Saturday, March 3, 2012

Addictions Exclude None of Us

We’re all addicted to something. For some of us, it happens to be food. Any addictive behavior we engage in, regardless of the particular vice, is only our feeble attempt to balance ourselves out.

I saw a film many years ago called “The Addicted Brain.” (At that time I was working for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.) It postulated that people who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are only trying to balance their brain chemistry. The problem is, they’re acting as the “pharmacist,” and they’re simply choosing the wrong medications.

The addicted brain can’t make the best choice as long as it’s ~ well ~ addicted.

Like that great definition of insanity, you do the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results. So nothing changes.

Think about it.

You know that second piece of “molten lava” chocolate cake isn’t going to get you a job, but your addicted brain tells you it will make life so much better - for about five minutes. The insanity of it is that that doesn’t matter when you’re staring at the cake.

It’s no different than how the addicted brain looks at the next drink or the next pill. But what keeps us stuck in these patterns are our perceptions, and particularly our beliefs, as much as reality. Our beliefs frame our reality. So the first important very first step is to change any negative beliefs.

You are NOT your behavior! You simply make choices, some better than others.

That’s how we should view our relationship with food if we don’t want it to control our lives. And that’s how we should view alcohol and drug addiction.

But we ALL need support when we’re embarking on major lifestyle changes. And that support is out there for those who can admit that their eating is out of control. It’s not so easy to openly admit that you struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. That’s something we hide from everyone else, and even ourselves. And the fact that we have no real treatment options here only reinforces that.

The attitude is that those folks get excluded until they can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Meanwhile, it remains a painful secret in many families and for many individuals, and that’s the saddest part of all.

An addiction isn’t a choice. People don’t decide they want to live lop-sided lives, and then consciously go about making that happen. They don’t decide they want to drink all the time, any more than they want to be a hundred or more pounds overweight. In most cases, they arrived there, and their addicted brains didn’t see it happening.

People struggling with addictions don’t need judgment; they need options for getting better. That can be as simple as a food plan, or as much as a complete detox in a treatment facility.

An addiction isn’t a character flaw. It’s an imbalance. And we share that continuum.

All of us.

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