“As long as love is pleasure, it’s end-- a sad tapering off into indifference and inertia--is predictable” Deepak Chopra During my initial assessment with people who have substance abuse addictions, I often ask “If you take out the substance with which you are addicted, what is it that you truly crave?” A majority of the time I am met with the same response: “Love and Acceptance.”

I have been told by many of my clients that they started using drugs, continually relapsed, and even overdosed as a result of feeling unloveable and unaccepted by their parents, partners, and peers. Why are these relationships so powerful in influencing people to continue to abuse a substance, or substances, that could ultimately lead to their demise?

It has been my experience in working in the field of addiction for nearly 10 years, that a primary reason for addiction and continued relapse is a person’s denial of who they truly are, that leads them down the path of addiction.

Many addicts I have worked with share stories of having the experience of feeling unworthy, not good enough, feeling unloveable, and/or of believing they are “bad, sick, and wrong” after living through some sort of trauma in their lives. I use the term trauma a bit loosely here, as my clients report varying degrees. For example, one client could not resolve the pain he felt from the divorce of his parents when he was very young, another client had been repeatedly sexually abused throughout her life; and another client had very wealthy parents who showed her love by giving her money minus any attention or affection.

I have listened to hundreds of stories of individuals, who in a desperate attempt to achieve a sense of love and acceptance, began a relationship with drugs. Similarly, I have spoken with individuals who found themselves using drugs with their partners as a means of maintaining their already dysfunctional relationship. I have also worked with sober individuals who became addicted to unhealthy relationships in an attempt to relieve their craving for their drug-of-choice. It is evident that addiction is often extremely complicated.

My goal in providing therapy for clients with substance abuse addiction is to assist them in learning how to love themselves first, starting with forgiving their past experiences (forgiveness being defined as “letting go”), and teaching them how to cultivate a nurturing relationship with themselves. This entails teaching them tools for embracing who they truly are: the parts which they have denied since childhood: the loving, precious, trusting, open, playful, honest person that resides within us all. I primarily use Guided Imagery, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness Therapy, and Positive Psychology to assist clients in fully experiencing themselves as separate from their addictions.

For sober individuals who are in addictive relationships, I offer individual and couples therapy to address the differences between a healthy relationship and one that is addictive, as well as teach healthy communication skills, appropriate boundary setting, and individuality vs. companionship (1 + 1 = 2).

Addiction is believed to be a lifelong disease, one in which physical cravings may subside at times but never fully cease. However, as has been shared in this article, I believe that the ultimate addiction for people is the desire to experience love. It is with self love that we are truly capable of healing ourselves, each other, and the planet. Namaste~