Are You Struggling To Break An Addiction?
Category: Articles, Mental Health, | By: Dr. Jill | Share On Facebook
With new surges and variants of the pandemic in full swing, many of us are feeling our anxiety levels at max capacity. Our fear, anxiety, and other emotional pains are skyrocketing. So much so that we don’t feel safe doing the simple things we were looking forward to doing again, like going to the store or dropping the pup off at the groomer.
It is frustrating.
And those feelings of frustration, resentment, and anger have us raging at our children, picking fights with strangers in public, or being rude in our interactions. Even the most resilient of us need to find effective coping tools during these disruptive times. When will this end, will life ever get back to normal, and how can we save ourselves from the addictions we have used thus far to cope?
We are all unique in how we manage stress. Many of us have dived deeply into our favorite substances of abuse—alcohol, drugs, technology, sex, food, and others. However, what started as an innocent coping strategy to help us calm down and relax may have escalated to addictive levels. Unfortunately, when we use addictive substances or behaviors to self-soothe our intense anxieties and fears, these coping tools tend to escalate the intensity of our emotions rather than diminish them.
Brain cells are intelligent little creatures, and when you engage in addictive behavior that is dangerous to them, they strive to protect themselves by changing their physiology. This is why it may take more of your drug or alcohol to get the same high you got when you first started using.
Your head is jam-packed with well over 100 times more brain cells than there are people on this planet! The more you run any circuit, the stronger that circuit becomes. Run a circuit repeatedly as with addiction, and that circuit collection of cells will begin to run on automatic. Eventually, it will become a mental, emotional, or behavioral habit. For example, if you are addicted to gaming or raiding the refrigerator every night before bed, these are patterned responses that seem to take over our lives because they have taken over our brains.
The mere idea of having our addiction taken away brings us great pain. That pain, in addition to our experience of CRAVING, is located in the Character 2 Left Emotional part of our brain. This circuitry embodies the fight/flight circuitry of our alarm-alert sympathetic nervous system. It looks at stimulation in the present moment and then immediately compares it to all of our past experiences to determine if there is a reason for us to push this present moment experience away. Consequently, this Character 2 part of our brain not only never matures, but it is automatically inclined to keep our lives small and manageable.
When it comes to our addictions, we become obsessed with our desire, and when we are deprived of what we want, we feel desperation and pain. As a result, the mere idea of rehabilitation and recovery often becomes synonymous with both mental and emotional suffering. When our Character 2 is actively using its drug of choice, this part of our brain can’t even begin to imagine a peaceful way out. Without our drug we feel a constant yearning that infiltrates our relationships and everything we do. Without relief, we become hopeless.
The secret to getting out of the neural loop of our addiction is simple, but not easy without intention, commitment, and community support. When we understand Whole-Brain Living by getting to know each of our Four Characters, and we have mastered the BRAIN Huddle tool that allows us to create an open line of communication between the different parts of our brain, we then gain the power to choose our peace over our pain.
With Whole Brain living, we understand that the pain of addiction is a byproduct of our Character 2 circuitry and that this pain is real, powerful, and ever-present, but when we have the power of choice, we gain HOPE. We can choose to lean into the Character 4 part of our Right Thinking brain which, at its essence is our unconditional love. We have the power to step out of the pain of our Character, 2 by stepping into the peace of our Character 4.
How do we do this? Our Character 2 must be willing to accept that we are powerless over our addiction and that our life has become unmanageable – this consequently is also Step 1 of the AA 12 Step Program. And next, as in Step 2 of that program, our Character 2 must come to believe in a Power greater than it, which is our own Character 4.
Character 4 has the power to restore us to our sanity. Our own best self, our highest consciousness, our Divine self, is right here in the thinking tissue of our right brain. We don’t have to take a leap of faith to a higher being that is outside of us, we simply need to be willing to grab on to that part of our own being.
I genuinely believe that our number one job in this life is to love one another. However, nothing is more destructive to a relationship than when someone is actively engaged with addiction. When someone we love is dealing with addiction, it is so easy and natural for us to move into our judgment of the other by shifting into our own Character 1, or move into the emotional pain of our own Character 2. We destroy hope when we choose to be angry, hurt, or resentful that our loved one has chosen their addiction over our relationship. It is our love, our own Character 4, that has the power to provide a haven, a sanctuary of unconditional support for our loved ones’ addicted Character 2.
We do have the power to gain recovery and freedom from our addictions, as our Character 4 is always there. Just as the blue sky is always shining brightly behind any storm clouds, hope is always present, even when we are blinded by our pain.
Please listen to Chapter 11 of my audiobook of Whole Brain Living for free here. It will help you understand addiction and recovery at the level of the brain, and the power you have to choose peace over pain.
From my brain to yours,
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor