Addiction Psychology

Addiction Psychology

an edited extract from 'Understanding Addiction'

Addictive logic is summed up in the phrase "I want what I want and I want it now." Emotional needs often feel very urgent and compulsive. Such emotional logic works to satisfy this urgency even if it is not in the best interest of the person.

At the very heart of the addictive psyche is the false belief that the objects or events associated with the addiction can bring genuine spiritual and emotional satisfaction. Becoming an addict is a gradual process in which the addict becomes emotionally seduced into believing that he or she can find satisfaction through the object or event - be it sex, gambling, alcohol, work etc.

The truth is that we only get temporary relief from these objects and events, but we don't get real long-lasting satisfaction from them.

All of us have issues, pains, frustrations, and memories we would rather not have to face. At times, we have all used objects or events to avoid facing these. Addiction, however, becomes a lifestyle in which the person loses control of the use of these objects and events and gets locked into an emotional avoidance of real life. Addicts keep delaying life issues as a way of nurturing themselves.

All of us have the potential to form addictive relationships with any number of different objects or events, especially during stressful times when we would welcome a promise of relief and comfort. However, avoiding reality and responsibility by the addictive use of objects and events is ultimately an ineffective way of healing pain and anxiety. The mood change created by acting out an addiction is very temporary, and only creates an illusion of real satisfaction.

For example, the food addict binges after a fight with his partner and finds the illusion of peace. For the moment, he feels full, both physically and emotionally instead of empty. During such moments, there is an intense sense of comfort. In a similar way, the compulsive gambler gets lost in the action and feels excited, confident, and sure of herself. This time she knows she has picked a winner.

Slowly, addicts start to depend on the addictive process for a sense of well-being and personal identity. Their lives become ruled by the pursuit of their addiction.

Addiction starts out as an emotional illusion that is entrenched in the addict before others around the addict or even the addict himself realizes that an addictive relationship has been formed. The addict starts to build a defense system to protect the addictive belief system against attacks from others, but only after the addiction is well established on an emotional level. On a thoughtful, intellectual level, the addict knows that an object cannot bring emotional fulfillment. Alcoholics have heard the old saying "You can't escape into a bottle." Workaholics know "there's more to life than just work." Addictive spenders understand "money can't buy happiness."

The illness of addiction begins very deep within a person and his or her suffering takes place on an emotional level. Intimacy, positive or negative, is an emotional experience that is not logically evaluated. Addiction is an emotional relationship with an object or event, through which addicts try to meet their needs for intimacy. When looked at in this way, the logic of addiction starts to become clear. When compulsive eaters feel sad, they eat to feel better. When alcoholics start to feel out of control with anger, they have a couple of drinks to get back in control.

Addiction is very logical and follows a logical progression, but this progression is based on an emotional logic, not intellectual logic. A person who tries to understand addiction using intellectual logic will become frustrated and feel manipulated by the addict. Talking one-on-one with only a counsellor and without a support group is usually ineffective in convincing addicted persons to end their destructive, addictive relationships.

Addictive logic can be summed up in the phrase "I want what I want and I want it now." Emotional needs often feel very urgent and compulsive. Such emotional logic works to satisfy this urgency even if it is not in the best interest of the person.

For example, a compulsive gambler tells himself he is done gambling for the week. Shortly, however, he has a rough day at work and feels uneasy, so he looks over his racing form to try to ease his feelings, still telling himself he won't gamble anymore this week. While reviewing the racing form, he starts to hear his emotional logic telling him he has found a sure bet. "Why didn't I see this before?" he says. "It would be crazy for me to miss this opportunity!" Thus, he becomes pitted against himself - one side believing in his 'sure thing,' the other reminding him of his promise not to gamble for the rest of the week. Inside, the emotional pressure builds. Because addiction involves the deep need to have emotional needs met and emotional pressures relieved, he finally must give in to his urge, especially after he has convinced himself he would be stupid not to grab this opportunity.

Thus addictive logic pits the addict against himself or herself.

Rev. David B. Smith

(the 'Fighting Father')

Parish priest, community worker,

martial arts master, pro boxer, author, father of three

Addiction as a Spiritual Disease for further information log on to addiction secrets

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