Should Happiness Be the Goal? Not Necessarily

In our culture, there’s a big focus on happiness. We’re told to do the things that bring us joy, and we dance to songs called “Happy.” But on a psychological level, happiness isn’t the most important metric to measure well-being.

“Although Positive Psychology has focused on happiness, many psychologists say living a personally meaningful life is more important,” says Geoff Thompson, program director at Sunshine Coast Health Centre in British Columbia.

At Sunshine Coast Health Centre, Thompson and his team follow the principles of psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl. Frankl believed that creating a meaningful life was one of the most important pursuits that a person could undertake. Happiness, on the other hand, wasn’t something that a person could prioritize, Frankl believed.

“Frankl would say most people mistakenly believe they can pursue happiness as a goal; however, happiness, according to Frankl cannot be pursued; it must ‘ensue,’” from creating a meaningful life, Thompson says. 

Meaning versus happiness

We might assume that a meaningful life is a happy one, and vice versa, but that isn’t always the case.

“Research on happiness suggests that it has more to do with getting personal needs met and being comfortable,” Thompson explains. “Meaning, on the other hand, has more to do with developing courage and resilience, making sense of suffering, and helping others.”

Some people who have deeply meaningful lives don’t feel happy in their daily lives — which complicates the question of how to create a life filled with happiness.

“Frankl said that happiness ensues from living a meaningful life. You don’t need to work at it. But it’s tricky,” Thompson says. “For example, Mother Teresa was not a particularly happy woman, even though she helped many starving children. We know this because of her letters to her spiritual advisors, which questioned why she suffered so much.”

The happiness choice

Modern Positive Psychology professes that people can choose to be happy. However, Thompson believes that the choice to be happy comes from choosing to pursue a personally meaningful life.

Taking these steps can help you create personal meaning:

  • Know yourself well. 
  • Form positive relationships and avoid toxic ones. 
  • Choose goals that match your authentic values and beliefs.

By focusing on these areas, you can create meaning in your life. Once you have meaningful experience, happiness will ensue.

Happiness and recovery

Getting into recovery and sobriety requires a lot of hard work. That might not leave you feeling happy day-to-day, but it likely will help you create meaning in your life.

Oftentimes, through therapy, Thompson and his team realize that clients who say that are happy can’t actually pinpoint what that means.

“It’s interesting than some clients tell us they are ‘happy,’” Thompson says. “However, when we process this, we typically discover that the client means ‘relieved.’ It’s telling that a client cannot distinguish between the two, almost as if the client has no real idea what happiness is.”

If we expect happiness all the time, particularly in recovery, we’re likely to be disappointed.

“Alexander Batthyany (a key figure in promoting Frankl’s work) says that a person whose goal is happiness is doomed to fail because suffering is natural to being human,” Thompson explains. “There will always be times when a person is not happy.”

Because of that, Thompson recommends skipping the pursuit of happiness.

“Much better to focus on living a personally meaningful life,” he says.

Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.

By: The Fix staff
Title: Should Happiness Be the Goal? Not Necessarily
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 12 Apr 2021 08:41:37 +0000

At New Horizon Drug Rehab, we understand addiction. If you or a family member are afflicted with addiction or substance abuse we can help. We work with the top centers throughout the US to provide the best detox and addiction treatments available.

Call Now: (877) 747-9974

Addiction and Estrangement

Addiction can roil relationships with abuse, betrayal, and domestic violence, placing great stress on a family. Typically, parents and siblings who try to help or manage a family member’s addiction find themselves sapped of emotional energy and drained of financial resources. My survey shows as many as 10 percent of respondents suspect that a sibling is hiding an addiction.

I wonder: Does the addiction produce family problems, or do a dysfunctional family’s issues result in addiction? It sounds like a chicken‑and‑egg question. I suppose at this moment the sequence of events doesn’t really matter to me. What I need is guidance on helping my brother conquer his alcoholism.

Typically, when it comes to addiction, many experts advise using “tough love” to change behavior—promoting someone’s welfare by enforcing certain constraints on them or requiring them to take responsibility for their actions. The family uses relationships as leverage, threatening to expel the member who is addicted. The message of this model is explicit: “If you don’t shape up, we will cut you off.”

Tough love relies on solid, established relationships; otherwise, the family member at risk may feel he or she has nothing to lose. My relationship with Scott is tenuous, anything but solid. He has lived without me for decades, and if I try tough love, he could easily revert to our former state of estrangement.

I wonder if there might be another way.

Possible Causes of Addiction

Addiction is a complex phenomenon involving physiological, sociological, and psychological variables, and each user reflects some combination of these factors. In Scott’s case, because alcoholism doesn’t run in our family, I don’t think he has a biological predisposition to drink. I suspect my brother’s drinking results from other origins.

Current research identifies unexpected influences that also may be at the root of addictive behavior, including emotional trauma, a hostile environment, and a lack of sufficient emotional connections. Addictive behavior may be closely tied to isolation and estrangement. Human beings have a natural and innate need to bond with others and belong to a social circle. When trauma disturbs the ability to attach and connect, a victim often seeks relief from pain through drugs, gambling, pornography, or some other vice.

Canadian psychologist Dr. Bruce Alexander conducted a controversial study in the 1970s and 1980s that challenged earlier conclusions on the fundamental nature of addiction. Users, his research suggests, may be trying to address the absence of connection in their lives by drinking and/or using drugs. Working with rats, he found that isolated animals had nothing better to do than use drugs; rats placed in a more engaging environment avoided drug use.

Similar results emerged when veterans of the war in Vietnam returned home. Some 20 percent of American troops were using heroin while in Vietnam, and psychologists feared that hundreds of thousands of soldiers would resume their lives in the United states as junkies. However, a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that 95 percent simply stopped using, without rehab or agonizing withdrawal, when they returned home.

These studies indicate that addiction is not just about brain chemistry. The environment in which the user lives is a factor. Addiction may, in part, be an adaptation to a lonely, disconnected, or dangerous life. Re‑ markably, a tense relationship with a sister or brother in adolescence may contribute to substance abuse. A 2012 study reported in the Journal of Marriage and Family entitled “Sibling Relationships and Influences in Childhood and Adolescence” found that tense sibling relationships make people more likely to use substances and to be depressed and anxious as teenagers.

Those who grow up in homes where loving care is inconsistent, unstable, or absent do not develop the crucial neural wiring for emotional resilience, according to Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, who is an expert in childhood development and trauma and has conducted extensive research in a medical practice for the underserved in downtown Vancouver. Children who are not consistently loved in their young lives often develop a sense that the world is an unsafe place and that people cannot be trusted. Maté suggests that emotional trauma and loss may lie at the core of addiction.

A loving family fosters resilience in children, immunizing them from whatever challenges the world may bring. Dr. Maté has found high rates of childhood trauma among the addicts with whom he works, leading him to conclude that emotional damage in childhood may drive some people to use drugs to correct their dysregulated brain waves. “When you don’t have love and connection in your life when you are very, very young,” he explains, “then those important brain circuits just don’t develop properly. And under conditions of abuse, things just don’t develop properly and their brains then are susceptible then when they do the drugs.” He explains that drugs make these people with dysregulated brain waves feel normal, and even loved. “As one patient said to me,” he says, “when she did heroin for the first time, ‘it felt like a warm soft hug, just like a mother hugging a baby.’”

Dr. Maté defines addiction broadly, having seen a wide variety of addicted behaviors among his patients. Substance abuse and pornography, for example, are widely accepted as addictions. For people damaged in childhood, he suggests that shopping, chronic overeating or dieting, incessantly checking the cell phone, amassing wealth or power or ultramarathon medals are ways of coping with pain.

In a TED Talk, Dr. Maté, who was born to Jewish parents in Budapest just before the Germans occupied Hungary, identifies his own childhood traumas as a source of his addiction: spending thousands of dollars on a collection of classical CDs. He admits to having ignored his family—even neglecting patients in labor—when preoccupied with buying music. His obsessions with work and music, which he characterizes as addictions, have affected his children. “My kids get the same message that they’re not wanted,” he explains. “We pass on the trauma and we pass on the suffering, unconsciously, from one generation to the next. There are many, many ways to fill this emptiness . . . but the emptiness always goes back to what we didn’t get when we were very small.”

That statement hits home. Though my brother and I didn’t live as Jews in a Nazi‑occupied country, we derivatively experienced the pain our mother suffered after her expulsion from Germany and the murder of her parents. Our mother’s childhood traumas resulted in her depression and absorption in the past and inhibited her ability to nurture her children.

Still, in the end, it’s impossible to determine precisely the source of an addiction problem. Maybe it doesn’t matter anyway. The real question is, What can I do about it?

Excerpted from BROTHERS, SISTERS, STRANGERS: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation by Fern Schumer Chapman, published by Viking Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Fern Schumer Chapman. Available now.

By: Fern Schumer Chapman
Title: Addiction and Estrangement
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 09 Apr 2021 08:35:43 +0000

At New Horizon Drug Rehab, we understand addiction. If you or a family member are afflicted with addiction or substance abuse we can help. We work with the top centers throughout the US to provide the best detox and addiction treatments available.

Call Now: (877) 747-9974

The Science of Addiction and the Brain

If you’re of a certain age, you probably are familiar with the famous “This is your brain on drugs” PSA. In the 30-second spot that aired in the 90s, a man holds up an egg (“This is your brain”) before smashing it into a frying pan (“This is your brain on drugs”).

The idea of drugs damaging the brain has long been used to try to prevent people from using drugs, or to get them into treatment. While there is truth to the scare tactics, the full picture is much more interesting — and concerning.

Drugs impact your brain while you’re using them, making it more difficult to quit. Brain scans show physical differences in the brains of people with addiction compared to those who do not struggle with substance use disorder. However, there are also signs of hope: research shows that with time, your brain can recover from the damage of addiction.

Here are the facts you should know about addiction and the brain.

Drugs have a big impact on three areas of the brain.

You already know that drugs are bad for your brain, but just stick around for a minute. Understanding exactly how drug use impacts different areas of the brain can help you grasp the nuances of addiction and dependence. With new scientific advances, scientists understand more about the specific impact that drugs have on the brain.

While drug use impacts the whole brain, three areas are particularly susceptible to damage from drug use. They are:

  • The basal ganglia: The basal ganglia is part of the brain’s reward circuit. This is where your brain forms habits and patterns, driven by rewards and pleasure. If your basal ganglia finds something pleasurable (like eating, sex or drugs), it will create habits to try to get more of that thing. Drugs overwhelm this system. They’re so overly pleasurable to the brain that they override the ability to experience everyday pleasure, in much the same way that eating a very sweet dish reduces your ability to enjoy the lesser sweetness of fruit. Over time, this means that you can only feel euphoria by taking your drug of choice.
  • The extended amygdala: The extended amygdala controls anxiety, irritation and restlessness. As you use drugs, this area becomes used to having the drug around. When you haven’t used, the extended amygdala kicks into overdrive, creating all the negative feelings of withdrawal. Those symptoms then motivate you to seek more drugs to calm the extended amygdala.
  • The prefrontal cortex: The prefrontal cortex is where your rational, logical decisions are made. As addiction progresses, however, the power of the basal ganglia and the extended amygdala make it more and more difficult for the prefrontal cortex to execute sound decision making.

The interaction between liking and needing your substance

Most addiction starts off when someone tries a substance, like opioids or alcohol, and decides that they like how it makes them feel. Maybe it takes the edge off of trauma or quiets a mind that is normally buzzing. Because you enjoyed the sensation that the drug brought on, you seek more of it.

Over time, as you continue to use, the processes outlined above unfold. Rather than seeking a drug because you like it, you seek it because you want it, and eventually need it just to feel normal.

Soon, you don’t have a feeling of liking the drug any more — you’re not driven by that positive experience. Instead, you’re driven by a powerful need for your substance. You’re dependent on your substance, and likely addicted as well.

Your brain can recover with time.

Learning about the ways that addiction changes the brain can be terrifying. However, scientists are now starting to study what happens to the brain when you get sober. The results are very promising. One study found that within about 14 months, the brains of former methamphetamine users developed normal dopamine patterns, rather than the disrupted dopamine patterns of active drug users.

The concept of neuroplasticity tells us that the communication networks in the brain can change and rejuvenate with time. Just like addiction rewired your brain once, recovery and sobriety can rewire it again, this time for the better. Having access to high-quality treatment that includes neural feedback, counseling and medical care can help you heal your brain.

Learn more about Oceanside Malibu at Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook.

By: The Fix staff
Title: The Science of Addiction and the Brain
Sourced From:
Published Date: Fri, 02 Apr 2021 07:01:57 +0000

At New Horizon Drug Rehab, we understand addiction. If you or a family member are afflicted with addiction or substance abuse we can help. We work with the top centers throughout the US to provide the best detox and addiction treatments available.

Call Now: (877) 747-9974

Tenets of Treatment for a New Generation

Addiction is an age-old condition, but the idea of getting into recovery is a relatively new phenomenon. Sure, our parents and grandparents had the friends of Bill W. to help them get sober, but they didn’t have research-backed science. In recent years recovery professionals and people whose lives have been touched by addiction have realized that we need a more comprehensive approach: one where science meets compassion to help people have the best chance of getting and staying sober.

“It’s 2021, and we have to approach the person struggling with this disease in a different way,” says Matthew Ganem, CEO of Aftermath Addiction Treatment LLC in Wakefield, Massachusetts. 

When Ganem founded Aftermath with a group of people who were also in recovery from addiction, he vowed to create an addiction treatment facility for a new generation. He and his staff draw on their experience to help their peers succeed. Here’s what that looks like:

Ditching The One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Too often, when someone goes to treatment they’re told exactly what their recovery and their sobriety needs to look like. At Aftermath, the staff recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. They’ve seen through their own experiences that there are different ways to reclaim your life from drugs or alcohol.

“There’s not one right or wrong way to get better,” Ganem says.

Aftermath offers an open-ended approach. Clients can choose abstinence, medication-assisted treatment, yoga, physical fitness or any other approach that helps them stay sober, Ganem says.

“We have many other support groups or avenues of wellness, mixed with clinical and evidence-based practices to attack the disease from numerous angles.”

In his own recovery, Ganem struggled with being told how to get sober, so he doesn’t offer prescriptive advice, but instead lets clients make changes that work for them.

“When you have a group of people trying to get better you have to approach them each as an individual,” he says.

Focusing on Connection and Compassion

At Aftermath, people in recovery are invited to learn from each other.

“It’s people who have been through the fire before and are able to show you the way out that are key,” Ganem says.

Aftermath relies on close connections between patients and staff to build trust. When people who are in treatment are handled in a dignified way, with compassion and honesty, they’re more likely to learn from those around them.

“We treat people like human beings,” Ganem says. “We support them with compassion and honesty, and try to build them up.”

Giving Autonomy to the Patient

One old saying in recovery is still relevant to the new generation seeking treatment: you are the only one who can do the hard work of your recovery.

“Essentially, it’s not us as a staff who gets anybody clean and sober,” Ganem says. “It’s the individual and how much effort they put into their recovery that will determine their results.”

That doesn’t mean you’re on your own, of course. The staff at Aftermath aim to empower clients, while helping them realize that their health and wellness are in their own hands.

“As a staff, we do our best to put them in a position to succeed. Then it’s up to them to put the action in,” he said. “We are in the trenches with them, shoulder-to-shoulder, offering support.”

Ganem, who is in recovery himself, hopes that this approach will help people who haven’t found a treatment option that resonates with them.

“If you’re struggling right now and it’s hard to find hope, give yourself the opportunity to do better,” he said. “Reach out for help, get into detox, do whatever it takes to give yourself that chance of recovery.”

He knows from personal experience just how life-changing taking that step can be.

“I promise you won’t regret it,” Ganem says. “Life is a hell of a lot better when you’re not struggling every day to get drunk or high. The fact is that you deserve to have a better life.”

Aftermath Addiction Treatment Center is a treatment center located in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Find out more here.

By: The Fix staff
Title: Tenets of Treatment for a New Generation
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 31 Mar 2021 07:05:26 +0000

At New Horizon Drug Rehab, we understand addiction. If you or a family member are afflicted with addiction or substance abuse we can help. We work with the top centers throughout the US to provide the best detox and addiction treatments available.

Call Now: (877) 747-9974

Alcohol Awareness Month: Tackling the Nation’s Leading Cause of Preventable Death

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. As the nation focuses on COVID-19 and the overwhelming opioid epidemic, it’s critical that we not overlook alcohol, which continues to be the most used and abused addictive substance in the U.S.

Each April, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to raise awareness and foster a deeper understanding of alcohol use disorder causes and treatment.

Given more than 500,000 COVID-19 deaths and the 81,000 annual opioid overdoses, it can be easy to forget that almost 100,000 Americans die unnecessarily each year because of alcohol.

NCADD reports that one in every 12 adults, or 17.6 million people, abuse or are dependent on alcohol. Millions more Americans engage in binge drinking regularly, and seven million kids live with a parent who regularly abuses alcohol.

The results of casual alcohol abuse are deadly. Pre-COVID, up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the U.S. were used to treat health conditions directly related to alcohol consumption. Almost 90 percent of adults in the U.S. report drinking alcohol during their lifetime, and more than half of adults said they consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. Most people indeed drink in moderation, but 40 percent of adults drink more than the low-risk guidelines recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A multitude of reasons can explain the laissez-faire attitude many of us have toward alcohol. We use booze to celebrate, commiserate, and enhance a variety of experiences. It can feel alienating to be the odd one out when passing up a drink at a concert hall, bar, or football stadium. But alcoholism spares no one. Your age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status are irrelevant; this progressive and fatal disease can affect anyone.

The bright spot is that alcohol use disorder is 100 percent treatable. Treatment centers and 12-step programs offer help and hope for those in need. As COVID forces many to adopt Zoom for business meetings and family gatherings, it’s also forced treatment centers to rethink how they provide treatment.

Before the pandemic, online treatment options were limited. Only a few centers across the country offered virtual treatment. Skepticism of online substance about treatment was widespread and valid. How would rehab centers verify client adherence to requirements to avoid substances? Perhaps more importantly, can therapists establish the trust and connection needed to create a productive therapeutic environment through a computer screen?

The answer is a resounding yes. One such skeptic, AspenRidge Recovery therapist Jeff Olson LPC, LAC, wasn’t always a fan of virtual substance abuse treatment. But the COVID-19 pandemic and AspenRidge Recovery’s online treatment program (REACH) caused Jeff to reconsider his initial bias. Jeff joined the telehealth team and is now thriving as a virtual substance abuse treatment provider.

“I had to adjust my clinical approach and learn how to establish and develop a connection with clients when we’re both miles apart,” Olson said.

Even during a global pandemic, options exist for everyone, no matter their location, to combat alcoholism. From local 12-step communities to a full-service treatment center, help is available.

Alcoholics Anonymous can be enough for some, but many (if not most) people benefit from a professional treatment program. Addiction does not develop overnight and can’t be treated in a day, and the best outcomes result from sustained group and individual therapy. While It’s important to treat the active addiction for 30 days, the real change comes from healing the underlying causes. The process will be challenging, but I can personally attest to the benefits of a comprehensive treatment program. It’s tough, difficult work, but there is a new life on the other side of addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call AspenRidge Recovery today to speak with a Client Advocate. They’ll help you find the best treatment option for your situation, even if it isn’t with us. You can call us 24/7 at 855.281.5588, or you can visit and learn more about our virtual outpatient programs accessible in multiple states.

By: Steve Sarin
Title: Alcohol Awareness Month: Tackling the Nation’s Leading Cause of Preventable Death
Sourced From:
Published Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2021 05:03:28 +0000

At New Horizon Drug Rehab, we understand addiction. If you or a family member are afflicted with addiction or substance abuse we can help. We work with the top centers throughout the US to provide the best detox and addiction treatments available.

Call Now: (877) 747-9974