Substance use and occupation

I previously stumbled across someone (I’ll call Jareth) that was trying his hardest to address his ongoing substance use. he had all the harm minimization methods in place and had a good understanding of motivational interviewing principles plus stages of change. But for some reason, obstacles and hurdles just kept appearing. So, to help understand this, we looked at the actual process of using substances, as in, what’s the environment, what do you do leading up to use, what time of day do you mostly use? Basically, I wanted to be talked through the process step by step so that I could comfortably view the issue from his perspective. The description was that Jareth likes to set things up in a particular order and have everything prepared in quite a meticulous manner. For example, evenly measuring items, separating and displaying equipment in a neat order, putting comfort items in place for after using and so forth. Once Jareth had described all of this, we also looked at what other activities of interest involved a similar process, and after a bit of reflecting, he came up with cooking! It turns out that cooking was (and still is) a big part of what Jareth enjoys doing, especially the science of measuring out and balancing of ingredients before adding things together. Cooking is basically an edible chemistry experiment!

After recognizing cooking as having similar processes to the preparing of substances before use, we decided to try and use this for when cravings begin. On that note, Jareth set-off with a list of potential recipes to make, keeping in mind that the more ingredients, the better for distraction. A week later, we met and the feedback was that Jareth had made a big batch of soup and had compiled a list of other soups to make in future; as the process of soup making appeared to have replaced the process of setting up the equipment and environment for substances, which was part of the stimulus for using and not just solely the end result of the drug itself. We were realistic that making soup isn’t going to solve everything, but the fact that Jareth had managed to replace his cravings for substances with a meaningful occupation was a brilliant outcome, and was only achieved by sitting back and recognizing that it’s not just the “fix” that people enjoy from using substances, it’s the ritual, the distraction and the bigger process leading to the main event.

* If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulties with drug use, there’s support out there and can be found under the useful websites tab of this blog.

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