It’s all about dopamine… and Chapstick.
The need to flee “ordinary” motivates many of us to indulge in the things that others will someday call our “addiction”. Professionals, including myself, have long delighted in shutting down those who believe they had an “addictive personality”. But what if there is more to this than I first supposed?
People working in the addictions field can give you copious examples of clients who were “poly” drug users, addicted to whatever was available. These same addicts would, while in recovery, be the first to sell out to the program, find Jesus, and plan to become an addictions counselor. People who are impulsive, struggle with impulse control, and prone to show a willingness to try anything for a good time are prime candidates for poly-drug use and “all-or-nothing” thinking. Whether it’s Chapstick or heroin, sunflower seeds or cocaine, exercise or meth, addictions all serve the same basic primary function – distraction. As I have heard countless addicts say, when asked what drug they are addicted to, “What you got?”.
Studies have shown that dopamine levels begin to rise long before someone actually snorts cocaine, for example. Just the thought of getting high on Friday is enough to alter the chemicals in our body today. This release of happy goodness serves to focus our energy on satiating our addiction while distracting us from looking at the situation more objectively. The mental build-up to our addiction warps our perception of reality and gives us tunnel-vision. This tunnel-vision is why addicts consistently choose their drug over their family. They truly believe that their family is their top priority but cannot, once the thought has become an intention, stop themselves from making a bad choice over and over again.
I have known people who get this same euphoric energy and satiation from shopping for shoes, or going to garage sales, or running on a treadmill. Addictions experts recognized this before the mainstream medical community and began recommending addictions deflection – moving unhealthy vices into less and less harmful activities through transference, not a “cold turkey” approach.
‘Life’ is usually the reason most people have problems with addiction and impulse control. Helping someone stop drinking, for example, is only a very small part of staying healthy. Learning to deal with their dysfunctional coping skills that have helped them survive their horrible lives, now that’s the real crux of the matter. The journey is not hopeless but it is fraught with work and frustration.
I know what it is like to feel bogged down by the pain of life and struggle to even care if things got better. I do not profess to understand what you are going through and have grown too tired to give you three simple steps to fixing your life.
All I can say is that it was worth it.
In spite of firmly believing that my life would never get better somehow I allowed myself to admit that I was afraid of things getting better. I forced myself to hope again.
I had no idea this article would end up like this…