Addiction is a psychological condition characterized by compulsive thinking and behaviour often marked by physical dependency. The use and abuse of substances or behaviours may be problematic but it is different from addiction. The development of addiction involves a growing dependence on something external to self for emotional regulation and self soothing. Addiction is a relationship you form 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, food…), for others it may be process behaviours (sex, porn, work, a relationship, gambling, shopping, control…). One addiction can lead to another. Cross-addictions develop, involving different substances or behaviours, and switching from one to another.
Whatever form it takes, addiction is a symptom of unresolved internal conflict and pain seeking relief. Short term ‘solutions’ do not address the root of the problem. They pave the way for frequent relapses. A lack of ease and discomfort within oneself becomes difficult to bear. The ability to nurture and sustain meaningful relationships diminishes. The trajectory of addiction is sad, destructive and potentially fatal.
Individuals struggling with addiction are not born addicts or alcoholics. Something has happened along the way, and adaptations were made to survive or manage what was overwhelming. Behaviours and substances become defenses against feelings of pain, toxic shame and self-loathing. Solutions that once offered relief no longer work. Buried wounds do not mend on their own. They fester and damage the brain, body and mind.
Addiction is self-abandonment. Therapy for addiction involves understanding and undoing the maladaptive coping mechanisms that underly it. Implicit memories and neural networks infused with difficult emotional content and negative core beliefs are usually significant factors driving and maintaining addiction.
We all use memory 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, in an efficient manner that reduces metabolic costs to the system — Barrett, LF, How Emotions are Made . This happens continuously below the level of consciousness, and often without awareness that our emotions and perceptions are constructed through the lens of existing memories.
Memories of past experiences that may have been overwhelming at the time they were formed are not processed like other memories. They remain stuck in time and re-experienced in high fidelity. These traumatic memories colour the perception of new experiences. Our view and expectations of the present and future can be influenced by interpretations that no longer serve us.
Long-term recovery from addiction requires trauma-informed therapy. The tenets of trauma-informed work are: safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness 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 psychological theories 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 address and diminish distress held in memories. Negative core beliefs are replaced with adaptive beliefs about self, building on internal strengths and resources. This approach is supported by recent advances in neuroscience and Hebb’s principles 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 and quality of life, please get in contact by phone or email and we can discuss what is going on and how to best 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.