An addiction can actually start out pretty innocently. It’s not that everyone aims to create an addiction in life or that they are after a life that is self-destructive. It often begins with very uncomfortable feelings that lie underneath the surface. Suddenly with a drink or the ingestion of drugs, life feels better. Those feelings are temporarily gone.
Little by little the pattern and the desire to drink grows more intense. Over time, the desire to feel better turns into a need and an addiction becomes an insatiable appetite for more and more.
There is a point at which the disease of alcoholism progresses into an addiction. It could be when there is a reduction in certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. When the decrease of neurotransmitters is experienced, there is often a craving to drink. For instance, serotonin, and dopamine are three brain chemicals that have been consistently linked with mood and mood disorders. Changes to the levels of dopamine in an individual’s system, for example, are linked to psychosis and schizophrenia, whereas serotonin are connected to the psychiatric experiences of depression and bipolar disorder.
That’s not to say that the decrease of these neurotransmitters cause these psychological disorders, but to point out that they affect mood and emotional activity. When their levels are low in the brain, an individual might return to not feeling well about who they are and their life and yearn to have a drink.
Furthermore, ethanol decreases these levels, which only worsens the cycle and destroys the healthy levels of these neurotransmitters. When this happens, there are recognizable personality traits that seem to appear and that are associated with the disease of alcoholism. For instance, there is often a low tolerance for stress, feelings of inadequacy, impaired impulse control, isolation, and a negative self-image.
In addition to these traits, there is also a pattern of “addictive thinking,” a term coined by Dr. Stephanie Brown, in which there is rationalization, denial, and grandiosity. What’s clear is that these patterns seem to be directly associated with the worsening cycles of addiction versus associated with the individual’s personality prior to the abusive disease.
What’s worse is that as the alcohol becomes more and more a dominant force, denial strengthens. One of the most difficult issues in addiction is facing the shame and self-hatred that is directly related to the destructive choices of addiction. The continued choice to get drunk destroys the body, healthy thinking, and impairs the maturity of the adult. In fact, part of making the change from destroying one’s life to creating one’s life is working with a therapist who can facilitate the process of re-parenting, finding the mature adult inside who can tend to the young child in need of love and acceptance.
This article is the first of two in this series on making that challenging but incredible shift from destruction to creation of one’s life. Transforming the self-abuse that is inherent in addiction to life-affirming choices and behavior is possible. The second part of this two part series will focus on steps to do just that.
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