That’s the average number of times the attention of a ‘normal’ person will break … that’s every 6 to 10 seconds for anyone who doesn’t want to do the math. This number is even less for those people who start talking or reading something and then … SQUIRREL!
So let’s apply this fact to someone in early recovery. It’s important to remember that their neural and bio chemicals have literally been trashed by the use of their drug or drugs of choice. Not to mention the physical damage done to the actual brain itself by both the harsh chemicals, and the sever lack of nutrition over extended periods of time. Sadly, active brain scans of people who have used drugs heavily in the past leave the ‘activity’ in the brain looking like a piece of Swiss Cheese.
So why is this tid bit of information important for people in recovery, and even more so for those that are trying to help those very people? Because it SHOULD greatly impact how we, as professional’s present our information to those we are helping, especially those just entering treatment. We would be doing them a great disservice if we were to just keep repeating the same old information over and over again, without trying to help them in their ability to actually understand what we were saying. It would be like trying to help someone who only speaks Russian, by only speaking English and then blaming ‘them’ because they didn’t apply what we ‘told’ them to do. Talk about the definition of insanity! Yet many ‘recovery centers’ do just that very thing.
The simple and redundant mantra of “go to meetings, find a sponsor, and work the steps” followed by the idea that if you don’t you are going to die or go to jail is repeated over and over by ‘counselors’ and the like. Granted, this IS great information … for those that understand and are ready to listen and then apply what they hear or read. However, it is a far cry from being the ONLY thing that people new to recovery need to hear.
If we really want to help, we should try to embrace the idea that talking therapy isn’t going to do much good until people can actually ~ pay attention, understand, and remember what is or was being said. Jesus himself could be teaching a recovery course, but if I can’t understand what’s being said nor remember what was covered, it’s not going to impact my life very much. It is also more frustrating than beneficial to try and read a paragraph 8 times but still not remember what you just read!
It is, or would be, very beneficial for those trying to help, to understanding that certain chemicals MUST be back in play again before people have the cognitive ability to focus effectively. Another key component is understanding that ‘paying attention’ is actually a ‘skill’ and all skills can get better with practice. Que the intro music for meditation, and mindfulness. If these two things are not being applied to a recovery program, you are missing a big part of the pie (and we can cover these in a future blog).
Another key component that is often lacking in ‘recovery centers’ is nutrition and exercise information and guidance. Good nutrition is not only helpful, but a necessity for those just entering recovery. Nutrition helps with the minds ability to create dopamine, which helps with the person’s attention and motivation. It also helps with serotonin for sleep mood and impulse control, with GABA for stressors, and with norepinephrine for alertness and a positive self-esteem. Exercise helps force the body to create these chemicals on a more regular basis, and at higher levels. It also has the added benefit of increased focus and cognition, as well as stress relief, sense of well-being, and positive self-image. The beneficial storm these two help to create is an extremely helpful cocktail for recovery!
Helping those in early recovery, to help themselves, by initiating the stabilization of their bio and neural chemicals literally sets the stage for all their future treatments to have the greatest possible impact. So by your own actions as treatment professionals, we are either helping to set them up for success or literally ‘hamstringing’ them before the greatest race of their lives!
Who am I?
I have been called "Sirthinkalot" and "The mender of souls." I am an addiction specialist and a full-time psychology student on the way to Dr. Davis in clinical psychology. I am currently crusading for the expedited paradigm shift in addiction recovery!