Tag: early-sobriety

Believe it or Not, Playing This Old Video Game Reduces Drug Cravings

Can a Video Game Help With Drug Cravings?

In an international collaboration of science, research, and video games, psychologists from Plymouth University and Queensland University of Technology have uncovered something pretty cool.

Playing Tetris – yes that Tetris – three minutes a day for one week reduces cravings for drugs, alcohol, sex, food, and other compulsive behaviors.

Tetris Has Been Shown To Help Alleviate Drug Cravings

We’re not making this up! Researchers published their findings in the journal Addictive Behaviours and sparked a lively discussion online about the merits of using video games in behavioral healthcare treatment.

This latest discovery comes on the heels of a report from researchers at Cambridge University, published in early July in the journal Psychological Science, that playing Tetris has potential as a treatment for PTSD.

What’s going on here? How is a video game – an incredibly simple one at that! – showing potential as a multidisciplinary tool in treating addiction and mental illness?

Read on to find out!

The Tetris Effect

“The Tetris Effect,” as we’re calling it, was discovered after psychologists from Queensland University of Technology in Australia and Plymouth University in England teamed up to study how the game impacts compulsive behavior.

They put together a small study involving thirty-one people. All participants were relatively young, ranging from eighteen to twenty-seven years old.

Their instructions were simple – text researchers whenever they had a craving for drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. Researchers also periodically checked in and prompted participants to report any cravings.

Of the thirty-one people involved in the study, fifteen were asked to play Tetris for three minutes after they experienced a craving. They then reported back to researchers about whether they were still craving drugs, booze, etc. or whether it had passed.

This study lasted a week, with those who were asked to play Tetris repeating the experiment an average of forty times.

So, what did the psychologists running the study find? Well, here’s where things get really interesting.

Playing Tetris reduced cravings by an average of 13.9% over the course of seven days. Not only that, but it also reduced “strong cravings” participants experienced when they were actually drunk.

The abstract of the study, excerpted from Science Direct, lists the following highlights:

    • Playing Tetris weakened cravings in natural settings.


    • Tetris was effective for drug cravings as well as food and activity cravings.


    • Effect was consistent over a week.


  • Tetris was effective on higher cravings experienced under influence of alcohol.

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Why Does Tetris Work So Well to Reduce Cravings?

That’s the real question, right? After all, it’s surprising and neat that playing a simple video game has the potential to help addicts and alcoholics in early-recovery…but why?

Well, according to the authors of the study, it all has to do with the way Tetris interferes with how we process information.

Think about it like this – when you have a craving, it’s intense and overpowering. All thoughts besides getting high (or drunk, or overeating, etc.) are swept from your mind. Basically, it takes over your entire mental process until it passes.

Well, when someone has a craving and interrupts it by playing Tetris, that breaks the cognitive hold the craving has. Tetris is a visually stimulating and, as the levels progress, complicated game. It simply isn’t possible for someone to maintain both a craving and focus on the game at the same time.

will rehab one day be playing video games
is this what rehab will look like in the future?

And that’s the secret – simple as it may be – to using Tetris to help with recovery from drugs, alcohol, compulsive behavior, and, in some cases, PTSD.

The other neat thing researchers discovered was the longevity of “the Tetris Effect.” Remember, it was shown to reduce cravings for up to a week after participants played.

While it’s still unclear why this is – it doesn’t really matter, right? There’s now an incredibly practical and easy way to go out and help yourself if you’re having intense cravings!

Of course, we’re not suggesting Tetris is all someone needs to treat addiction. Still, it’s a useful tool for those struggling in early-sobriety.

What do you think? Let us know on social media!

What The Hell is a Negative Contract?

Really, What Are They?

negative contracts

Okay, so what the hell is a negative contract? If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard this term thrown around in treatment, halfway houses, and twelve-step meetings without actually knowing what it means.

I’ve been sober for seven years now. It wasn’t until year two or three that I actually learned what a negative contract was. Probably because I was hardheaded in treatment and didn’t pay full attention!

So, what is a negative contract? It’s simply keeping a secret that may be harmful to yourself or others. It’s keeping a secret you shouldn’t keep. Still sound a bit confusing? Well, read on to find specific examples of negative contracts during the various stages of sobriety!

What’s ORT and why is it called “fake recovery?”

Keeping Secrets in Rehab

Negative contracts and rehab, the two go together like peanut butter and jelly! I’d like to share an example from my own time in treatment to illustrate just how harmful negative contracts in rehab can be.

In 2007, I was in a medium sized rehab. We had around forty patients altogether. Many of them were sneaking around, hooking up with each other, and sharing medication. It was a bit of a mess.

The staff found out about all this, although they didn’t find out who was doing what specifically. We had a “community meeting” where the therapists tried to get us to admit to details. I wasn’t directly involved in any of it, but I did know what was happening. I didn’t say anything and neither did anyone else.

A few weeks later, one of the guys involved relapsed, overdosed, and died.

Did he die because he was keeping a negative contract? Of course not! Still, he wasn’t living honestly. He wasn’t living by spiritual principles. He wasn’t drinking, but he wasn’t sober. That contributed to his relapse, which did kill him.

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Halfway Houses & Hiding the Truth

The time we spend living in a halfway house or other sober living facility is, generally speaking, considered “early to middle sobriety.” We have a little bit of time, we’re actively engaged in working the steps, and we’re trying to grow as spiritual men and women.

We’re still at risk for keeping negative contracts though. Thankfully, at this point, we’re usually not in imminent danger of drinking. What we are in danger of is living in a selfish and unhealthy manner. And make no mistake, these things lead back to drinking.

Keeping a negative contract during this period is a major danger! From personal experience, I know how damaging it can be. One of my roommates would regularly sneak women into our halfway house. I never said anything about it. I held that negative contract.

While I didn’t end up drinking, I certainly felt emotionally drained. I wasn’t being honest. I wasn’t helping my roommate or myself. I started to get angry all the time. I started to, once again, become selfish rather than selfless.

Speaking of halfway houses, learn how they help during early-sobriety!

Negative Contracts in Long-Term Sobriety

And here we get to the good stuff! Long-term sobriety! This is, generally speaking, any length of time after the first three years of sobriety.

Do people in long-term recovery keep negative contracts? You bet they do! Although I don’t have personal experience (I finally started living right!), I can share a sponsee’s experience.

My sponsee worked at a popular fast-food restaurant. He knew of someone who was stealing money from the register. He didn’t say anything. He called me more than a few times torn up over this knowledge. He knew he should do something, but he simply didn’t.

Did he drink? Nope. He did act out in other ways though. Much like my experience, he began to get angry and act like, well, like an idiot. He would snap and yell at the people he lived with. He would let people walk all over him. He was living, in other words, like he was still drinking.

Getting Rid of Negative Contracts

what is a negative contract

The solution to negative contracts, as simple as it may sound, is to simply share the secret. You may have heard the saying “we’re only as sick as our secrets.” That’s absolutely true!

Holding a negative contract helps no one. It doesn’t help the person you’re holding it for. It only enables their negative behavior. It doesn’t help us. It only feeds our character defects.

So, tell someone! It doesn’t matter if the person you tell is your sponsor, therapist, friend, sober support, or anyone else. It’s just important to get that negative contract out.

Now, there is one caveat to the above statement. You shouldn’t tell the negative contract to someone it would hurt. That is to say, if you know someone is cheating on their significant other, don’t tell the significant other!

Now that we know how to handle a negative contract, let’s go out and start living our lives based on spiritual principles!

Do They Really Work: Why Should I Use Antidepressants in Sobriety?

Do I Need a Pill to be Happy?

I got sober April 17th, 2008. I started taking antidepressants April 18th, 2008. For better or worse, antidepressants and sobriety have been linked for me from the very start.

antidepressants and sobriety

It’s over six years later and I still take antidepressants. I’ve questioned whether I need them to be happy. Hell, I’ve questioned whether I need them to be sober.

I don’t think I’m alone in this questioning, either. Although I’ve only spoken to a handful of my twelve-step friends about this, I believe depression in sobriety is something a lot of recovering addicts deal with.

So, my question is – do I need a pill to be happy?

The Truth About Mental Illness and Addiction

As far back as I can remember, I’ve dealt with depression and anxiety. In fact, I think those were driving forces behind my addiction.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe that addiction and alcoholism are very separate from depression and anxiety. I’m an addict because I suffer from the disease of addiction. I’m an addict because I have a mental obsession, a physical allergy, and a spiritual malady.

That last point, though, is important. I believe that depression and anxiety are part of the spiritual malady. While the spiritual malady is removed by God, sometimes we need more help.

For me, that’s when antidepressants and sobriety entered the picture.

Learn why Delray Beach is the best place to get sober

Mental Illness: An Outside Issue?

I’ve heard this repeated at meetings. Someone will raise their hand and share about how they’re struggling with depression or anxiety. The next person will talk about how mental illness is an outside issue and shouldn’t be discussed in a twelve-step meeting.

On one hand, they’re absolutely right. Mental illness isn’t the same thing as addiction. Still, I think this type of thinking is shortsighted. After all, mental illness does go hand-in-hand with addiction. Don’t believe me? Ask ten addicts how many of them also suffer from some sort of mental illness. I bet you’ll see ten hands in the air.

So, how does a recovering addict talk about antidepressants and sobriety? How do we, as men and women of grace and dignity, start the conversation about antidepressants and sobriety?

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My Experience with Antidepressants and Sobriety

Like I mentioned above, antidepressants and sobriety are intrinsically linked for me. I started taking antidepressants the day after I got sober.

I found myself in yet another treatment center. This time, though, the rehab’s doctor seemed to know what he was doing. He talked to me for about an hour and, at the end of our conversation, recommended I go on an antidepressant.

I was pretty hesitant. Like the title of this article, I thought to myself “Do I really need another pill?” I decided to listen to the doctor. I thank God everyday for that decision.

In early-sobriety, antidepressants allowed me to have some peace. They provided a window of sanity in an otherwise insane life. Remember, I was abstinent from drugs and alcohol, but I still hadn’t done much work on myself.

After I did the work, aka completed the twelve-steps, I continued to take antidepressants. I had a long talk with my sponsor about this. He said that taking non-narcotic medicine in sobriety was between me, my doctor, and God.

The Painkiller Epidemic: Real of Just Hype?

I’ve tried to talk to other addicts about antidepressants and sobriety. Most don’t want to talk about it. In fact, it seems like by asking I’m breaching some kind of code or something. They shrug the question off or respond by telling me to talk to my sponsor.

I briefly stopped taking antidepressants during my sobriety. Guess what happened? Both my depression and anxiety returned. They weren’t as bad as they’d been in active addiction, but they certainly handicapped me.

During this time, I prayed, meditated, and sought other types of spiritual relief. While these things helped, I was still depressed and anxious twenty-four hours a day. So, I went back on antidepressants.

Does the fact that I take antidepressants in sobriety make me less sober than someone who doesn’t? I don’t know. All I know is antidepressants have helped me tremendously.

Pros of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety

  • They can relive depression and anxiety
  • They can provide relief in early-sobriety, before someone has completed the twelve-steps

Cons of Taking Antidepressants in Sobriety

  • Some people will claim you’re not really sober
  • It can be hard to have to take another pill in sobriety

If antidepressants are okay, what about Adderall?

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