Since Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef founded Fairwinds Treatment Center, one of the most reputable addiction treatment centers in the nation, he has spent decades treating both addicts' minds and bodies using his unique dual diagnosis methodology. Dr. El-Yousef has long believed that addiction is almost always triggered or exacerbated by other psychological, mental or emotional issues, and that treating chemical dependency without also addressing these contributing factors is nearly certain to result in a failed recovery.
When Fairwinds opened in 1989, too few addiction specialists acknowledged the strong link between patients' addictions and other, often diagnosed, problems. However, in recent years, a growing body of research has reinforced and validated Dr. El-Yousef's dual diagnosis approach. That's why we at the center were unsurprised but interested to hear about a recent study from the National Institutes of Health that found addicts exhibit less "mindfulness," defined by numerous experts as "a way of being."
"[Mindfulness is] a way of being … that is focused on the present moment in a non-judgmental, non-reactive, compassionate manner," the researchers write. "All experiences that enter awareness, whether emotions, thoughts or physical sensations, when viewed through mindfulness, are not evaluated as good or bad, or right or wrong. Rather, all experiences are viewed as fleeting phenomena that naturally arise and fall, not experiences to be avoided or clung to."
In other words, mindfulness is a psychological state or tool that allows people to process traumatic experiences and feelings in a healthy manner. Those who lack mindfulness may turn to substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors to handle trauma — an occurrence that we regularly see here at Fairwinds Treatment Center. Helping to improve a patient's psychological and emotional health can therefore go a long way toward promoting recovery from addiction. On the other hand, removing the substance on which someone is dependent without giving them tools to cope without it is a recipe for disaster. That's why we rely on a highly personalized combination of clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling to encourage healing both inside and out, helping our patients to achieve a lasting recovery.
In the study, the researchers surveyed 107 adults who were in residential treatment for substance abuse. The addicted individuals showed a limited ability to step back from a situation in which they found themselves to observe it in a non-judgmental manner. They also displayed a lack of curiosity about their circumstances, meaning that they did not have a desire to know more about what they were experiencing. Mindful individuals are able to mentally remove themselves from negative incidents to view them in a detached way, allowing them to better process trauma. Rather than condemning themselves for their feelings or actions, they can observe them from a neutral place where they can exercise self-compassion.
"It is possible," write the researchers, "that the substance abuse group employed alcohol/drugs as a way to cope with, or to distance themselves from, distressing emotions and thoughts that they were over-identified with; in essence, substance use may be a form of coping with these distressing experiences."
If you are struggling with addiction, know that you are not alone and help is available. You may very well have undiagnosed psychological, mental and/or emotional challenges that have led to or worsened your substance abuse. There is no better place to find healing and recovery than Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida. Call today for more information.