How to Address The Root Cause Of Any Addiction

Most of us could agree that people are more prone to developing an addiction of any kind when they're down, isolated, alone, or when things are not going great.

So these situations can look like this:

  • experiencing a significant loss in life
  • being a new or overwhelmed mom
  • being stuck in a bad relationship or job

What do we often do when we don't feel great about our situation?
 We look for something to make us feel better. When you're in those situations, like I just described, feeling better isn't easy, and the usual stuff often doesn't work. But there is one quick, reliable, easy way to feel better fast: to drink, use drugs or engage in other addictive behavior.

Why is that? It's because those addictive things, whether they're substances or behaviors, typically trigger—the neurochemical dopamine. Most of us have heard about dopamine before; we all know it is a reward chemical. The problem with dopamine is that it makes us go after something that our brain thinks is rewarding, and as soon as we get it, the dopamine is gone, which means feeling better is very short-lived.

Now, if you're not in a depressive state and go after things that make you have dopamine in your brain, that's okay because it's like a bonus. When you are down, depressed, anxious, have trauma, or have a significant loss. That little dopamine hit you get is the only thing that makes you feel better, which usually makes people want to go after that.

First and foremost, whatever the thing is that's giving you the dopamine becomes less effective at providing you dopamine because it down-regulates. It becomes harder and more complex to get a dopamine hit, and then you lose the ability to get dopamine from everyday things.

So now you're stuck. You're stuck in the cycle of feeling down and depressed, and as this process continues, your family, friends, and workmates become more frustrated with you because you will constantly be pursuing this dopamine hit you need. They will feel like you're not holding up your end of the bargain regarding all those other important life commitments and relationships.

Guess what?
It is a terrible feedback loop. It's only going to make you feel that much worse about yourself. It isn't easy to get out of, but there is a way out, and I will tell you how.

You move out of addiction by stopping chasing dopamine and starting chasing serotonin.

Let's talk about serotonin.
Most of us have heard of that neuro-brain chemical.
It does many crucial things, like regulating mood, sleep, appetite, and motivation. But the vital part for you is that serotonin is also a feel-good chemical, but it makes you feel good differently than dopamine.

Serotonin is a prosocial feel-good. Serotonin is released when you feel good about yourself; it makes you feel more confident and have better self-esteem. Even better, serotonin helps to enhance your bonds with other people by creating a sense of status, loyalty, and respect. Best of all, and most importantly, serotonin is much longer lasting.

Dopamine is a great hit but gone quickly, whereas serotonin is slower and more steady. So it's about learning to feel better in a more productive way. Well, like many things, it's simple but probably not easy because when you have someone in an addicted state, it's kind of like having a person on the verge of starving to death. They haven't had good food or nutrition in a very long time, but all they have to do is walk next door, and they can get a bag of Cheetos. Eating a bag of Cheetos isn't going to give you nourishment, but it will help you feel full, and it probably will give you enough calories to keep living, although not living very well.

You're trying to talk this starving person into walking two miles down the road to buy a salad because there are better ingredients that you know will help them feel good, nourish them, and help them stay full longer. But it's more difficult to walk two miles down the road to get it when you're starving and there's a bag of Cheetos.

Even when we know that the other option is better, getting people to do that is still really hard.

How do you get people to seek connection to get more serotonin, allowing them to feel better about themselves?
One effective strategy is to be like a drug dealer and give them a little dose of serotonin.

How do you do that? People get a serotonin drip in their brains when they feel good about themselves. If you can help someone feel good about themselves, they'll get a serotonin drip, and guess what? Before long, they will start coming to you because you help them feel better about themselves.

Now you're probably beginning to see the light, and you can see the roadmap out of addiction.

Just in case it's not incredibly obvious. Let's halt for just one second and go back to why our other techniques are so ineffective.
What are those techniques?
Other methods include:

  • tough love
  • trying to make someone hit rock bottom
  • locking someone up in jail or prison
  • yelling, screaming, nagging, or preaching
  • reminding them how they're terrible and ruining everyone's life

That's the WRONG answer. PEOPLE, That does not release serotonin, but it dramatically increases the need for the person to find some way of feeling better.

Of course, those kinds of things escalate addiction. One other thing I'd like for you to consider while we're on this topic is the person will continue to chase their dopamine. If they have any place in their life where they're getting any serotonin, guess where that is? Their addicted friends and people in their life whom they've told a sad, soft story to that are probably validating some destructive behaviors. For most people stuck in addiction, close family and friends make you feel worse about yourself. The addictive behavior and the using friends make you feel good about yourself.

I know this is not going to be easy to be supportive and pleasant to your addicted loved one. It's similar to trying to snuggle with a porcupine. You know your addicted loved one needs it, but you can't even give it because when you get close, they quill you.
Then you back up, it makes you angry, and then you probably say and do some things that are likely to create the opposite of serotonin.

And I get it, and in that kind of situation, what do you?

You try to get that person to a place they can feel connected to, like treatment, a counselor, a recovery group, or something like that. Get them somewhere where they haven't quilled the other people 5,000 times, and get the connection they need.

And in the best of all worlds, they can simultaneously start getting this connection from both.

 Amber Hollingsworth

Watch this video next: 

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