your grieving process, cope with your pain in healthy, productive ways, and regain your sense of joy and possibility. Meanwhile, you will learn how to gain control over your addictive drive toward harmful substances as well as safely exploring the complex relationship between your use and your grief to give you a complete picture of your psychological state within an environment of hope and support.

The goal of treatment is never to minimize the loss of your loved one, but to discover ways of expressing, understanding, and coping with that loss in ways that are nourishing, revitalizing, and restorative. With the right therapies delivered with compassion and respect, you can begin the process of meaningful recovery to reawaken your spirit and enhance your quality of life.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Tobacco Road – 1977-1996 and 2008-2018

I started smoking cigarettes when I was around 14 years old. I was going on 15 but it was just something kids did back in the 70’s. Everybody smoked cigarettes. It was so widely accepted despite the health warnings. Everybody I knew smoked cigarettes. Back then you could buy a pack of smokes for $0.51 a pack at Rite Aid. That’s super cheap! A whole pack of cigs for half a buck? Incredible!

The odd thing was, at our young age, my friends and I always had a story ready if we were ever questioned by any of the shopkeepers in any of the stores where we bought them. The story was always, “Oh, these are for my mom.”

But no one ever asked us who the cigarettes were for. Ever. We had no problem buying cigarettes anywhere we ever went.

I remember my ‘straight A’ student sister Janice taught me how to inhale.

When you start fooling around with smoking, your young lungs aren’t accustomed to breathing in toxic smoke. So you just puff them to look cool. But to get the full benefits, taste, and rush of smoking, you have to inhale the smoke. So one night my sister Janice showed me and my friend Anthony how to do it. We were standing down by the bulkhead at 8th and JFK blvd. in North Wildwood. She said, “take a small puff and then suck the smoke into your lungs like you’re being startled.” You suck it in really fast and in it goes. You get the full taste and then blow it out.

What I didn’t know is that once you do that, the nicotine enters your bloodstream and gives you that little rush that smoking cigarettes brings.

That is also the first day of your addiction to cigarettes.

I smoked and enjoyed cigarettes for the next 20 years.

Then my daughter Lorelei was born and I decided to quit smoking for health reasons. I didn’t want to sniff her baby head and have the smell of cigarettes present. But I was in my 30’s then and firmly addicted to smoking with a 20 year habit. So I bought the nicoderm patch. The patch is a sticker you place on your arm and it releases nicotine into your system without smoking.

Dosage & Steps | NicoDerm CQ

It was tough but I slowly got myself off cigarettes. It probably cost me $600 in patches but it eventually worked. I was free of smoking but as one ex-smoker once said to me, my blood was hungry for cigarettes for over 2 years after quitting.

But like anything else, if you stop doing it, it eventually fades from your life and you no longer want it.

 

Jump forward 10 years, and I was divorced for over 8 years and I started dating Michelle.   https://phicklephilly.com/2016/10/31/my-michelle-2007-present-part-1/

I loved Michelle. Probably more than I’ve ever loved anyone else in my life. We would be out at night touring the city and pounding cocktails.

Michelle smoked cigarettes and sometimes she’d have problems lighting them in the evening breeze. Having been a long time smoker, I could get a cigarette lit in a sandstorm with one match left on the beaches of Wildwood. I’d help her.

Me getting her Parliament lit and handing it off to her went from that to me taking one sweet puff.

Michelle worried I’d get re-addicted to cigarettes doing that. I assured her I wouldn’t. I told her, “I’ll only get hooked if I start buying them again, and that’s not going to happen.”

But back in 2008 I was madly in love with her and my life in general with her. It wasn’t long before I was picking up a pack of Marlboro lights on a regular basis.

I didn’t care. I felt alive with her and really loved the taste of cigarettes again. There’s nothing better than a cold cocktail and a delicious cigarette. It’s like sex.

But like everything awesome, if you do it often enough you begin to tire of it.

 

Jump to 2018.

Michelle was long gone and all that remained was my addiction to tobacco.

But things had changed. Cigarettes were now $10 a pack and I found myself growing tired of smoking in general.

I was older. Better in touch with who I was and what I wanted. I found that I really don’t have an addictive personality. I have more of a compulsive personality.

I would buy a pack of cigarettes and only enjoy maybe 2 of them. My favorite was the one after work. The celebratory smoke of finishing the day. An addict craves their drug of choice all the time. I was sick of smoking but still doing it. My mind wanted to give it up I was sure, but I needed to bring the body over with my thought process. And in that lies the true challenge.

I was tired of the smell, the dirt, the ashes, the health risks, and most of all taking it on the chin for $10 bucks a pack!

The only part of smoking I liked was the actual act of smoking. Holding it in my hand, puffing on it, watching the smoke blow from my lips. Not the actual need to smoke. I no longer had that. No addiction, just an annoying holdover from my past life. Something I no longer enjoyed, but just did out of ritual and habit.

(This factor will play out in another vice I would soon address.)

But what to do? I knew this chapter in my life had to end as I continued to evolve through my 50s.

I was moonlighting at the tanning salon one night and was cleaning one of the rooms. People are always leaving things behind in the rooms. I’ve found all kinds of things. Money, jewelry, drugs, underwear, etc. But this time I found a small, grey colored metal stick with a tiny light on it sitting on the table. I had no idea what it was and just figured it was some sort of wifi gadget for a computer.

But I was wrong.

The girl who had left the object behind came back asking for it. I gave it to her.

“What is that?”

“It’s called a Juul. You smoke it. Like a vape pen.”

I had heard of people vapeing but it all seemed weird to me.

“You can smoke that like a cigarette and nothing’s burning or making ashes?”

“Yea. You can charge it on your laptop, and you have these little pods you stick into it. They have different flavors and there’s nothing burning, no ashes, no smell, no real smoke, no carbon monoxide. It’s awesome. I love it.”

“Is there nicotine in that thing?”

Image result for juul

“Yea, but only 5%. Which isn’t much, but it’s so much better for you than smoking dirty cigarettes.”

I was sold. The next day, I went to my local 7-Eleven and bought the starter pack of Juul. The unit, a charger, and 4 pods with different flavors. Virginia Tobacco, Cool Mint, Creme Brulee’, and Berry.

I charged the unit up at work that night and liked the results. I’ve been smoke free since May 2018 and have never looked back. I don’t smoke my Juul that much, and have zero desire to have a cigarette. When I see someone smoking a cig now, it looks dirty to me and wonder how someone could enjoy such a primitive filthy habit.

Ahh, the reformed smokers are the worst!

I’m so happy cigarettes are gone from my life for good.

I know what you’re all thinking… Oh, you’re still getting nicotine from that thing.

They make nicotine free pods now, so you can simulate smoking with no ill effects.

Image result for cyclone pods

 

So now I can still enjoy the celebratory smoke after work with no addiction or health issues. I feel great and enjoy my Juul very much.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

Love is like Cocaine: The Remarkable, Terrifying Neuroscience of Romance – Part 4

Yes, you really are addicted to love.

Addicted to Grief

The emotional responses to a thorny breakup can resemble the responses to the death of a loved one. You feel weighed down by the memories, the longing, the wistful tears, the chest pain and the aching throughout the whole body. Or you are so outraged that you are lucky not to have a semi-automatic weapon. Or you are ready to go on a secret mission aimed at reversing the terrible outcome. It’s no coincidence that breakups can resemble the death of a loved one. When a loved one dies, you grieve. But death is not the only trigger of grief. Grief can occur after any kind of loss: the loss of a job, a limb, a breast, a home, a relationship.

According to the Kübler-Ross model of grief, also known as “The Five Stages of Grief,” first introduced by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book,”On Death and Dying,” grief involves five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. After the loss of a loved one, you may first deny that the person is gone, simply refuse to believe it. Once the truth dawns on you, you may feel outraged and attempt to convince the beloved to come back or beg God or the universe’s spirits to reverse their decision. Once you realize things are not going to change, sadness sets in. Over time you may finally accept what happened. These stages need not occur in this order, and each stage may occur several times. The different emotions can also overlap. You may be angry and in a bargaining mode at the same time, or deny what happened and still feel sad. Philosopher Shelley Tremain captured the complexity of grief well when she wrote on her Facebook site, “Today  would have been my father’s eighty-first birthday. Some days, I think time is on my side, that it’s getting easier to live with losing him. Then, it happens. Sometimes, it’s a figure of speech he was fond of, at other times, I am shaving him, or I look in the mirror and see the features of my face that are his, or we are sitting together holding hands. Just sitting there.”

Sometimes it is nearly impossible to let go of grief. When you continue to grieve a loss for a very long time, your condition is called “complicated (or pathological) grief.” The love story of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert is a heartbreakingly beautiful illustration of complicated grief. Alexandrina Victoria was eighteen when she became Queen of England. Her Uncle, King William IV, had no surviving legitimate children. So Victoria became his heir when he died in 1837. When Prince Albert, her first cousin, visited London in 1839, Victoria immediately fell in love with him. Initially Albert had doubts about the relationship, but he eventually fell in love with her too. The couple got married in February 1840. During the next eighteen years Queen Victoria gave birth to nine children. She loved Albert deeply. Albert was not only a dutiful husband and the father of Victoria’s children, he was also Victoria’s political and diplomatic advisor. For twenty-one years they lived happily together. But the bliss came crashing to a halt when Prince Albert died of typhoid at Windsor on December 14, 1861.

Albert’s death completely destroyed Victoria emotionally. She was overwhelmed by grief and refused to show her face in public for the next three years. People began to question her competence, and many attempted to assassinate her. Victoria finally appeared in public but she refused to wear anything but black and mourned her Prince Albert until her own death in 1901. Victoria’s forty-year-long state of mourning earned her the nickname “The Widow of Windsor.” She never again became the happy and cheerful woman she had been when Albert was alive. In preparation for her own death she asked for two items to be in her coffin: one of Albert’s dressing gowns and a lock of his hair.

Complicated grief is so severe that psychiatrists now consider it for inclusion in the psychiatric manual for diagnosing mental disorders. If you have complicated grief, you have been grieving for six months or more. You furthermore satisfy at least five of the following criteria:

  1. You have obsessive thoughts about aspects of the lost relationship or the person you were with.
  2. You spend a significant amount of time every day or almost every day, thinking about your lost relationship or the person you were with.
  3. You have intense emotional pain, sorrow, pangs, or yearnings related to the lost relationship.
  4. You avoid reminders of the loss, because you know that reminders will cause you pain or make you feel uncomfortable.
  5. You have problems accepting the loss of the relationship.
  6. You have frequent dreams that relate to your lost relationship.
  7. You frequently suffer from deep sadness, depression, or anxiety because of the loss.
  8. You are angry or feel a deep sense of injustice in relation to the lost relationship.
  9. You have difficulties trusting others since the relationship ended.
  10. The loss of the relationship makes it difficult for you to find pleasure in social and routine activities.
  11. Your symptoms make it difficult for you to function optimally on your job, as a parent or in a new relationship.

Complicated grief is emotionally and chemically similar to post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, some psychiatrists argue that there is no need to include complicated grief as a separate psychological condition. They are variations on the very same disorder, they say. Posttraumatic stress disorder can occur as the result of any traumatic event. The most common traumatic events discussed in the literature on posttraumatic stress are events of war, terrorist attacks, brutal physical and sexual assaults, and traffic accidents. It is not commonly noted that unexpected breakups and other traumatic relationship events can also lead to posttraumatic stress.

Posttraumatic stress disorder is a condition in which you keep reliving the traumatic event— for example, the breakup—avoiding situations that are similar to the one that led to the trauma. You furthermore have difficulties sleeping, you feel angry, you have difficulties focusing, and you suffer from anxiety. To be a clinical case of posttraumatic stress disorder, the symptoms must last more than a month and lead to difficulties functioning socially, on the job, or in other areas of life. Posttraumatic stress disorder is more likely to occur if the adrenaline surge at the time of the event was very intense.

A study published in the May 2008 issue of Neuroimage suggests that complicated grief sometimes occurs because a normal grieving process turns into an addiction. Led by neuroscientist Mary-Frances O’Connor, the team looked at images of the brains of people who satisfied the criteria for complicated grief and people who weren’t grieving and found significantly more activity in the nucleus accumbens of the people with complicated grief. Activity in the nucleus accumbens is associated with addiction.

It may seem strange that you could actually become addicted to emotional pain and a longing for a person who is no longer with you. The researchers suggest that your yearning and sadness may give you some type of pleasure or satisfaction.

Perhaps the turmoil of emotions does really provide some kind of gratification. Perhaps this emotional overflow is addictive. But it is also possible that the increased activity in the nucleus accumbens signifies increased dopamine levels of the sort found in certain anxiety disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The classical case of this disorder is one in which the afflicted is obsessed with thoughts of disease and germs and compulsively washes his or her hands after being near other people or anything that could possibly carry microbes. This disorder is associated with low levels of the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin and fluctuating levels of the motivator chemical dopamine. The low levels of serotonin cause anxiety that involves obsessive, jazzy thinking and the dopamine “reward” motivates the afflicted person to behave in compulsive ways.

As people ruminate obsessively over the events leading up to the loss in complicated grief, the condition may turn out to be similar in this respect to obsessive-compulsive disorder. Low levels of serotonin may trigger obsessive thinking, crippling anxiety, and a visceral yearning for the absent person or the irretrievable relationship. The dopamine response elicited by this kind of obsessive thinking and longing may motivate the grief-stricken person to engage in begging and bargaining and it could also ignite anger fits and a ferocious denial of the loss of the relationship.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

My new book, Angel with a Broken Wing is now for sale on Amazon!

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly

9 Signs You’re Drinking Too Much Alcohol During The Coronavirus Pandemic

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been panic-buying more than just toilet paper and eggs. U.S. alcohol sales spiked 55% in the week ending March 21, according to data from market research firm Nielsen. Online alcohol sales were up 243%.

Much of that can probably be attributed to stocking up on booze for several weeks’ worth of self-isolation. According to a survey by Alcohol.org, 1 in 5 respondents said they stockpiled alcohol for just that reason. However, many people are also drinking more in general: 1 in 3 respondents said they are likely to increase alcohol consumption in isolation.

While a few extra drinks to get you through the stress and boredom of being stuck at home might not be a big deal, it can become a slippery slope.

How much drinking is considered normal?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Keep in mind that these guidelines refer to the amount you drink on any single day ― it’s not meant to be an average of drinks consumed over several days.

However, these are just guidelines; what’s considered “normal” drinking is somewhat subjective and based on your own body and behaviors. “If you don’t have a problem with alcohol, an extra glass of wine here and there isn’t something to be worried about,” said Brian Wind, chief clinical officer at alcohol and drug treatment center JourneyPure. “People are bored, stuck in their homes and really stressed out. For some, kicking back with a drink is perfectly normal.”

It’s when your habits and thoughts surrounding alcohol begin to change for the worse that you should be concerned. Unhealthy alcohol use exists on a spectrum, which can range from alcohol misuse to abuse to dependency, according to Sari Eitches, an integrative internist who practices in Los Angeles.

“During the challenges of the looming threat of the pandemic, plus the stresses of lockdown, we are naturally turning to any coping skills we have available,” she said. “Many of us are shut off from our best coping mechanisms, including social interactions, yoga class, time with extended family and friends and even time in nature.”

That means some people turn to coping methods that are available at home, including alcohol. Maybe that includes you. If so, keep an eye out for these signs that you might be drinking too much.

1. You drink because you’re stressed.

In general, it’s considered problematic when alcohol intake increases during stressful situations, “even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amanda Brown, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and an associate at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “It means that we are using alcohol to cope with the negative emotions caused by stress.”

Brown explained that when you’re stressed, you experience new or uncontrolled emotions that you’re not used to dealing with and your emotional equilibrium falls off balance. To adapt to these changes, you turn to coping mechanisms that help regulate emotions.

“But not all coping mechanisms are adaptive,” she said. “Alcohol use, for example, is a maladaptive coping mechanism that can ultimately cause more harm for an individual.”

2. You drink because you’re bored.

The thought of spending another Saturday night at home in front of the TV might seem unbearable. That is, unless you also have a glass (OK, bottle) of wine at your side.

Similar to drinking due to stress, drinking to cope with boredom is a red flag, according to Andrew Mendonsa, a clinical psychologist with addiction treatment center Sprout Health Group. “When you say, ‘I’m bored at home, I’m going to turn to the bottle,’ that’s when you start to cross the line,” he said.

When you feel bored or restless, Mendonsa recommends going for a walk outside (as long as it’s safe to do so) or calling friends and family. If you feel like you can’t rely on these healthy coping methods alone and must drink, you likely have a problematic relationship with alcohol.

3. You drink on the job.

Transitioning to a fully remote job can be tough if you’re not used to working from home. It may be stressful learning new tools and communication methods. Plus, you might struggle with productivity. With no office to drive to and no boss looking over your shoulder, there may be more temptation to Irish up your morning coffee or crack open a beer at 3 p.m.

“If you’re working from home and have justified that it’s okay to drink while working, you are mistaken,” Wind said. “While working from home, you should conduct yourself just as you would being on the job. If you’re drinking to get through the workday, it’s a sign that you have a problem.”

4. You’re constantly worried about having enough alcohol.

Another way to know that you’re drinking too much during isolation is if you worry about having enough alcohol and find yourself making extra trips to the store or gas station just to buy it. “We should be minimizing trips that aren’t essential right now, so if getting alcohol feels like an essential to you and you’re going out often to stock up on it, you’re probably drinking too much,” Wind said.

5. Your responsibilities are falling to the wayside.

Balancing your job, your child’s education and relationships with family and friends is hard enough without a pandemic adding to the chaos. It’s understandable if you drop the ball on your obligations sometimes. However, Eitches said that if alcohol use interferes with your priorities and obligations in any realm of your life ― including work, social connections and self-care ― it’s a sign that there’s a problem.

6. You’ve been making poor decisions while drunk.

Many of us have let a secret slip or gone overboard online shopping after a few drinks. Hey, mistakes happen ― we’re not here to judge. But those alcohol-induced slip-ups should be few and far between. If you regularly make decisions when intoxicated that you wouldn’t make or would regret when you are sober, there’s a larger issue at hand, Eitches said.

7. You don’t feel good physically.

Hangovers are a reminder that overindulging on alcohol isn’t great for your body. So if you regularly wake up with headaches, sensitivity to light, dehydration and other hangover symptoms, it’s a sign you’re going overboard.

Eitches added that generally feeling crappy due to drinking, due to disrupted sleep and eating patterns or less motivation to exercise, are also warning signs.

8. You experience withdrawal symptoms.

When you drink often enough, your body becomes reliant on alcohol to function. Stopping alcohol intake when your body is dependent on it results in withdrawal symptoms, which range from mild to severe and can include shaky hands, anxiety, sweating, racing heartbeat, hallucinations and even seizures. You may begin to experience certain withdrawal symptoms within six hours of your last drink.

If mild hangovers have progressed to more serious signs of withdrawal when you stop drinking, it’s definitely time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.

9. You want to stop drinking but can’t.

Finally, if you recognize that drinking alcohol affects your life negatively but can’t seem to slow down, it’s time to get help. Fortunately, there are many resources available.

If you’re experiencing difficulty coping or having problems with drug or alcohol use, you should immediately call your doctor or the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They can refer you to local treatment facilities, support groups and community-based organizations.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also has an online treatment navigator to help you find and evaluate the right type of care for you.

Remember that we’re all experiencing an unprecedented situation that is scary and challenging for many people. We all use different coping strategies, some healthier than others. If you become dependent on alcohol during this time, it’s not a reflection of your character, intelligence or strength. We all need help sometimes, so don’t be afraid to seek it out.

 

 

Smokers and Alcoholics May Face Withdrawal Symptoms Amidst Lockdown 2.0

India has witnessed a sudden upsurge in patients facing withdrawal symptoms due to the abrupt constraint on the availability of liquor and cigarettes. The sudden realization that this essential (for some) is not readily available can trigger severe withdrawal symptoms among addicts. The same goes for those who are dependent on alcohol or even drugs.

Drinkers and smokers can be classified into three categories — social (who consume occasionally), dependent (who consume moderately) and addicts (who cannot survive without nicotine or alcohol even for a day). While the first two categories can tackle this lockdown easily, the third category will suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

People who are heavily dependent on alcohol or smoking — often face a range of cognitive and physical symptoms when they abruptly stop consuming. Alcohol and nicotine are sedative drugs that slow brain function. To compensate, many brain circuits increase the basal level of activity. Without alcohol present, these circuits become hyperactive, resulting in anxiety, hallucinations, seizures, and even death.

In order to contain the further spread and contamination of Covid19 novel coronavirus, liquor and tobacco shops were closed temporarily on March 24, 2020 and continue to be shut during Lockdown 2.0. Non-availability of these items during this time is likely to adversely affect the mental health of people who are binge-alcoholics or smokers.

We spoke to By Dr Paras, Life-leadership Coach and Psychotherapist regarding patients who may suffer from physical and psychological ailments, due to the unforeseen break in their classic pattern of consumption of alcohol or nicotine.

Alcohol and Nicotine trigger the release of serotonin in the brain’s reward system, which makes them so addictive. Addicts are not aware that regular consumption of alcohol or cigarettes changes their chemistry. Serotonin or the ‘feel good’ neurochemical is a mood enhancer. The short-term effect of alcohol may boost serotonin, to increase feelings of happiness and well-being, while the long-term repercussions of heavy alcohol use often include a decrease in serotonin production, leading to an increased chance of depression.

With long-term abuse of alcohol or nicotine, the brain’s reward systems slow down, however, when an addict chooses to abruptly break the habit of regular consumption instead of gradually decreasing consumption, the stimulatory effects on the reward system are no longer present. As a result, activity in the brain’s reward systems drops, which can include symptoms like depression and irritability. This applies to people who abuse drugs as well or are drug addicts.

People struggling with depressive withdrawal symptoms may have the highest manifestation called ‘delirium tremens.’ Severe withdrawal symptoms like shaking, confusion and hallucinations, after one suddenly quits requires proper counselling intervention to stabilize their overall mental wellness.

9 quintessential Symptoms of Withdrawals (Symptoms can range from mild to serious).

The intensity and length of these withdrawal symptoms can vary widely, depending on the nicotine, alcohol or drug addiction and your biological make-up. But the psychological symptoms can last for longer.

Unexplained craving: The craving factor tends to get stronger. The craving for smoking, alcohol or drugs can be so intense that the person is willing to do anything, even something which might be considered to be unethical, immoral or fatal.

Physical dependency: Like nausea, sweating, shaky hands, strong stomach cramps and vomiting.

Develop a high level of intolerance

Throbbing headache: Carving leaves you with throbbing headache

Anxiety, depression

Hallucination, about 12 to 24 hours after that last drink to seizures within the first 2 days after you stop. You can see, feel, or hear things that aren’t there.

Insomnia or Hypnagogic hallucinations. These can occur in the consciousness state between waking and sleeping.

Depression or dysphoria can last for longer

Constant mood swings

9 ways to keep your mental health from descending into chaos

By eliminating worry from the equation, you can better understand your mental health and determine what it is that you need to feel your best during this lockdown. Remember, the presence of any survival mechanism, which has a potential to make you feel “happy.” The brain releases four main ‘feel good’ chemicals – endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine which inexplicably help you to cope up with the symptoms.

Practice Self-Hypnosis

A relaxation technique – Mental imaginary technique – Hypnosis is the answer to reduce peripheral conditions engrossed within you and the best way to learn self-meditation. You can practice daily for 10 to 15 minutes during bedtime and early in the morning as soon as you awake.

It is a tranquility-like state in which you can heighten your focus and concentration. Hypnosis will allow you to bypass your conscious mind and introduce mindfulness with positive thoughts and ideas into your subconsciousness. Proper online counselling to demonstrate the procedure would be helpful.

You can relax on the bed, breath slowly and evenly from the stomach and not from the chest and deep dive into the past, remembering good things which can make you feel relaxed and very happy.

Exhale with every word that the way you want to feel, for instance – ‘energized’ and ‘calm’

By closing both the eyes, recalling a pleasing and a joyful image from the past, allow yourself to vividly experience the same by remembering the sound, smell, color and taste of the moments.

After 10-15 minutes come back with the feeling of goodness you garnered from those memories.

The power of escapism

Opposite to mindfulness, are the miraculous benefits of the imagination and distractions. Escapism offers a way to take the pressure off and temporarily disconnect.

Who doesn’t love getting lost in the fantasy series or spending time on the best part of a movie because these appear as a part and parcel of the methods of escapism? It’s about creating your own fantasy in your imagination and living it. It is the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities. In taking some time to escape our everyday lives, we find ourselves better equipped to deal with situations and handle any obstacles we may be facing.

Escapism can take many forms, whether it’s going away to spend some time in a new place, watching every new film that comes out, or listening to music on the train and pretending you’re in a music video. It’s basically anything that removes you from your current situation. By engaging in some healthy escapism, you can leave any pressing concerns or worries behind. In a lot of cases, emotions are fleeting, and we simply need to ride them out. With distractions to remove you from the toxic headspace, this can happen without dragging you along for the process. It is advisable to take proper online counselling to demonstrate the procedure.

Nicotine Chewing gum

The idea is to keep your mouth busy for 18 hours continuously for a week or so. Nicotine replacement therapy, like gum, lozenges, or the patch or crunchy (healthy) food can come to the rescue. Nicotine chewing gum is believed to reduce cravings to smoke and is used to help people quit smoking. Nicotine chewing gum should be used together with a smoking cessation program, which may include counselling or specific behavioral change techniques.

Nicotine Inhalers

A nicotine inhaler looks similar to a large cigarette with a mouthpiece, but it’s actually a thin plastic tube that contains a nicotine cartridge inside. When you take a puff, the cartridge puts out a pure nicotine vapour that delivers most of the nicotine vapor to the mouth, where it’s absorbed into the bloodstream. Because it looks and acts like a cigarette, it can ease some of the habitual withdrawal symptoms as well. (Only recommend to use for 3 months or as per the smoking cessation program)

Talk to a friend, family member or a professional counselor

It is natural to notice changes in your mood. You may feel impatient, irritable, anxious, nervous, angry, or sad. Talking about your feelings is very beneficial. Ask your family and friends for support and remind them to be patient with you. Make sure there is someone you can talk to during major discomfort or pain escalating due to carving during the process of giving up cigarettes. Take an immediate approach to a professional counselor or talk to a friend to rationalize your mistaken thoughts about the symptoms.

Intellectual activities

Brain games are always the best choice for cognitive stimulation. Brain games could be the best component in helping manage and forget the craving and keep you engrossed over long periods of time. Scrabble. Sudoku. Crossword puzzles are best to go with.

Art therapy

Expressive art therapy is the use of creative arts as a form of therapy and is a fantastic field that has proven to work wonders in many people’s lives. Practicing or creating art, is a phenomenal pathway of healing and life-enhancing. Art therapy involves the use of creative techniques such as drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help people express themselves artistically and examine the psychological and emotional undertones in their art can help a lot to cope with the symptoms of withdrawal.

Sound Healing Therapy

Also known as vibrational medicine for your brain to get cured quickly. Become independent and develop the ability to heal yourself holistically. Sound healing techniques harmonize the listener with the rhythms of nature. Sound healing sends your mind in a constant elemental state of vibration. When we are in resonance with the sound, our mind is in perfect balance. With the right sounds and scientific process of application, you can align yourself with the vibrations that foster health, happiness, success and unity. During a lockdown, grab your headphones, open your youtube and select some of the best crystal bowls sound sessions or tibetan singing bowl sessions.

Chakra Balancing

Chakra balancing is the process of restoring a harmonious flow of energy across the chakra system.The effect of well balanced chakras often translates into a feeling of well-being, relaxation, centeredness, increased vitality and embodiment of oneself. Smoking is loaded with toxins ranging from the obvious nicotine (highly addictive substance) to all the different chemical bound additives such as benzene, formaldehyde (embalming fluid), ammonia (toilet cleaner), acetone (nail polish remover), tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, etc. Smoking affects the entire aura of the energy body in particular the throat chakra, the root chakra and especially the heart chakra. Using guided meditation, one can also activate all the chakras. Take a counselling to demonstrate a step-by-step meditation and align your chakras perfectly.

As the body and brain begin to heal, you will experience renewed motivation towards healthy habits in your life.

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.

Buy Phicklephilly THE BOOK now available on Amazon!

Listen to the Phicklephilly podcast LIVE on Spotify!

Instagram: @phicklephilly    Facebook: phicklephilly    Twitter: @phicklephilly