Some people still believe this is actually how it happens to people who become addicted to drugs or alcohol. One day a person whose life is wonderful wakes up and makes a conscious decision to self-destruct through the use of substances or bad behaviors. It’s not only untrue, it’s patently ridiculous.
Yet to those unfamiliar with addictions, the normal people or ‘normies’, this is how it may appear. You can’t possibly think the same as someone who is addicted because you’re not thinking with an addicted brain. Those who are addicted do not think or process information like those with normal, non-addicted brains. Neither can, nor will, fully understand the other.
When speaking of addictions, there are two fallacies present in the title of this post — “Things are going so well I think I’ll become an addict.”
First, normies look at Hollywood actors, sports heroes, politicians, musicians or the well-to-do who lose it all over drugs, alcohol or gambling and think, “What a shame. They had it all.” As if those positions in life should somehow make one immune to the throes of addiction or the hardships, pitfalls, struggles, obstacles, and adversities of living.
Clearly, they didn’t have it all. For them, something was missing. Sure, some begin using drugs and alcohol because life for them is good and they just want to add to their enjoyment of it. One must then ask, if life was so good, why wasn’t it enough?
Most people who foray into the realm of substance abuse and become addicted do so to alter their mood due to intolerable personal pain or anxiety. To them, their world is anything but wonderful and far from well. In fact, from their perspective, things are pretty crappy. What is missing is a way to adequately deal with their emotional pain, fear or anxiety without resorting to mood altering drugs or self-destructive behaviors.
The second thing wrong with the title of this post is no one consciously chooses to become an addict at the outset. Sure, a decision or a series of decisions are initially made to use drugs or alcohol to alter the mood. At some point, though, a line is crossed. The decision to stop is then taken away by the substance.
In AA or NA they speak of their addictions to alcohol and drugs as cunning, baffling and powerful. It seems the same for the normies who stand by and watch, seemingly powerless to help those for whom they care for so much.
No one in their right mind would purposefully choose to lose their spouse, family, house, cars, career, money and health if there was an easy and simple choice to stop using. Of course, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Those with an active addiction are not in their ‘right (normal) minds’.
So how does it begin? How does someone get from normal brain thinking to addicted brain thinking? And once you are thinking with an addicted brain, how does one switch back to normal brain thinking? Is that even possible?
There are many factors which influence whether or not someone develops an addiction. Genetics, intensity and degree of exposure to a substance, level of emotional intelligence, how resilient they are, the drug or behavior of choice, whether or not they have outside support, peer pressure or healthy relationships and many more.
Most addictions begin innocently out of curiosity or boredom, as a means of escape, to alleviate physical or emotional pain, to get to sleep or to fit in. When people burn out at work or in a relationship they may begin to act out with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with their feelings.
Surprisingly, it isn’t the substance or behavior that causes addiction. It is what repeated exposure of the substance or behavior does to the brain which causes addiction.
Chemical substances (alcohol, cocaine marijuana, methamphetamine, nicotine) or behaviors (sex, gambling, pornography) can cause the release of dopamine in the brain which gives a person a sense of calm, well-being or euphoria. This becomes preferable to guilt, shame, anxiety, worry, fear, anger, resentment, emotional pain, physical pain, etc.
Repeated exposure to the brain from dopamine and other neurotransmitters can cause the individual to become addicted. This shift in brain chemistry fundamentally alters a person’s thinking and behavior. Normal brain function is supplanted be addicted brain function.
Baffling, outlandish, bizarre, illogical, high risk, completely dis-inhibited behaviors result from the use of chemical substances and addicted brain thinking. The cunning aspect of addiction leads the addict to feel they have things under control. The exact opposite becomes glaringly apparent as the negative consequences of their addiction begin to pile up.
If you have ever had the opportunity to have a lower jaw tooth numbed up by a dentist you know it isn’t just the tooth which goes numb and becomes useless. The lip and tongue on the same side will also become numb. No matter how much you try you cannot feel or move the numb parts of your mouth as long as they are under the influence of the anesthetic.
Likewise, numb and saturated with drugs, alcohol and neurotransmitters like dopamine, the addict still expects their addicted brain to perform normally. In fact, they feel as if they are. They still feel they can control the outcomes from addicted brain thinking.
Early in addiction there is always a tendency to feel smarter than the drug or behavior even though smarts have nothing to do with it. This is especially true of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists or anyone holding an advanced degree.
They tend to feel they have special knowledge which will protect them from becoming an addicted, that their logic will carry the day and keep them from harm. They may actually be the most vulnerable.
Do you feel your life is out of control due to drugs, alcohol or some other self-destructive behavior? If so, please consider getting the help you need or contact me directly through the CONTACT link below.