The psychology behind this course
We are all thinking beings. It’s a fact that we are always feeling our thinking
On one level we know this, it makes sense but on another fundamental level this fact passes us by. We know that we are thinking but we don’t always make the link between thought and feeling.
Our experience of life is created by three basic principles; Mind, Thought and Consciousness and I’ve seen this understanding shift people from addiction to health.
In 2012, I started the first wellbeing workshop in the UK sharing the principles of Mind Consciousness and Thought for those who were in recovery from drugs, alcohol and mental illness. In this group I met Claire.
Claire is the most wonderful woman who had been a crack cocaine addict for many years, she’d lost her children, her home and had lived on the street, she’d been beaten, held hostage, went to prison and was now clean.
Dumbo thought he needed his ‘magic’ feather to fly. He thought that the feather gave him a special power and that he would sink like a stone without it.
Addiction is searching for the very thing you have all the time and believing that you’ll find it in whatever you use.
But both Dumbo and addicts are, innocently, looking in the wrong place.
No one needs a magic feather to fly. You already have wings.
What is Addiction?
So when does something you like doing become an addiction? The tipping point appears to be when you’re not choosing anymore. There is no choice – you have to. Full stop. The pleasure comes in not feeling the pain.
Addicts become stuck because the alcoholic can’t imagine life without drinking and life becomes their drinking, their focus becomes how to get the alcohol and to get away from suffering.
But surely, it doesn’t matter if wine o’clock has crept up from 6pm to 4pm, does it? After all, the kids are driving you mad, or you’ve clinched that deal and you deserve it, or you’re upset about something and you need cheering up. So it doesn’t matter. Does it?
Once upon a time, in Thailand there was a temple that had a huge statue of a Golden Buddha. A messenger came to the village with news that the village was going to be attacked and plundered and so the villagers had the idea to cover the statue with clay, mud and concrete so that it looked like a common statue and wouldn’t interest the invaders. And when the village was attacked, all the invaders saw as they passed the temple was a big, stone buddha. Years went by as the village was occupied by the invaders and everyone forgot about the Golden Buddha
Why is it that some people seem to be more susceptible to addiction than others? Why is it that someone can be hospitalised and given Diamorphine (which is a form of heroin) for weeks, or even months, but when they leave hospital they aren’t addicts? The difference always comes down to thought. The way that people think about themselves and their situation.
Addiction isn’t an illness or disease. Flu is an illness. Viewing addiction as an illness limits it to a medical issue. Of course, it does have some of the characteristics of an illness but treating addiction as a disease or illness doesn’t explain what addiction is about, and if you believe you have a disease, you might use this label as a crutch to continue to use, “it’s not my fault” you might say, “it’s a disease”.
But what does seem undisputed is that the neurotransmitter dopamine seems to be a key player in addiction.
When we’re hungry we need to eat, when we’re tired we need to rest. In order to satisfy these needs, neurons (our nerve cells) release neurotransmitters (the chemicals that send the messages between neurons and tells us how to respond) into the synapse (the gap) between neurons.
When the brain floods with dopamine and other neurotransmitters and the brain receptors become overwhelmed, the brain then produces less dopamine and the addiction isn’t as pleasurable. You need increasing amounts of the alcohol to get anywhere near the first euphoric feeling.
So who are you? Do you wear the label of addict? Do you call yourself an alcoholic? Gambler? Do you think that you are your addiction?
Labeling yourself as an alcoholic or whatever else you might call yourself reinforces the feeling that you are ‘stuck’ and it is impossible to change, you start to identify with the label and become the behaviour. But we are only ever one thought away from feeling differently.
Another label that people often wear is the, “I’m not good/happy/clever enough” label. Do you feel, or have you ever felt, as if you aren’t ‘enough’? Do you look around you and compare yourself with other people? This feeling has become such a problem that it is now a diagnosed syndrome, ‘FOMO’ (Fear of Missing Out), a syndrome that is amplified by social media. Social media fosters the impression that everyone else is having a better life, more fun, more money, better relationships and you might start to feel inadequate. You might feel as if you’ve had, or are having, a hard life. It’s not fair. So what do you do to feel better?
Using anything outside yourself to change your feeling is something that humans have always done. This can be done by drinking, shooting up, food or running, but for the majority of people this doesn’t lead to compulsive behaviour, so does this mean that those who take anything to the extreme have an addictive personality? Maybe you can’t help your addiction?
Can you change? Can you give up your addiction? Or, should you keep it because, ‘that’s who you are?’ We often tell ourselves that, ‘this is how I am’ as if this is it and it’s impossible to act or think differently. But your personality is made up of how you think, how you act and how you feel. In the moment. Moment by moment. If you want to act differently, then you need to be aware of the thoughts that you’re having, you must become conscious of the unconscious behaviour that you are expressing.
We’ve looked at how many, many people feel that they aren’t enough and how this can be a trigger for addiction and we’ll investigate this even more in this section.
Just like disconnection, we also fear being vulnerable and yet vulnerability, like every other emotion, is neutral. You don’t have to embrace your vulnerability nor do you have to fear it. It’s just another emotion created by having vulnerable thoughts. Trying to repress the feeling or analyse it is just adding more layers of thought.
You are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to life and so when you are disconnected you can’t feel whole. Always looking for that wholeness, ‘searching for my other half’, looking for the yin to your yang and, feeling as if you aren’t living the life you feel you are meant to, causes physical pain.
Professor Bruce K Alexander, a psychologist at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, highlighted the importance of being part of a healthy community and how disconnection is an element of addiction in his Rat Park experiment.
You might think that it’s alright for rats, and for other people, but your situation and circumstances are too difficult, too harsh, to overcome addiction. I do understand but I’d like to tell you the story of Modello. Modello demonstrates something about the human spirit, how we are all resilient and how each and everyone of us can overcome the most terrible living conditions and circumstances and get free from addiction.
Treatment for addiction varies greatly. There are places in the US that book you in and then throw you out if you can’t pay. There are places in the UK that discharge you (or throw you out!) regardless of whether you have anywhere to sleep or if anyone can pick you up. There are places that encourage you to ‘grit your teeth’ and get through it without ever helping you to understand why you’re addicted?
As well as constantly telling you to remind yourself of their past, traditional therapy tells you that you must identify yourself with your illness or suffer a relapse. You must accept that you are an addict.
Programmes like the AA foster a reliance on attending group meetings and your self esteem is conditionally based on how well you are working the programme and your group attendance.
Some centres also use Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in their programmes. CBT identifies the internal, mental, social and environmental triggers that lead to addiction and develops coping strategies to avoid triggers. The addict learns how to plan to handle stressful situations and emergencies and the possibility of ‘failure’ is incorporated in to the recovery plan.
Principles therapy enables you to move on and return to a connected life as you recover your self worth. And life may include getting back to work but this isn’t always very easy.
It’s likely that you might go through physical withdrawal as your body begins to adjust to being without whatever it is you used, this can be difficult and may require medical supervision but once you’re through it, it’s done, although you may still have to deal with psychological withdrawal.
But if you do relapse, don’t think that this means that you are addicted for life. All it means is that you’ve slipped. Draw a line and find help rather than continue to drink until you are desperate again. Find a programme that works for you. If a programme hasn’t worked for you, there is no point in going through it again. All that will happen is that you will relapse again and this will add to your feeling of failure and feeling that you have a life long addiction.
There was once a time when all human beings were gods, but we so abused our divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from us and hide it where it could never be found.
Where to hide their divinity was the question?