7 Practical Tips to Overcoming Addiction for those on the Autism Spectrum

Serving others produce a chemical reaction in your body that makes you feel a natural high and better about yourself.

By Ron Sandison

Recent research studies have shown that people with autism who drink or use legal drugs are more likely to become addicted to or otherwise abuse these substances then those who are not on the ASD spectrum. Dr. Duneesha De Alwis wrote, “People on the autism spectrum can be socially withdrawn, so drinking with peers is less likely. But if they do start drinking, even alone, they tend to repeat that behavior, which puts them at increased risk for alcohol dependence.”

I have been employed in the mental health field for over nine years at Havenwyck Hospital and over fifteen, counseling people with substance abuse. During this time I have noticed a pattern between people who recover and those who continue to relapse. Those who recover have both a positive attitude and accountability.

  1. Stay positive. 
    Don’t become discouraged in your quest for recovery. Your addiction was a process; now it controls your life. The pleasure spectrum theory explains the vicious cycle of addiction. You get high to feel pleasure—taking your mind off life—but every time you get high it takes more potency to get the same fix—so you continue to use more and more—until you are addicted. Once addicted you cease to get high only for pleasure and to free your mind, but to avoid the pain of withdrawal. Notice addiction took time so does recovery. Only difference between a successful person and a failure is a successful person rises one more time then he or she falls. As Charles Spurgeon says, “By perseverance the snail made it on the ark.”       
  2. Change your appetite. 
    You will hunger for what you feed on. Certain sights, tastes, sounds, places, people, remind you of your addiction—keep away from these—it will only feed your addiction. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said, “What you feed in your life will grow.” Feed on things that lead to sobriety—friends who encourage you, places that symbolize hope, activities that remind you of your B.C. days (before addiction).
  3. Discovery or rediscovery of fun activities. 
    Addiction can make life appear black & white–lonely—scary—find fun activities to bring color back into your world. One of the reason for recreation therapy is many substance abusers have forgotten how to have fun apart from using. Fun activities can include: bike riding, going to the beach, walks in the park/woods, watching funny movies, or drawing.
  4. Serves others & learn to put your problems in perspective.
    The saying, “Before you can help others, you have to help yourself,” is a half-truth. As you serve others you begin to realize that your problems were not as bad as you thought—seeing every person has his or her own cross to bear. Serving others produce a chemical reaction in your body that makes you feel a natural high and better about yourself.
  5. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek professional help. 
    Be aware—certain withdrawals can kill you—alcohol, benzos, and opiates. Dr. Adi Jaffe, the director of Alternative Behavioral Health at UCLA, warns, “Withdrawal from these drugs is like trying to turn the heat up in a cold house with a broken thermostat and an out of control heater—it won’t always lead to disaster, but it’s a bad idea.” If while withdrawing from these drugs, you develop a fever, extreme nausea, diarrhea, or DT (delirium tremens), you need to seek immediate medical attention.
  6. Seek friends and family members to hold you accountable.
    Your accountability partner shouldn’t be someone who is also in the process of recovery—the blind leading the blind. Instead it should be someone who is not afraid to confront you and put your feet to the fire. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins everything remains in the dark but in the presence of a brother or sister the sin has to be brought into the light.” Your accountability partner should encourage you to examine the effect of your behavior on others, your environment, and your personal life as well as the benefits of change.
  7. Keep faith for recovery.
    Never stop dreaming of life without addiction. Place your faith in a higher power to get you through the storms ahead. Addiction keeps you from fulling your purpose in life—so break free. A man placed his wet clothes in the dryer—forty minutes later, checking his clothes, they were still wet. He examined the main pipe that brings hot-air only to discover a robin’s nest. This nest prevented the dryer from fulling its purpose of drying clothes. After removing the nest—the dryer could again accomplish its purpose.


Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom published by Charisma House. Ron has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes.

He frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016. You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at sandison456@hotmail.com

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