Addiction is a very complicated brain disease. Many of us are naturally prone to look at an addict and say, “Wow he doesn’t care about his family,” and “What a loser,” or “She’s so irresponsible”. These words are hurtful and show that most people do not understand what happens in the brain with addiction.
We are eager to help those with addiction issues because addiction robs so many including young people of their destiny. Alcoholics Anonymous considers addiction an allergy of the body and an obsession of the mind. Addiction means a person cannot say no and most of us will never understand what that is like. Imagine if you were acting like a robot. Imagine if someone was in the driver’s seat of your life telling you what to do. This is what addiction does; it treats the person as if they are a robot.
Our brain is made up of sections called colonies for lack of a better word. An example of a colony may be the colony of mobility. This section of the brain moves your limbs automatically without you specifically thinking about it. If you’re able to walk and move easily, your mobility colony is in sync. Another example is the colony of reasoning. This section helps us make good, rational decisions. Whenever a colony is being used it lights up and can be seen on an MRI.
Recent studies from the National Institute of Health show when a person starts consuming alcohol or drugs a new colony is created. The colony was not there before the consumption of the substance. The colony grows and the more substance used, the more powerful the colony becomes. When the colony lights up (which can be seen on an MRI) the individual experiences craving. When this colony lights up and can no longer be told no it is called addiction.
This is how a person with addiction issues becomes a living robot. The addiction colony and the reasoning colony are in war with each other. This is why addiction issues must be taken very seriously. Getting clean is not a 30-day war in rehab but a 2 year war to get the addiction colony calmed down and in a non-powerful state.
The 2-year war of addiction deals with the physical brain and the obsession of thought. This can be dealt with by creating a strong support system. Going to AA, having a sponsor, attending addiction groups and the support of family and friends can help. Eating foods that create dopamine, going to the gym, and serving in leadership positions can help the brain create dopamine where it is lacking. Lastly, dealing with the root issues are crucial to helping the addict truly recover. The way to help with this is to receive individual counseling.
There is typically a 4-step shame cycle that goes with addiction. Most people don’t realize but the shame of the addictive cycle is often from a script of some sort of childhood abuse. The childhood abuse could be spiritual, sexual, emotional, intellectual, or physical.
The Addictive Cycle- 4 stages to Despair (by Penner and Penner)
1. Preoccupation of Thought: Once the cycle is triggered, preoccupation takes over. The individual becomes focused almost totally on the substance they are addicted to. The focus might be on planning how to carry out the activity, a fantasy imagining the activity, or a review of past experiences.
2. The Ritual Phase: These rituals are often simple and completely predictable for each individual. For one it could be the road he drives down to where he gets alcohol. It could be the bar he goes to. It could be going to the phone to place the phone call to whomever the substance can be purchased through.
(Note that the ritual may includespecific behavior to thrust the addict into the direction of the addiction like starting a fight with his wife or sabotaging an activity as an excuse to go elsewhere. Others engage in self-defeating behavior to make themselves believe they deserve the addictive behavior.)
3. The Addictive Behavior: This is the stage of acting out the addictive behavior. These behaviors are numerous and vary per person. For example, this is where the alcohol is consumed or the drugs are taken.
4. Despair/Shame: Once the addict has fulfilled his urge, despair is almost inevitable. The relief of self the addict has gotten is short lived and has now shifted into his self loathing response which floods over him as he moves back into his normal world and out of the addictive cycle. For the religious, this stage is usually the point of an intense focus on prayer, with vows to the Higher Power and to himself that he will never again engage in the despicable behavior again. The derogatory messages about himself flood his inner world. While the addictive behavior brought him a moment of peace there is also the nagging knowledge that this is but one more round in a never-ending cycle.
This is why it is crucial that we must help those with addiction issues. The colony that has been formed in the brain treats the person as if they are a robot. To come along side of a person with addiction issues and see their whole life change is priceless. To watch a person go from performing like a robot to becoming fully alive and making rational, intentional decisions thrills my soul.
If you struggle with addiction issues please understand this is a brain disease. Get help today from a local counselor. If you are in Palm Beach County please call 561-422-4226 to make a counseling appointment today.
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