Addiction: Understanding Its Variety and Roots
Updated: Mar 10
Before I delve into the basics of overcoming an addiction, I want to explain to you the variety of different occurrences of it and what defines whether or not you have one.
Have you found yourself partaking in a particular activity more often than ever before, leading to withdrawal symptoms when you no longer partake in it? Have you found yourself lying about your use of the substance or about how you have been behaving in relation to it? If you answer yes to either of these scenarios, there is a strong chance that you have developed an addiction, so I urge you to take note.
As soon as you find yourself craving intensely the activity, losing control of yourself over its use and then steadfastly continuing, despite adverse consequences, it has control of you. You have to decide whether you are going to beat it, or let it ruin you.
Addiction was once only associated with the use of drugs and alcohol, owing to the introduction of unwanted chemicals into your body. Scientific research has since concluded that even everyday pleasurable activities such as shopping and watching television, which introduce no toxins to the body, can also have the adverse effect of becoming addictive. The cultivation of an addiction can occur when, through whatever activity or substance you may be consuming, you manage to access on demand your brain’s ability to discharge excess dopamine into a cluster of nerve cells underneath your cerebral cortex. The result is that you feel you need a constant supply of it. You don’t and I will be explaining how you can regain control of your senses and achieve self-control over the course of these blogs.
Amid my research for this blog, I came across an interesting book entitled The Truth About Addiction and Recovery, by Stanton Peele, Ph.D and Archie Brodsky) It was written in the early nineties, so a lot of what it says is now very dated. Despite this drawback, apart from having no idea who any of the featured ‘celebrities’ were, (not that I would be any better with today’s fame-hungry public), this book has helped to cultivate my premise for how to battle addiction and regain self-control.
Recovery techniques aside, the biggest point this book tries to convey is that addiction is NOT a disease. A large proportion of the book is centred around this very proposition, which led me to spend a lot of time researching the plausibility of that assumption.
It all depends how you perceive disease and more importantly whether or not you think it is curable. The writers of The Truth About Addiction and Recovery firmly believe that addiction can be cured from the very root of the problem, by eradicating it entirely from your mind. They refute the proposition that addiction is genetic (a dominant factor in the disease theory model). Looking at it this way, life experience has to be the catalyst for addiction (even the staunchest disease advocate has to agree that if the genetic link is lost, then life experience has to play a greater role).
The disease model claims that because you are so addicted to something, you cannot make reasonable choices, especially when it comes to how far into the addiction you lose yourself. You are effectively at its mercy and not just for a few weeks, for life. You will never be free of it, which means you can never come into contact with it again (a real shocker if you’re addicted to food). The addiction will then grow and grow over the coming years, completely taking over your life, devouring you like AIDS or cancer. There is nothing else you can do to prevent this from happening unless you comprehensively sever all ties to the substance or activity. (I’m seeing lots of naked clothes-shopping addicts).
Under the disease model, if you think that you can overcome your addiction through will-power, changes in your life circumstances or following the awesome teachings through this blog, then you’re deluded and in denial. Addiction is seen as a disease of the body, only controllable by a plethora of medical treatments. It has also affected your spirit, so probably best to go and join a support group where you can all lament how bad your lives are.
The Oxford English dictionary defines a disease as ‘A condition of the body, or of some part or organ of the body, in which its functions are disturbed or deranged’, so you could probably be justified in deducing that an addiction is a disease of the brain. But is it?
Addiction is currently labelled as a disease, so on that premise we’ll let sleeping dogs lie and refer to it as that. It is an illness of the mind but it can be rectified with the correct guidance. It is an illness that doesn’t require you to seek external help and join dispirited support groups. If your mind is in the right place, you will achieve your addiction-free dream and regain self-control. Before addiction received medical recognition, it was frowned upon as an indication of weak judgement and lack of will power. Society today, in calling it a disease, can sometimes make addiction a condition to be merely sympathized with. This can sadly have an adverse affect on the sufferer, leading them to believe that because the addiction might not be present through any fault of their own, they can lie back and let it ruin their life because the addiction is now beyond their control.
The long and short of it, whichever way you choose to label addiction, is that it can be cured.
Although everyone probably knows a smoking addict, there is another addiction that is fast becoming the worlds most common addiction, which is making a mockery of the human race, and that is eating. If you are fat and can’t stop yourself from shovelling that extra burger into your mouth, or from drinking another bottle of fizzy soda, why do you think you are overweight? The very fact you can’t moderate and control your eating clearly spells out that you are addicted. Similarly, on the opposite side of the coin, although sufferers of anorexia claim that by managing the amount of food they eat, they are the ones in control, they too have been manipulated by the dopamine fix they receive from not eating enough, and have become addicted to thinking that they are the ones in control. The reasoning behind addiction, therefore, has less to do with the chemicals we introduce into our bodies, and more to do with the invisible reasons that fuel it. We adapt to our environment.
There may be a few medical exceptions but the long and short of it is, if you’re overweight, you have an unhealthy addiction to food. Similarly, if you are under-nourished and suffer from one of the major eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia, you too will be addicted to the idea of not eating. If you are fixated by your weight enough to have drastically diverged from your healthy food intake, you are suffering from an addiction. It is maybe for this very reason that the labelling of addiction as a disease helps to categorise the plethora of disorders into an ‘easy to understand’ bracket, taking the blame away from the person afflicted by it, making it the fault of the disease, not the individual’s will-power. My point is that the ‘disease’ is not the cause but the symptom. This blog is about reinvigorating your will power. No-one is blaming you in the slightest for where you are at the moment. The invisible reasoning and thought processes you have are completely out of your control; but you, and only you, have the power to turn the tables now.
When it comes to self-control and composure, there is one addiction that hits sufferers much harder and can potentially last for much longer than others and that is addiction to grief. Most people naturally transgress beyond everyday misery when faced with the death of a loved one or the break up of a previously perfect relationship. As strange as it may sound, however, grief can subconsciously turn into an addiction. It’s shit but we will all suffer loss at some point or another, that is just the way life is. The way we deal with it, however, differs immensely. The loss of a loved one is always going to be painful but the grieving process should not control your existence. Yes, it’s very normal to be heartbroken and inconsolable in the immediate aftermath of the event but that should not last. Self-control is paramount in these circumstances.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a study between ‘complicated’ and ‘un-complicated’ grief-stricken individuals, finding that long-term grief activates neurons in the reward centre of the brain, potentially giving memories addictive-like qualities. Mary-Frances O’Connor, the assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author of the study stated, ‘the idea is that when our loved ones are alive, we get a rewarding cue from seeing them or things that remind us of them. After the loved one dies, those who adapt to the loss stop getting this neural reward. But those who don’t adapt continue to crave it, because each time they do see a cue, they still get that neural reward’. She then went on to state that all of this is outside conscious thought, which ties in perfectly with the invisible thought processes linked to addiction, which will be comprehensively explained in a later blog.
If you have recently lost a loved one, or have broken up with the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with and can’t seem to get over your loss after what feels like a normal period of time, there is a strong possibility that you are addicted to your grief. It sounds like a very peculiar thing to be addicted to but by following the later mentioned approach to freeing yourself from its grip, you will be able to recommence a healthy existence and gain back your self-control.
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