May 23

Addiction:  “I don’t want to feel”

       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 by an adult. 

       Children are left with serious emotional scars that are often minimized because these scars aren’t always visible.  But it is these scars that cause emotional immaturity.  A child’s emotional development can be halted by an event in the child’s life that left him/her emotionally stuck. 

       I know someone who is constantly looking for attention.  Her parents split up when she was a child, and she ended up living on her own.  She is now ‘forever’ looking for love and approval – and attention.  But her constant complaints and “illness” is actually creating the opposite effect leaving her with less and less attention.

       One thing that childhood trauma creates in the child is a low threshold for pain.  You can usually tell when someone has a low tolerance for pain: They complain all the time; they rage at the slightest upset; they are constantly trying to manipulate and control their circumstances; they cry at the drop of a hat.

       Sometimes the childhood trauma victim resorts to addiction.  Unable to cope with life’s ups and downs the person uses chemicals or certain addictive behaviors to escape the suffering.  In trying to find a ‘happy place’ the child within the adult becomes attached to these things and uses them to self medicate.

       Addiction to pornography met a need that I felt since childhood.  My childhood needs were minimized by an authoritarian parent who saw himself as the decision maker for his family.  I didn’t dare defy his authority.  To stand up to him meant war and possible death. 

       So I learned not to feel or care about what I wanted.  I later became a passive-aggressive when it came to obeying God.  I latched on to pornography in my mid teens and kept it well hidden for thirty years. 

       I didn’t really know what I was doing until as a middle-aged adult (my therapist) pointed out to me that addiction – particularly sexual addiction – was a way to numb the emotions.  All the bad feelings and personal hollowness could be ‘filled’ with this mood altering ‘drug.’  All of the negative emotions can be numbed.  But in doing so, the positive emotions were also drugged up, and I was left unable to feel anything.

       I had become a total narcissist!   

 Tomorrow’s topic – Addiction:  Coping with shame