How Is Substance Abuse Childish Behavior?
It might seem like an odd way to think about substance abuse and addiction, but the behaviors are childish and immature. No one can claim ignorance of the negative consequences of drug or alcohol abuse, yet people do it anyway. Being impulsive and lacking self-discipline are traits that are common in children and which we are expected to outgrow. So why do drug abusers act like children and how can they learn to grow up?
Impulsivity, Self-Control And Drug Abuse
Controlling impulses is something we all have to learn as human beings. We are not born with self-discipline. As young children we reach for what we want. As we grow older we learn to control our impulses. Those who fail to learn the skill, for whatever reason, are not as successful. For instance, a study found that teenagers that exhibited strong self-control were more likely to be positive, achieve goals and be self-motivated and successful in academics than their impulsive peers.
Research has also found that being impulsive and lacking self-control are traits that may be inherent in some people. We also know that having these traits makes some people more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. If you can’t control your impulses, and if you lack the self-control to turn down a pleasurable drug because of negative consequences, you are more likely to be an addict.
Growing Up And Learning Self-Control
Just because addicts act more childishly and are more impulsive than non-addicted adults, does not mean they cannot learn to control themselves and be more emotionally mature. One powerful, yet simple, tool is distraction. People who have good self-control are good at distracting themselves. If something pleasurable is set before you, but you know you should resist, distract yourself. Think about other things or engage in an alternative activity—whatever you do, make the distraction positive. You will be more likely to control your impulse if you can distract yourself with something that is pleasurable and good for you.
Another good tool that emotionally mature adults use is stress-management. If you are stressed out, you put yourself in a negative cycle of bad behaviors and poor health. When stressed, you are more likely to be impulsive. Meditation, exercise, adequate sleep, good nutrition and mindfulness all help to manage stress and help you to make better choices, not ones based on impulses. The better you feel, the better able you will be to make good choices.
People with good self-control are good planners. Thinking about the future and planning for situations in which your self-control may be tested can help you to resist your impulses. For instance, if you are trying to cut back on drinking, consider all the possible situations you may face. If you’re going to a party, make a plan for how many drinks you will have and how you will resist the impulse to have more. Plan out how you will handle people who urge you to keep drinking. Making these plans can help lead you to successfully control your impulses.
Finally, maintain a positive attitude. Some people believe that willpower is a finite resource, but this isn’t true. You may be faced with a number of temptations, but you can learn through practice and experiences to control your impulses. You are not a child anymore, and although you still act like one at times, you do have the power within you to grow up and act like a mature adult with self-control.