In the Midst of Our Addiction

In our addiction, all we can think about is “more”. Whole portions of our days are consumed with planning to fulfill our desire, and whole portions of our days are consumed with hunting for our desire. And, for part of our day, at least, we do get high: with drugs, sex, alcohol, eating, shopping, working, and gambling. We want to feel good, we want to feel relief, we want just a moment of freedom from what is bothering and driving us. This is what the seeking is about. But we always need more. We are always chasing our last high.

So we feel selfish. Attaining more and more doesn’t seem to fill us up. We become ashamed of this ever-consuming need. We ask ourselves: how can we be so insatiable? How can we dare to think about the next high while we are high right now? What kind of crazy person have we become? No matter how much we consume, why aren’t we satiated?

The other day I was listening to one of Adele’s new songs.  She sings “sometimes I feel lonely in the arms of your touch, but I know that’s just me because nothing ever is enough” (2015).

This stopped me in my tracks. We don’t start out being greedy and selfish people. We want good relationships, fulfilling work, a happy life. We didn’t plan to blow up our goals with an addiction. We didn’t plan to sneak around satisfying our cravings and always wanting “more”. We didn’t plan to despise ourselves for our intense hunger for use. We have probably tried to beat our addiction once, or a hundred times. But we always wanted “more” because no amount of our fix was enough.

The song continues:  “But it’s in my roots, it’s in my veins, it’s in my blood and I have stained every heart I used to heal the pain”. 

We didn’t mean to harm anyone, but we have.  We have left a trail of wounded hearts and crushed people’s dreams in pursuit of easing our own pain. We have undoubtedly hurt the people we love, but most of all we have hurt ourselves.   

But underneath it all, as the song goes, it is because nothing ever is enough. We want “more” because we never get enough. Until we understand what fuels our drive for our addiction, we can never be full.  Until we confront the very pain that we strive to ease with our addiction, we will never stop the seeking. We may substitute one addiction for another. We remain hungry.

This is how it feels. But is it simply a battle of our will?

We are now beginning to better understand the neurobiology of pleasure and satiety. The Nucleus Accubens has been identified as the pleasure center of the brain controlling hunger and desire, and the satisfaction we derive from these feelings. Dr. Joe McCord, a renowned biochemist, explains in his research on nutritional supplements, that a process involving the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate is instrumental in creating and regulating feelings of satisfaction (2012).  This is a key component of addiction. Addictive substances and behaviors enhancing the reward circuitry of the brain interfere with the body’s system of satiety. They create a biochemical imbalance generating feelings of dissatisfaction.

 When we come to an understanding that we are filling a void, the awareness and healing begins. Addiction is a disease of the brain, but other factors have to be addressed for change. There are ways to begin to stop the endless chase, and to repair the collateral damage we have left in our wake.  We can learn to become “enough” within ourselves, and to have enough. Examples of some these factors that keep us tethered to our destructive behaviors could be depression, trauma, unresolved loss, social anxiety, and low self-esteem.

It is difficult to take the first step towards seeking help for addiction. But support is available and it is necessary. Addiction counseling that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,  Mindfulness, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) are all interventions that may help. Neurofeedback can help the brain heal from harm done with addictions. Nutritional changes are also beneficial.

You don’t have to do this alone!

Michele Battle, MA, LPC, CAC-II

adkins, a. &  kirstin, g. (2015). River Lea. On Adele 25 [CD]. New York, NY: Columbia Records.) 

D’Souza, M.S. (2015 Nov 5).  Glutamatergic transmission in drug reward: implications for drug addiction. Front Neurosi, 9:404, doi:  10.3389/fnins.2015.00404. eCollection 2015 

Gardner, E.L. (2011 Apr 19). Addiction and brain reward and antireward pathways.

Adv Psychosom Med, 30:22-60,  doi: 10.1159/000324065. Epub 2011 Apr 19

5StarAntiAging. (2012, November 11) Dr. McCord Discusses Addiction and Protandim. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai_0PNL8fBQ