How An Addiction Is Born
Addiction Treatment – Learning How You Came To This Point In Life
Before you can undergo addiction treatment, you must understand where it stems from. One of the most toxic emotions we carry, even in recovery is shame. I say that because shame does not contribute to healing or controlling behavior. It actually makes things worse and is more likely to drive our compulsive behavior to use than not. If we have too little shame we become sociopathic. On the other hand, we are at risk to take our own lives when overwhelmed with too much shame. We cannot live without shame but addictions inherently have too much shame and perhaps layers of different types.
It is estimated that 80% of people suffering with addiction also have had trauma in their past. When we are traumatized, traumatic memory is frozen in a protected way so we always have access to knowing what danger is so we can respond and stay safe. These memories are also encoded with irrational negative beliefs about ourselves. Such beliefs are I am not worthy, I do not deserve to feel good, everything is my fault, I’m not good enough; you get the idea. These ideas remain fixed with our trauma memories but unconsciously light up when the memories are triggered.
We are not aware that I am not good enough or not deserving is at work impacting us daily. This level of shame can start at an early age and turn into self-hatred. We begin to adapt as we grow older but avoid such harsh emotions and shame with getting high. Getting high is not experienced as just ok when it is on top of relief from internal suffering. It is feels even better and those extreme emotions get fixed just as our traumatic ones do. They fix with everything associated -who we are with, sights and smells, negative and positive feeling states and even excitement if we are doing something illegal or on the sly.
It is here that they collude, synergizing together to make a more powerful state, powerful enough to get fixed by our brain. That is how addiction manifests. Even more, using is followed by a new layer of shame, combined with the original, not conscious or implicit shame. The double barreled shame drives our anxiety up. Anxiety is stressful and that triggers dopamine –a brain chemical telling us to use. That starts the vicious cycle of using which is really avoidance of the initial shame, followed by shame (more stress) and thus more using/avoidance. The most nefarious piece of this puzzle is even if we stop using for periods of time, we won’t even not feel (completely) better because that early shame we are not aware of is always operative.
If we do not recall any traumas, we may have suffered from poor attachment styles by our parents. If they were addicted or alcoholic they may have neglected us, been unloving or not been consistently loving and protective. Even if they were not addicted, some people carry down parenting styles from what they learned from their parents.
They may not have meant any harm but did not know any better way as this is how they may have been raised. If we feel shame as children that will prevent us from receiving love and nurturing from our parents as we will feel unworthy and/or undeserving. Shame blocks love. We will grow up with a strong desire for love and attachment, but will not be able to let it in as we feel undeserving. This addiction to attachment is called co-dependency and is common in recovery.
Mis-attachment can result in the same implicit negative thoughts as above, and our brains may develop in a way that struggles in managing and regulating stressful emotions. Small things can easily feel catastrophic. We begin our lives shamed and don’t even know it.
How do we buy out of this painful cycle? If shame is not resolved (or the trauma\ mis-attachment causing it), then we will continue to feel bad even when sober, and continue to want to avoid those feelings. Original or implicit shame is operating in a way we are not aware, so step one is to create a biographic time line to look back and see if there is any negative events that may were significant to have impacted us.
With fresh eyes, remember the quality of attachment you had with your parents growing up. Were they consistent in protection, loving and nurturing? We you able to receive their love or was there something blocking that. Now look at how these things connect to using. We expose the connection of what was previously not conscious and that new awareness already takes some shame away. It is normal to avoid pain. Make that connection.
If we can get some professional help in healing the trauma wounds and mis-attachment, we can process and change those negative irrational thoughts embedded with those memories to something like I am worthy, I do deserve and it was not my fault! Forgive yourself for all the mistakes you made prior to this awareness -you were just avoiding pain. Without the hidden layers of intrinsic shame, no anxiety to drive our dopamine levels up, no need to avoid. Our using behavior suddenly makes no sense. Not having shame driving our avoidant behaviors makes it easier to engage addiction treatment successfully.
Addiction Treatment – How do I know if I suffer with addiction or just abuse?
A quick self-test is to ask yourself:
- Do I obsess and plan about using from morning until actually using?
- Do I lose control when I start using over how much I use? Can I stop at will?
- Do I have daily life problems such as legal, financial, health, relationship or work related.?
If you answered yes to all three, then you are most likely addicted. We know people close to us are addicted as they replace what they used to like doing including being with us, with using. We see people who develop addiction become avoidant and not forthcoming. They are sleepy or not present attention wise. They always need money. They lie and often have to be someplace or work late, anything but be home.