Addiction is a psychological condition characterized by compulsive thinking and behaviour usually accompanied by physical dependency. The use and abuse of substances or behaviours may be problematic but it is different from addiction. Dependence on something external to self for soothing and emotional regulation requires reinforcement and repetition over time to become established. Addiction is a relationship that you develop with a substance, process or behaviour that takes precedence over other relationships, including the one you have with yourself.
Addiction comes in many forms, for some it is substance-based (alcohol, cocaine, marijuana…) for others, it may involve a process or behaviour (sex, porn, work, a relationship, gambling, shopping, control…). One addiction can lead to another and cross-addictions develop, switching from one substance or behaviour to another to acheive a desired level of escape.
Whatever form it takes, addiction is usually a symptom of unresolved internal conflict and pain seeking relief. Short term ‘solutions’ do not address the root of the problem, they briefly alleviate distress. A lack of ease and discomfort within oneself eventually becomes difficult to manage and the ability to nurture and sustain meaningful relationships diminishes. The trajectory of addiction is destructive and has the potential to be fatal.
Individuals struggling with addiction are not born addicts or alcoholics. The question is not what’s wrong with someone but what happened. Something has happened along the way, and to survive or manage what was overwhelming, people make adaptations. Behaviours and substances are used as defenses against feelings of pain, toxic shame, and being lesser than. Solutions that once ‘worked’ or offered relief no longer do. Buried pain does not transform itself , it is transmitted from the inside out.
Addiction is self-abandonment and therapy for addiction involves understanding and undoing the maladaptive coping mechanisms that drive it. Implicit memories, charged with difficult emotions and negative core beliefs, are usually significant factors underlying and maintaining addiction.
We all use neural networks based on past experiences to categorize and process new information. We do this in order to know what we need to know, so we can predict what we need to do efficiently and at reduced metabolic cost — Barrett, LF, How Emotions are Made . This is brain-body economics and it happens below the level of consciousness. To accomodate supply and demand, emotions are constructed using pre-existing pathways of memory networks and experiences. Our perception and interpretation of the present is informed by our unique past.
Memories of interactions that were experienced as overwhelming are stored differently to other memories. Fear and helplessness are often part of traumatic memories that remain stuck or frozen in time. Memory networks alter the perception of new experiences by making the past present. Our interpretation of the present or future can be distorted by core beliefs about self that are no longer relevant.
Long-term recovery from addiction requires trauma-informed therapy. The tenets of trauma-informed work are: safety, choice, collaboration, trust and empowerment. This type of therapy is a bottom-up, top-down approach that uses the resources of the mind and body to promote healing and personal growth. It is informed by neuroscience and the psychology of somatic, psychodynamic, mindful and cognitive schools of thought. Trauma-informed therapy is not a one size fits all approach. It is tailored to the client.
A specific aim of trauma-informed therapy is to safely access and re-calibrate the distress of memories held in the body and mind. Negative core beliefs about self are replaced with more adaptive beliefs that build on internal strengths and resources. This approach is supported by recent advances in neuroscience and our understanding of learning and neuroplasticity that suggests “Neurons that fire together wire together” .
At Addiction Therapy Brussels you will find a holistic approach to addressing what is causing distress in your life. If you are concerned about the extent to which substances or specific process behaviours may be impacting your well-being, please get in contact by phone or email and we can discuss what is going on in your life and how you can move forward .
If you would like to schedule an introductory session or ask for further information, contact me by email or phone and I will do my best to get back to you within 48 hrs.