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What Lurks Beneath Addiction?

Posted by Peter Guess on June 27, 2013 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (48)

Yes, addiction becomes a primary condition of physical and psychological addiction.

But, in my experience, below that condition is PAIN! This pain usually takes time to access, through a process of working through the outer layers, like getting to the core of the onion. The pain comes in varied forms, from different sources. Here are some examples:

  • the pain of abuse; 
  • a troubled childhood; 
  • disconnect from the self; 
  • lack of a core identity (similar to borderline personality disorder); 
  • feeling different or disconnected from others; 
  • un-processed grief; 
  • disconnect from a Higher Power; 
  • buried or hidden character deficiencies; and more.

We stay in denial or relapse repeatedly, if these areas of pain are not dealt with effectively and with deep compassion, within a caring and supportive recovery process - such as 12 Steps groups, psychotherapy and recovery coaching.

The Feel-Good Factor: Alert to Danger

Posted by Peter Guess on May 25, 2013 at 10:00 AM Comments comments (8)

It’s Quit Day 27 from smoking. It's been a much better week. Clients have paid and money in the pocket. And I’m at my favourite seaside Cape Town spot! Brass Bell, Kalk Bay. The sun is shining and it’s a stunning day. I’ve overcome many challenges this year and the last 27 days. I feel good. Real good.

And, I’m also at great risk to relapse! That’s why I’m capturing this blog immediately as a way to help me Stop, Think (reflect), consider Options to consolidate my recovery and Plan what to do... Thank God for the STOP acronym for impulse control! Yes, I battle with impulse control. Every addict does. It’s part of the package deal. I used to be so sane. So rational. Think through things carefully. Choose wisely. As an addict, I have become out of control at times due to letting my impulses go totally wild. And always with dire consequences. I’ve said very hurtful things. Over-reacted. Damaged relationships at work and in the family. Made bad business decisions...

The Feel-Good Factor often comes for addicts as they leave intensive treatment or after reaching goals and progressing well. So what is the problem?

If I begin with myself, I am feeling healthy after a rough time with flu and asthma. And I feel “better about myself” and my self-esteem is pumped, because I am doing good work with clients and they are paying.

Then there’s the “excess money” – definitely an illusion of the mind. I need every penny in the bank at the moment. Addiction always needs the fuel of money. More cash money on hand, more risk to relapse. Some say money talks. And it lies. “Just a little money on one packet. That’s no big deal.” Then there is still stress I am facing from starting up life and business again in Cape Town. Of course, I would want to feel a higher lift – even better than I already feel. And nicotine does that for me – after all the conditioning time.

In between all of this, is addictive thinking and denial. - the twin big baddies of recovery! This thinking minimises the exact nature of my illness. The seductive and crafty side of the addict within, is carefully building a series of cunning emotive arguments to bargain with my rational mind. The power of my addiction lies more in the emotional hooks in me. All the facts of my asthma, mother dying from emphysema, cost of smoking and many more facts – just never seem to outwit the persuasive power of the emotional and deeply embedded addictive roots in my mind-body-spirit.

The Feel-Good state of mind may be further fuelled by the inner trigger of “euphoric recall”. I recall the release from stress the smoking experience gives, the carefree feeling on the weekend (such as today), the socialising with others who smoke, maybe chatting up a woman... or two. Euphoric recall is re-experiencing the fantasy in the past of the highs, the buzz, pleasures and experiences associated with the use of my drug of choice. In addition, while the mind over-emphasises the positives, it simultaneously suppresses and denies the negative consequences (past, present and future).

Is my addict mind conspiring against me? Actually, yes! The addict mind wants it’s desires met at any cost. Yet, even as an addiction counsellor I’ve known this for years. A friend challenged me recently “practice what you preach”. Or “healer, heal thyself” others would say. What could I say? It’s true. It's so easy to talk and so extremely different to walk.

When I allow myself the time to STOP, I face the reality of my addiction. In Twelve Step lingo, my “addiction is powerful, cunning and baffling”. It is a part of me. An illness that I will forever need to be vigilant about. Some days will be easy. Other days sheer torment. Let’s be there for someone.