May 19

Addiction:  Locked in the dungeon of addiction

       When I was in therapy for depression and addiction, my therapist explained to me what it really was, and why I was addicted.  I understood (I thought) about alcoholism and drug addiction, but sexual addiction was new to me.  He explained to me the real issue I was struggling with:  My emotions.  What I needed most was emotional sobriety.

       A big contributing factor in the development of an addiction is childhood trauma.  Trauma can range from anything like physical abuse to abandonment.  It could be as significant as losing a parent or seemingly insignificant as being humiliated.  Whatever the trauma, it prevents emotional growth and development.  Somewhere along the line the addict decides not to feel, and the addiction becomes a drug that numbs the bad feelings. 

       Another contributing factor – the fuel that propels addiction – is shame.  Addiction is how we cope with shame.

       “Shame and addiction are like Siamese twins.  One rarely exists without the other.  You cannot find an addict without shame, or a shame-based person without an addiction.  Both exist behind walls of denial, growing like cancer, sucking out life.”  Anonymous           

       Shame is a bottomless pit that only a fool would want to fall into.  But dealing with shame is difficult without the ability to recognize it for what it is; even an intelligent human being can be vulnerable to visiting this dark, lonely place.  That’s because addiction is a survival mechanism that instantly controls the mood of any shame-based person.  Addiction is the dungeon and shame is the lock that prevents the addict from ever leaving.

       One of the first things the addict must deal with is powerlessness.  The first step of the 12 steps of AA is:  “We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction.” There’s an illusion that addiction provides:  The illusion of control.  The addict feels like they’re in control – that is the illusion.  Admitting to the problem is difficult because the addict is convinced that he/she is in control.  That’s why they ‘act out.’  It’s an effort to gain a sense of control. 

       And this illusion of control is strong because the addict is convinced that they can stop any time.  Denial is a big part of addiction; it’s what prevents the mind from thinking clearly about what’s going on.  You could say that denial allows the ego to protect the self and continue in the illusion.

       Shame also leads to isolation.  The overwhelming sense of unworthiness (I don’t deserve good things) prevents the addict from seeking out meaningful relationships and causes settling for much less.  The fear of rejection and abandonment are strong motivators, push the addict further into isolation and loneliness. 

 Tomorrow’s topic – Addiction: The absence of emotional sobriety