Addiction: The Shapeshifting Disease
December 6, 2019
When we talk about addiction, it’s easy to think about the drug addict and the alcoholic, but the term also encapsulates self-harm, disordered eating, retail therapy, gaming, and even sex. Addiction isn’t one behavior; it’s a cycle of various compulsions that can keep us in a state of struggle. So, to understand addiction, we can’t simply name the consequence. We have to get to the root of the underlying problem because for many people, addiction is not just one thing. Addiction can act as a shape-shifting disease that can take on multiple forms to keep feeding its needs and desires.
Yes, substance can be linked to physical dependency, and for most, this is the reason addicts enter a program. They need to get clean and hit the physical reset button. But often when addicts and alcoholics get clean, they quickly transfer their addiction to another source. This is normal. Addiction doesn’t want to lose its power, and that means there is work to do when it comes to getting to the real reasons why you’re using, drinking, and most importantly, self-destructing.
What is Addiction, and Why is it Winning?
Addiction is a disorder that stems from habits that lead to negative consequences. Sometimes these compulsions stem from physical dependencies such as alcoholism and drugs such as heroin or other opioids, but addiction is rooted deeper than a need for physical fulfillment, meaning drugs that we physically withdraw from. When we partake in behavior that falls into the category of addiction, we are getting a response from the brain that says, “YES, keep doing that thing! We feel good when we do that thing!” Often people who face some kind of trauma or abuse learn to reward their negative feelings by enacting a behavior that directly connects to the reward centers in their brains. We suffer something negative and will do whatever it takes to not feel that way again. We repress that bad and smother it with something that feels less bad, but that doesn’t mean the problem magically goes away.
So, when people get clean and sober, especially for the first time, they can get stuck in a cycle of addiction that manifests as something else. Some of these behaviors seem like obvious negative responses, but addiction can stealthily transmute one problem for another in a way that may not look so negative or apparent.
Here are a few ways addiction can manifest:
- Food: One way people try to control their reality is binging or restricting food. Focusing on meal prepping or outer appearance can become an addictive battle that can completely take over someone’s daily routine and overall health.
- Exercise: Exercise is a great way to get clean and healthy, but this behavior can turn into over-exercising where a person avoids the physical torment or pain they are putting their body through. Exercise starts off as a healthy outlet but quickly becomes fuel for addiction’s fire.
- Spending Money: Shopping can start as a self-care tool, but retail therapy has put many people into debt as they try to fill their inner need for love with external objects.
- Hobbies: Finding new hobbies is a great way to cope, especially after treatment. But it’s important to remember that if something takes up all of your time and money, that activity is quickly shifting into an addictive pattern.
- Work: Many people throw themselves into their work as a way to avoid their feelings. Work gives a person purpose, but if it becomes their whole life, they can hit a point of burnout and cause serious health issues—mentally and physically.
- Sexual encounters/serial daters: Another way to avoid feelings is to have multiple relationships that are seemingly meaningless, especially if these relationships are with toxic people. Anytime we look outside of ourselves for love or support, we are forgetting the fact that we need to love ourselves first. It’s also common for people to select a mate with toxic traits so the person can focus on “fixing” their partner instead of focusing on healing themselves.
Here’s what happens: You’re working so hard to forgo substance that you don’t realize it’s starting to manifest in other ways. This is where the inner work becomes imperative. Start asking yourself why? Why do you need to buy the shirt? Do you really need a new lawnmower? Why are you choosing to exercise? Is exercising twice a day good for my body? Why are you in this particular relationship? Is it helping me grow and heal? Maybe food connects to childhood abuse. Maybe shopping is a way to cope with work stress. Maybe gaming becomes a form of escapism because you don’t want to deal with low self-esteem. The goal here is to stop yourself before you partake in the behavior and check out the feelings behind the need.
Triggers and Catching Addictive Behaviors Before They Start
A trigger is something that unconsciously can make us want to use. They can be connected to a person, a place, rhetoric, and even smell. They are moments in time captured by reality that reveal something deep within us. Triggers connect to unhealed parts of us that can stem from substance abuse and trauma.
Catching triggers can be tricky but learning about them becomes an important part of the healing process. Writing in a journal before choosing the eat, exercise, or shopping can be a helpful way to understand why we are enacting certain behaviors. Writing about experiences with people at work or our intimate partners can show us behaviors of ourselves and others that may be toxic or abusive. But one of the most effective tools is seeking outside help. Whether it’s a therapist you meet with once a week or group sessions where you can talk through your problems with people who are facing the same struggle, saying your narrative out loud to others is a surefire way to catch triggers, addictive patterns, and start rewriting your story into a healthy, purposeful life.
Addiction comes in many forms, but if we are struggling with substances like drugs or alcohol, we need to focus on getting clean and sober in a healthy and safe way. The Summer House Detox Center can help you get there by using a step-down method detox program. The goal is to keep you comfortable so you can work through your physical addictions and mental cycles that are keeping you from living a healthy and happy life.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse and in need of addiction treatment in Fort Lauderdale, give Summer House Detox Center a call at 800-719-1090 to schedule a FREE consultation. You can also visit us at 13550 Memorial Highway Miami, FL 33161. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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