Our minds govern much of the daily thoughts and functions that we’re conscious of, and many of those we’re not. They process our emotions, store our memories and allow us to dream and imagine – and they play a major role in addiction.
Our brains are chock-full full of neurotransmitters: chemicals that send signals from cell to cell. During substance use, this delicate brain chemistry gets thrown out of whack, causing our thought patterns and behavior to change, and resulting in intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms when we try to quit using. In order to completely recover from addiction, we not only need to heal our bodies, but pay special attention to healing our minds.
A Closer Look at How Our Minds Work, and What it Means for Addiction Recovery
We can think of our minds as existing in two parts: the conscious mind (governed by the cerebral cortex) and the subconscious mind (governed by the limbic system). While we normally think of our brains as being responsible for thinking, the truth is that this only makes up about 5 percent of our brain activity. The rest of the brain is dedicated to constantly managing tasks that are outside of our awareness, such as automatically maintaining our bodily systems and emergency responses.
It’s in this limbic brain that our unprocessed emotions, survival instincts and deeply held beliefs are stored. And because this part of the brain is linked to our survival, it is dominant over our thinking brain, and many of its functions are carried out as automatic reactions, without being run through the filter of the conscious mind. This is also the part of the brain where trauma is stored.
How Trauma Becomes Locked in Your Brain
When you experience trauma, your brain develops a mechanism for dealing with it and stores it in your subconscious memory in order to ensure you survive similar situations in the future. And later, when you experience something triggering – something your brain perceives as being a similar threat – it kicks that mechanism into gear. You begin to relive that traumatic experience, along with all of the emotions it brings with it. This is why it’s often said that trauma hijacks the brain.
Often when this occurs, we’re not even aware that it’s happening. While this was helpful to our ancestors who were running from predators, it’s not helpful for building and maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves and others.
Integrative Therapy for the Subconscious Mind
Because so much of the way trauma and addiction play out in our lives has to do with parts of our brain we’re not consciously aware of, in order to completely heal our minds from trauma, we must clear it from our subconscious.
At The Sanctuary at Sedona, our non-12-Step, integrative addiction treatment program entails multiple interventions specifically designed to do just that. While staying on our secluded, naturally beautiful campus, you’ll learn to identify your disempowering thoughts and behaviors, become aware of your dysfunctional patterns and address your addiction and trauma in all areas of your mind. Our expert team of wellness practitioners will ease your stress with therapies like energy psychology, meditation training, brain supplement protocol and individual and group counseling to support your mind’s healing process in the best way possible.
For more on healing the brain from addiction, see our article: Brain Detoxification in Integrative Addiction Recovery.