The building blocks of addiction

Addiction growth typically follows this pattern.

1

Trauma

Unresolved pain caused by childhood trauma or later life PTSD. 

2

Coping

We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms rather than healing.

3

Addiction

Relying on self-medicating our pain leads to compulsive behaviour.

4

Suffering

Our addictions create their own problems that lead to additional suffering.

1. Trauma

We cannot say that all addiction is caused by childhood trauma, but every addict we know has unresolved childhood trauma. We also know of a few cases of adult PTSD triggering addiction, but the point is even these people have unresolved trauma.

We also know that not everyone who has been traumatized ends up becoming an addict.

There are generally two types of trauma:
Type A: Neglect
Type B: Violent
Click for a bit more on trauma

Trauma, especially childhood trauma, has the potential to alter the way our brains work and can leave us feeling psychological pain and emptiness for the rest of our lives. 

 

2. Coping

We develop unhealthy coping mechanisms rather than healing.

Lacking the skills needed to deal with trauma in a healthy way we attempt to cope with the pain, emptiness or unhappiness, by turning to something (anything) that feels good. 

The source of pleasure is less important than the habit of turning toward pleasure rather than seeking healing. We all know addicts who jump from addiction to addiction. 

Another name for this habit is “self medicating.”

Many addicts attempt to control everything around them, they try to MAKE their environment safe by controlling it. This leads to “control fatigue” and they may turn to stronger distractions (drugs, alcohol) to force themselves to lose control, to take a little vacation from trying to control themselves and everyone around them.

3. Addiction

Relying on self-medicating our pain leads to compulsive behaviour.

Over time our coping mechanisms become more and more important to us, we eventually reach a point where we are spending most of our time thinking about, planning, and indulging in them.

As our coping mechanisms bloom into addiction there is little thought of the original trauma. So in an unhealthy way they are doing exactly what we wanted them to do – help us deal with the pain in our lives, by making it go away. 

Unfortunately addiction comes with a price.  

4. Suffering

Our addictions create their own problems that lead to additional suffering.

At some point in every addict’s life the addiction itself starts creating new problems, new pain, new social issues and new trauma.

We suffer the direct consequences of the addiction itself:
– erectile dysfunction of the porn addict
– broken marriages of the sex addict
– peripheral neuropathy of the alcoholic
– homeless meth addicts
– this list goes on and on…

The effects of our addictions can become so severe that we no longer even consider the underlying cause because we are too busy doing damage control.

Hope?

In our experience the majority of government and social services efforts are aimed primarily with the consequences of addiction (#4. Suffering). 

A smaller number deal with addiction itself (think of detox clinics).

An even smaller percentage work with helping people cope with trauma, and even less attention is placed on healing underlying trauma. Some clinicians believe that we cannot heal childhood trauma, only help the victims cope with it. 

As recovering addicts this simply isn’t good enough. Our goal is healing, even if this is a life long process.

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