"I am so excited that I finally have an addiction!"
Come again??? Have you ever heard anyone seriously express a sentiment like this? Almost certainly not. On the contrary, addiction creates predictable emotional responses of guilt and shame.
No one sets out to find or create an addiction, nor is anyone excited to have an addiction. It may be hidden and protected from view, but I have yet to meet anyone who cherishes or prizes an addiction. It is a constant struggle and a battle within. And with progression, dependence on the addiction to function is also predictable, and that’s when life starts to fall apart. Instead of integrating into life, people with progressive addiction experience DISintegration and related isolation.
The decline in function can be managed or hidden for a while. But eventually, it will no longer be able to remain in the shadows or behind the deception. Depending on circumstances, addiction will eventually destroy dreams, families, careers, finances, and more. It becomes the compulsion that is loved for the high and hated for the aftermath. Addiction punishes all.
So, how does addiction start in the first place? When I ask this question, the most common responses are either "I just didn't want to feel" or "I was curious." The former response is by far the more common of the two. Let’s talk about that.
When we don't want to feel, we are avoiding a critical part of ourselves. So why would anyone want to avoid feelings? Most likely, the experience of feeling becomes overwhelming. Just like our natural desire to avoid a draining task or a traffic jam, we may choose to avoid dealing with it. The problem with avoiding our feelings -- just like a task or traffic -- is that we never get things done or get to the destination. And if we do that, we only add to the pile of stress, and that can compound and create more distress, which fuels any addiction.
Avoiding our emotions may also be there as a protective mechanism because of overwhelming and fearful experiences. Indeed, a history of trauma is highly correlated with the onset of substance use. And with progressive use, which leads to more and more emotional numbing, a full-blown addiction is often the outcome. For these reasons, any addiction is the avoidance of self. It is the part of ourselves that only we can know because it is our emotional self. And when we avoid our emotions, we will feed any addiction, whether it is alcohol, pornography, cocaine, eating, etc.
If you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction, our team is prepared to assist with overall health and wellness, including long-term recovery. And right now, we have available appointments with our addiction specialist, Dr. Chenoweth, our nurse practitioner, Sara Jones,and our new therapists, Mel Tillack, LCSW, and Matt Wright, LCSW. Call us now to start on the path to recovery.