The Process of Addiction
The article below was written on March 3, 2018 by Latonia Staten, LCPC, CAC-AD a therapist who specializes in addiction.
Sometimes we are faced with challenges that make us feel like our whole world has been rearranged. It completely knocks us to the ground forcing us to lay there needing help just to roll over. Sometimes those challenges create a feeling of emptiness that is a void longing to be filled. We try to fill that void with all types of “things”. Material things, sex, drugs, porn, alcohol…anything and/or everything we can get our hands on just so that we are not sitting too long in and with that emptiness. Then there are times when our suffering has completely numbed us so much that the only feelings we can express are sad, mad, or glad. Any other “in between” feelings either don’t exist or is hard for us to tap into them without help. We are left with feelings of despair and believe that this “thing (sex, alcohol, drugs)” can provide us with that perfect escape if only for a moment in time.
As a result, our thinking, over time becomes gradually distorted (if it wasn’t distorted already). We start to believe all the negative and self criticizing themes we hear. “I’m not good enough…”; “I don’t matter;” “I’m worthless;” “maybe if I weren’t here then things would be different…” “I’m not the man/woman I use to be…” “nobody cares about me;” “I’m not hurting anybody;” “I’ll always be alone…”, etc, etc until the messages play like a CD that is scratched and will only play one song with a repeat button attached. We play those messages over and over until the words are believed. We end up not eating, sleeping or isolating. We start to think that our isolation is suppose to happen. Then we embark on a mission to find connection by any means necessary. If sex, drugs and alcohol is how we find it so be it.
We need something to help us feel like we’re not just existing, but living. We take whatever, whenever because we are trying to find a temporary relief. However, by the time we realize that this emptiness or void won’t go away, we have made a vicious cycle of emotion. We are empty, so negativity creeps in, which makes us lose connection with others, so we use a substance to fill the void, then become temporarily sober, then guilt creeps in and we feel empty, and negativity creeps in, which makes us lose connection, and so on and so on. This cycle finds you again and again until….you decide to break this cycle.
You’ve probably read on the internet about what the process of addiction is. Chemist, professors, addiction experts, doctors, etc talk about neurotransmitters, brain pathways with language that sounds foreign. I’m here to tell you that unless you are ready, willing and able to do something different in your life, your addiction will continue to have a grasp in your life and you will continue on that vicious merry-go-round.
Breaking the cycle is more than just being abstinent for one week, month or year. It is being abstinent plus being ready, willing and able to face those challenges that have been the source of your pain and suffering which is preventing you from re-writing your neuro circuits. Scientist and professionals are not wrong, neuro circuitry can be re-written. But it is up to you to do the re-writing, so that you can create a renewed and empowered life. Believe me, it can be done.
If you or someone you know is suffering from the disease of addiction, contact our office. We are here to help.