We All Have Addictive Minds
We’re all addicts; we’re all addicted to something, it’s the only way we can survive — some of these addictions are good, and some of these addictions are not only destructive, they’re deadly. In this brief article, I want to explain to you how to break the “destructive cycle” of the addictive mind.
Why are some people addicted to alcohol, food, sex, and drugs?
In short, it’s so that they can cope with the many complications of life.
To understand why people drink and take drugs we must first journey back to a time when staying alive was a challenge. Unbeknownst to our prehistoric cousins, their everyday survival depended on the actions of a brain system scientists now call the mesocorticolimbic dopamine reward pathway.
Found deep within the center of the brain this pathway is activated when we encounter new stimuli that are important for our survival. The end result is a feeling of enhanced well-being. For our ancient ancestors, this meant that venturing out into dangerous territory to find a source of food or a sexual mate would lead to a release of dopamine, making our caveman here feel very, very good.
The experience of the rewarding stimulus would be encoded into regions of the brain involved in memory and planning ensuring that our ancestors would continue to actively feed and procreate despite the many lurking perils of the time. Drugs of abuse like alcohol, cocaine, or marijuana work by exploiting this same pathway that has helped humans to learn and survive for generations.
Addicts aren’t crazy… they’re just trying to cope, they’re just trying to survive. And so they rely on undesirable addictions to provide them with a “temporary loan,” to help them deal with the emotional debt and pains of life.
Unfortunately, the interest rates on these “addiction loans” are extremely high. In fact, the interest rates are so high, that if something isn’t done, the loans will eventually bankrupt the borrower, this much is certain.
So what is the cause of this pain that drives people to emotional bankruptcy? What causes individuals to seek solitude away from their family and friends, so that they might pursue and enjoy the pleasures of their addictive mind.
Understanding the Addictive Mind
There is always one thing we can’t get enough of. But do these obsessions count as addictions? No, at least not according to my neuroscientists. Addiction is the repetition of an action despite its harmful effects on your body. Most likely, your obsession of Snapchitter or VideoTube is not going to be harmful to your body. Key aspects of addiction which distinguishes it from obsession are loss of control, dependency, risky use, social impairment, and withdrawal. And, addiction doesn’t just appear, it progresses over time.
Addiction is a disease of the wiring of the brain. It is not about how smart you are, how strong you are or how determined you are. It’s entirely dependent upon the wiring of your bran. If your brain is wired in a particular way,l you will get a buzz from drugs, alcohol & other activities that other people just don’t. That’s why non-addicts can have such a hard time understanding addicts. A non-addict will have one or two drinks and stop naturally – they don’t have to think about stopping.
The reason people struggle with an addiction is because somewhere along the way, their emotional needs were not properly met, and so to avoid an emotional and nervous breakdown, they substituted the pain of loneliness, for the pleasures of addiction…that they might balance and stabilize their emotions.
And as life became more and more difficult, and as they began to feel increasingly isolated and lonely, they realized that they could only depend on their addiction for happiness. The addiction never failed to provide the necessary pleasure… it never failed to make life okay.
The problem is that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Addictive pleasures don’t make your problems go away, they only postpone the issue… while it festers at a compounded rate.
Think about the fear of emptiness. It’s that fear you experience when you’re alone with nothing to do. Sit in a room & don’t do anything for an extended period of time – you will notice this fear of emptiness creeping upon you. It can manifest itself in many ways, but ultimately addictions are distractions & escapes from this existential fear of emptiness.
I was once an over-eater. Almost every night, while “relaxing” I would grab an unhealthy snack – candy, soda, chips or ice cream – and mindlessly consume. Night after night. At some point I became very overweight & committed to eating cleaner. I can very vividly remember sitting at home one night thinking about that little bit of ice cream I had left in the freezer. Almost instinctively, I got up to go it – then I remembered that I had made a commitment to cleaner eating. This was a decisive moment for me. I sat back down, didn’t move, didn’t do anything. I just sat there as this craving for ice cream coursed through my body and it was this crazy physical reaction!
If you’ve ever tried to quit something like smoking or drinking or porn then you know that you have these wicked cravings that your body goes through. It isn’t just a mental thing, it is truly physiological.
I forced myself to sit there and to just experience it. That was the moment that I turned the page because I had allowed myself to face my fear – feel my fear. I saw it for what it was & began the process of getting better.
The problem is that addiction comes with a great price. It promises, and delivers, joy in the present…all while methodically destroying your future.
So what is the key to breaking the addictive mindset?
The answer may surprise you….
The key to breaking the cycle is… happy fulfilling relationships, it’s being accepted, it’s being productive, and it’s being part of a community…. it’s all about your relationships. When your “real” relationships are in order, there is no need to look for substitute relationships to ease your discomfort. When your “real” relationships are out-of-order, who can bear this pain?
This article is not written for the addict, …it’s written for the family and friends of addicts. It’s written as a reminder for you to love them a little harder, it’s written as a reminder for you to show them you care a little more, because somewhere along the way they didn’t feel like anyone cared. It’s written as a reminder to reach out and comfort the comfortless, … so that their addictions bind them no more.