Of course, our caregivers when we’re infants aren’t the only influences on brain development, behavior, attitudes, and coping strategies. We learn from those around us, and we also learn to adapt to the environment that surrounds us. Some people who grow up with situations or environments that stress them.
For example, Gabor talks about the elevated occurrence of asthma in African-American women who have experienced episodes of racism, or the disproportionate number of women with MS, and the Adverse Childhood Experiences study that links experiences to illness, addiction, and other difficulties. It’s becoming clear that prolonged exposure to stress causes health problems, and can increase the risk of addiction, especially if we haven’t learned any other way of coping with the stress.
Here, we introduce the client and family to the possibility of permanently rewiring their brains, letting go of cravings and fears of relapse, and being able to live a normal life. For many clients, especially those who have relapsed repeatedly, this may provide the first genuine hope of long-term recovery they have ever felt. Clients who see the possibility for change can also tap into a sense of empowerment. These positive feelings, in themselves, promote healing and rebuilding of neural pathways in the brain. For this reason, we repeatedly emphasize this part of the work. We can remind clients of the positive steps they are taking every day, when they interact with others, attend meetings or other support groups, and socialize with others.