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Ask the Expert: Dr. Adi Jaffe on understanding and overcoming addiction in all its forms

Addiction is a mental health issue mired in myth and stigma. Many people mistakenly think it symbolizes weakness or a lack of self-control, but the truth is addiction has less to do with the substance or activity and more to do with coping with a serious issue in our lives. For that reason, we are all susceptible. Addiction specialist and LifeSpeak expert Dr. Adi Jaffe joined our Ask the Expert session on Tuesday to expand on this by answering our users questions. Dr. Jaffe holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He teaches courses at UCLA and California State University at Long Beach that address addiction specifically or biological psychology and behavioral neuroscience more generally. Well-known for his online and academic writing, Dr. Jaffe’s views on addiction and his research on the topic have been published on his own (a website he started publishing while still in graduate school) as well as Psychology Today and dozens of other journals and online publications. He has appeared on several television shows including Good Morning America and in documentaries discussing current topics in addiction. Dr. Jaffe’s view is a holistic one, drawing from the best and most recent research to bring a complete solution to addiction clients.

Here are the highlights from our webchat with Dr. Adi Jaffe. Please keep in mind all user participation is anonymous.

Supporting a loved one through relapse

QUESTION — “What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for family members supporting a recovering addict when he or she has a relapse?”

Dr. Adi Jaffe — “Relapse can be pretty common in one’s recovery journey, so building an understanding of it (rather than fearing it) can be useful. If you think about it, a relapse is an indication that some aspect of the recovery formula is not working well enough — and there are many options. The most important thing is to support the person in learning to understand why the relapse happened, and, instead of punishment and shame, encouraging reflection and growth. By doing this, you can create a more honest communication chain and become a source of support rather than of stress and anxiety. Again, I work through these concepts in detail in my book, but I’ll tell you this: a relapse is NOT about the drug, and hiding/avoiding the substance won’t fix future relapses.”

Fighting addiction as a community

QUESTION — “I live in a pretty rough neighborhood where substance abuse is regarded as the norm and is very visible and felt in the streets. How do I help the community with the perception of the norm? How do I help it not be ok with neighbors and have them help do something about it as a group?”

Dr. Adi Jaffe — “My guess is that there are others around who feel the same as you. Substance use being “the norm” likely means that there are some pretty difficult circumstances in the neighborhood/community (just a guess, since I know nothing of the specifics here). The answer might lie in this: how can you help create a more satisfying daily experience in the community? What resources are missing for people to enjoy, rather than dread, their daily life and what can you and others in the community do to alleviate it? As I mentioned before, drug use is NOT about the drugs, but about the coping. Can you and others help alleviate the struggle somehow?”

Putting a stop to excessive behaviors

QUESTION — “I don’t drink every day, but when I do drink I find it hard to stop. Suggestions?”

Dr. Adi Jaffe — “Here are some thought exercises: Where is most of your stress coming from? How are your relationships in life? What are you anxious about and what thoughts are you trying to avoid (you know, the early morning, late at night, constant nagging ones)? Are you holding yourself back from drinking regularly, or are you finding it easy not to drink on a regular basis? As I mentioned before, the drinking or over-drinking is often tied to other life circumstances. If you didn’t have the alcohol, what would be stressing you out on those nights?”

Don’t miss our next Ask the Expert session!

If you weren’t able to catch our webchat with Dr. Adi Jaffe, you can always sign into your LifeSpeak account to read the transcript. And be sure to log in May 28 at 12PM EST to chat with Michael Bach, who will be answering your questions about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. If you don’t have a LifeSpeak account, please have your HR team reach out to us about your company subscribing.

What is Ask the Expert?

Our Ask the Expert sessions allow our users to have regular access to our experts in real time, which allows them to have their pressing questions answered. This opportunity provides our users with practical and easily implemented tips to help them make real changes in their lives. To learn more, don’t hesitate to book a walk-through.