Pharmacologist and addiction specialist, Sana Barada, on her approach to wellness and lifestyle changes.

On lifestyle philosophy in one sentence:  

"You don’t choose to be an addict, but you get to choose the kind of addict you want to be”. 

No one wants to hurt themselves or their beloved ones, yet as an addict you still get to choose if you want to be a responsible and self-disciplined one .


On daily routine advice:  

You should never think it’s too late for an addict to talk about a detailed daily routine such as: how much water they drink, what kind of food they eat, how many hours they sleep and if they workout. Even if they seem that they have passed the point of no return, they should still be held accountable and encouraged for maintain a structured and loaded schedule.  



On her best piece of lifestyle advice: 

Never say ‘I’m in desperation and I have no one else I could ask; I’d just be repeating things I’ve already done.’ 

Addiction treatment is about changing your expectations and understanding that it is about NOT falling in the trap of despair. You must keep trying again and again, never fail to persevere. In the end, addiction treatment is about learning how to stand after falling.  


On the mindset she never bothers with:  

I would never bother with trying to obtain abstinence, this could be adding further stress and thus an urge to seek instantaneous gratification. I’d rather focus more at increasing compartments in my life which will over time decrease the presence and dependency of the addiction or bad habit. In order to do this, focus on harm reduction and a LOT of acceptance. Abstinence is positive, however, we should not strive for it, instead, let it come naturally overtime.

  

On her nighttime routine:  

Nighttime should be approached with caution since it is a natural trigger due to the brain being exhausted. Most bad habits arise at night as our brains are in search for instant gratification. Keep the expectations low and be understanding and respect your body.


On her life mentor:

Dr Ed Napke created Canada’s 1st adverse drug reaction reporting system in 1965 and is the consultant to the WHO’s Uppsala Monitoring Centre. Although he had sophisticated learnings and practices, he taught the simplest rule: ‘the half rule’ which was a lesson on how to always obtain half of what is pleasurable, also measured as a concept of moderation.‘Justice for everybody including your enemy’ as addiction is a result of lack of satisfaction and feel of injustice. Dr. Napke valued hope which was seen in his response when I used to wish him a nice day, he would express that ‘Everyday the sun shines is a nice day!’


On what addiction in the future will be: 

Addictions such as food, electronics use, gaming, sports, gambling, all pertaining to lifestyle choice will be discussed more. Additional focus will be on these SMALL but repetitive habits in our daily life that can have a BIG effect on our quality of life. I hope addiction won’t be seen as a problem of lack of  willpower or moral failure but instead a brain disease that after all needs to be understood, accepted and embraced.  


On what she’s afraid of:  

Perfectionism. I would love especially for young people to understand that trying to be perfect is NOT a good thing. Replace it instead with: ‘Best Possible Self! Where the goal is progress, not perfection, since none of us will ever be perfect.’ Distinction between a pleasant life and a meaningful life. On what she would tell her 3 kids about her story with addiction: I didn’t choose to be surrounded with many of the difficult circumstances especially at a very young age starting with witnessing one of the most terrible wars….I might have given you the example of an over-sensitive mom with lot of fragilities but I have had the courage to admit them and trust me this was the way that lead me to light! Being in good health is absolutely a human right and a dignity but being a mother of the wonderful three of you is what also gave me even more the strength to dedicate my life for healing my disease and helping others. I promise I would do always my best to earn every second of my life improving it and to earn every moment I got the chance to be your mom!