The Chemical Aspect of Addiction
Manipulating Brain Chemistry:
Manipulating brain chemistry becomes a highly effective method of diverting our attention away from feeling emotional pain. Chemicals are the quickest and most powerful. But years of chemical intake rewires the neural pathways of the brain, making it incapable of producing its own feel good chemicals and hormones.
Neural Pathways of the Brain:
The science behind substance addiction is basically the intense programming of the neural pathways toward achieving a repeated state of euphoria within the pleasure centers of the brain. This is the same/similar process the brain uses for any repeated pattern, but is greatly enhanced by substances.
Flooding the brain with substances unbalances the natural brain chemistry, shutting down the receptors that release the organic feel good chemicals. Leaving the user unable to feel good naturally, the cycle may start as fun but becomes deeply entrenched, causing us to suffer through anything for our next dose. This is the point where we cannot stop and achieve that seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
Addicts are programmed to consume:
The brain has been programmed to consume, not to stop. The drug’s power over us is absolute until it stops entering our brain, then it slowly subsides. In the beginning, stopping feels horrible, like not eating until the hunger overtakes us. To the addict, this is the worst feeling in the world.
The person is not the addiction:
The person came first. The addiction was added. Remove the addiction to return to the person. Normally, the addict cannot not differentiate between himself prior to addiction and the programming of the brain, the internal perception is they are one and the same.
The solution to chemical dependency:
When the chemicals are coursing through our veins, chemicals are the immediate problem. Chemical dependency can only be solved through abstinence because the affect of drugs on our brain is absolute.
After chemical dependency:
Each chemical has its own time-frame it lingers in our brain. After we stop a substance for a period of time, we no longer have a direct chemical problem. Our neural pathways may still be entrenched, but the chemical looses its influence daily.
We now have a different problem that may lead us back to the chemicals. Our issue now becomes a mental, emotional and/or spiritual one.
The Emotional Pain Aspect of Addition
Always entering the life of addiction is a “plethora” of emotional pain in many flavors. Pain just hurts and is very difficult for any human to do a face-to-face with it, much less one who has a quick method to avoid it.
Unresolved Emotional Pain:
Emotional Pain is the single most common reason an addict will return to a substance. Experiencing the absence of love, is painful, especially for one who has become captivated by “The High”. To allow inner pain to remain unresolved, is a ticking time bomb waiting to trigger an overwhelming state of mind, causing us to say those famous two words right before we use again…
The Human Psyche:
Emotional pain enters the human psyche as a foreign object, like a thorn that gets stuck in our psyche. Whenever it is threatened to be touched, fear or anger gets triggered as a defense. It can remains for years, even while working a strong program of recovery.
The symptoms of emotional pains in recovery communities are sometimes referred to as character defects. These are like the leaves of a tree. Trying to stop a character defect without removing the root is like clipping a leaf… It will simply grow back.
The Power to Change:
The power is within our soul. Our soul is the conduit to the Divine. Our human mind is the playground, it is capable of great endeavors… Except the innate ability to spiritualize itself.
Spiritualizing the human mind means to infuse it with the spiritual energy that originates within our soul. This begins expanding our limited perceptions and beliefs and opens our mind to the presence of our soul. It re-focuses the source of love from external objects to internal presence. This is what changes us from the root.
Bill Wilson’s White-Light Experience
Manhattan’s Towns Hospital in 1934
My depression deepened unbearably and finally it seemed to me as though I were at the bottom of the pit. I still gagged badly on the notion of a Power greater than myself, but finally, just for the moment, the last vestige of my proud obstinacy was crushed. All at once I found myself crying out, “If there is a God, let Him show Himself! I am ready to do anything, anything!
Suddenly the room lit up with a great white light. I was caught up into an ecstasy which there are no words to describe. It seemed to me, in the mind’s eye, that I was on a mountain and that a wind not of air but of spirit was blowing.
And then it burst upon me that I was a free man. Slowly the ecstasy subsided. I lay on the bed, but now for a time I was in another world, a new world of consciousness. All about me and through me there was a wonderful feeling of Presence, and I thought to myself, “So this is the God of the preachers!” A great peace stole over me and I thought, “No matter how wrong things seem to be, they are still all right. Things are all right with God and His world.
Healing for the Parents
Reasonable Emotional Pain:
When our child is actively using, a certain type of emotional pain will exist because it is rooted in the reality of what our child is doing to themselves. Therefore, we simply cannot be completely free from this level of pain until our child recovers from what becomes a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body.
Unreasonable Emotional Pain:
However, there is another level of pain that we can heal. This is the pain of loss of feeling our unconditional love. Once healed, our genuine pain is balanced by the love.
If we have never experienced being addicted to substance ourselves, then our child’s behavior escapes all rational thought and we don’t understand what they are truly going through. Seeking for answers, we may find justifiably or not, we are at fault. If we’ve played a part, then we will be able to admit it once we’ve healed our emotional pain associated to it.
Compounding Things Further:
As we exhaust everything we know but they continue to persist, the feeling of helplessness becomes overwhelming. As we watch our once beautiful young baby slip away into a darkness beyond our grasp, fear and anger well up as defense mechanisms, shielding us from our own pain. It just hurts as we fall down the rabbit hole, speeding toward the impending doom of possibly loosing them forever.
Soothing Our Pain:
Attempts to soothe our pain slowly fail until our only option is to distance ourselves, lest our own pain bring us to ruin. We may have tried everything to no avail. We may be at the end of ourselves. No matter, it just hurts.
As one parent to another:
The pain in me honors the pain in you.
But wait… There’s more…
Just like us, a similar process being experienced by our child as they, against their authentic-self, spiral down the rabbit hole of emotional turmoil toward their own impending doom.
As fear, anger and emotional pain build, they become distanced from us as parents and then even themselves. Fun turns into pain and every attempt of soothing slowly fail until even the substance no longer works. As parents, when we see from an emotional pain perspective they too are experiencing pain. Then, as a parent to a child, we can say:
The suffering in me honors the suffering in you.
What is Missing?
Unconditional Love! The pain eclipses our love until we no longer feel it and therefore, cannot express it to the one who probably needs to hear it the most, our child.
“I love you unconditionally, which means no conditions. No matter what you do or where you go, I love you.” This is what they are starving for and what we as parents have lost during the emotional whirlwind of substance abuse.
We can Heal this Type of Pain:
Underneath the layers of emotional pain exists the unconditional love we have for our children. It simply needs to be uncovered.
Unfortunately, this is not an intellectual pursuit, it can only be experienced.
Through the self-discovery within The Dig, we uncover our unconditional love and it fills us, replacing the unreasonable pain. Then it spills out, like a seed planted into the psyche of our child, where it grows every time they experience it from us.
When we are healed of the overwhelming fear and pain for our child, we are able to extend this unconditional love even as we impose sanctions on them, as we are probably already doing.