On this episode of Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, hosts psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow to talk about addiction during the pandemic, and how we can manage it together. When we hold each other accountable and focus our energy on what we can control, we can break free from patterns of behaviour that lead to addiction.
Dr. Mike Dow is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author. He earned his Doctor of Psychology degree from Southern California University for Professional Studies and his Ph.D. in Clinical Sexology from the American Academy of Clinical Sexology.
Read this if...
- You’re struggling with any form of addiction
- You’re struggling to stay sober during this pandemic
- You need some pointers on how to take control of your addiction
the distilld lessons (extended)
Addiction is a disease that affects a lot of people. It can come in a lot of forms: recreational drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or junk food. Most people can be hooked on anything that gives them an instant surge of satisfaction and relief.
The drastic changes brought on by the pandemic could aggravate addictions for people already struggling with it. Staying home means cancelled support meetings which are important in recovery. People begin mission out on outdoor activities that serve as coping strategies. Avoiding physical contact also means that contact with people who are support systems are also significantly diminished.
The current situation globally can also threaten people’s sobriety. Because of all the uncertainty, people could fall back to old patterns and lapse back into addiction, but now without access to adequate support.
On this episode of Red Table Talk, hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, and Willow Smith talk to psychotherapist Dr. Mike Dow about how addiction can be a painful experience for those affected, how the pandemic contributes to exacerbating addiction, and what can be done about it.
Here are the distilld lessons inspired by the “Coping with Addiction During Coronavirus” episode of the Red Table Talk podcast:
1. Seeking help is the first crucial step towards recovery
Dr. Mike advises that anyone fighting addiction should seek help. Admitting they need help is the first big step to overcoming addiction. Simply realizing that the addiction is affecting day-to-day to life is an essential part of the recovery process. Only when people seek help can therapists and rehabilitation centers guide people through their journey away from addiction.
2. Support systems help people in recovery to stay accountable
Adrienne was once addicted to heroin herself. What led her to sobriety was her support system: her family, her sponsor, her group therapy, and herself. All these people together made her accountable for her own healing. She’s now on her 30th year of sobriety. She says that while she’s been sober for a long time, she still needs her support system to keep on the straight and narrow.
A stable support system is crucial. Addiction doesn’t only involve the person in recovery but their loved ones as well. According to a 2016 study, recovery also involves emotional wellness. Medical treatment alone is not as effective without the support of loved ones.
Similarly, we should be aware of the tendencies, triggers, and patterns of behaviour that can start addiction or cause a relapse. This is especially true for teenagers as they are exposed to higher risks of addiction and relapse.
3. Accountability is a vital part of sobriety
Willow, on her part, was addicted to cannabis. She’s able to stop using this substance through the help of her mother. Jada moved her away from her addiction by holding her accountable with gentle reminders and without shaming her. Jada would just tell Willow that, “You got to stop that smoking,” and trusted her to learn from the consequences on her own.
This approach allowed Willow to break free from addiction through her own self-awareness. She found that she smoked whenever she felt bored. Willow now keeps herself busy so she can manage her urge to smoke even with the pandemic keeping her at home. Knowing what triggers her addiction allows Willow to stay away from it.
4. Understanding what is and isn’t in our control can help us cope
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” says the Serenity Prayer, and Dr. Mike tells us to take this to heart. We’re all struggling with the pandemic, and there are a lot of things we can and cannot change.
We can’t change the fact that the virus is here to stay, but we can change our attitudes of dealing with it.
Dealing with addiction is hard and the pandemic has only made it harder. Fortunately, humans are adaptable beings. We can change our thinking, shifting on finding solutions rather than wallowing over things we can’t control. When we focus on what we can change, and act on it, it gives us a sense of control.
We can control our patterns, feelings, and exposure to triggers that invite addiction. We can replace them with positive habits or other coping mechanisms to veer us away from returning to addictive substances. These can be any activity, from workouts to mindfulness exercises. Exercising can help us reduce risks of depression and anxiety. Mindful breathing can help us achieve some inner peace.
It’s possible for people to become sober or remain sober, even during the pandemic. We can go back to The Serenity Prayer that rings true, especially in these times. We can allow ourselves to rely on our support systems to keep us accountable to our health. But first, we can recognize we can’t recover alone and understand that there’s no shame in seeking help.
For a shorter conversation, the distilld lessons summary are here.