Roots of Addiction

In my experience and research, addiction can come in many forms. The obvious is substances but addiction can be anywhere from food, to sex, to relationships in general, to cleaning (yes cleaning), to exercising, over working, tv watching, social media, gaming, the list goes on and on. Addiction is anything that allows us to exercise control or loose control to feel safe or relieved at some level.

I first learned that addictions can be a wide variety of things when I read Gabor Maté's Realm Of The Hungry Ghosts in University for an Addictions class. It was fascinating to read Maté's research on something I once thought was so black and white transform into a topic I now see as complex and holistic. The biopsychosocial perspective is an approach to viewing an individual on the biological, psychological, and social realms instead of just one or the other. When we recognize that addictive behaviours stem from a combination of sources we can begin to see the bigger picture and examine the potential causes that would lead someone to engage in addictive behaviours.

I want to make something very clear. Typically addictive behaviours are a way to escape or cope with previous traumas but this is not always the case. Trauma is defined in many different ways by many different people. That being said, I like to view trauma on a spectrum. Trauma can be anywhere from being dismissed as child, failing a test, speaking up and getting laughed at, being bullied, to any category that falls under an Adverse Childhood Experiences category. ACE's can be anywhere from growing up in a broken family, having a parent or parent with substance disorders or mental health challenges, neglect, and death of family members. My point is that sometimes we are unaware that little things that stay with us like being called a name in childhood actually have some hold over us just at a different level of intensity as something like a death. Both are traumatic in their own ways and both seek to be resolved. When we don't know how to help ourselves and we end up engaging in defense mechanisms like avoidance or denial, we seek to get relief or resolution in other ways. This is all unconscious, meaning that typically when someone is spending hours and hours at a time engaging in a behaviour, they aren't making the conscious connections as to why they are doing it. The thought may arise that they don't want to be doing it anymore or they need to make the change, but finding out the root cause or reason for behaviour can be found and resolved by working with a trained professional. Different addictive behaviours require different professionals and resources. Who someone may choose to resource may be dependent on the context of the problem and its important to acknowledge that sometimes multiple professionals are needed and work together.

I truly believe that the key to transforming old behaviours that are not serving us any longer are to firstly to become aware, to have the motivation to change and willingness to seek out resources and support, and most importantly, to have compassion and kindness for yourself or others in your life who are struggling. There are so many things to touch on this topic and I've barely scratched the surface. Some other great books on this topic I recommend are:

Recovery- Russel Brand

You Can Heal Your Life- Louise Hay

Rising Strong-Brené Brown

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