Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Nature of Addiction

The book explains that most of us enter the program expecting to be taught self-confidence. Instead, we find that self-confidence is a total liability. Why?  We learn that we are victims of a mental obsession so powerful that no amount of human willpower could break it. That is actually an important thought. The world—and ourselves—have always believed that overcoming addiction was just a matter of will-power. In reality, however hard we try to fix the problem ourselves, the mental obsession is stronger and generally prevails, leaving us defeated, dejected and more susceptible to our addiction.  We just can’t break that cycle on our own. These principles basically apply to all addiction—drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, pornography, shopping, video games, etc.

The dilemma is worse than that, actually. The Big Book and the 12x12 explain the true nature of addiction. It has two parts:

1)   the obsession of the mind
2) an allergy of the body 

In order for that to make sense, it is important to understand those two terms, “obsession” and “allergy”.

Obsession (mental component of addiction)  = an idea that haunts, troubles or preoccupies the mind; an idea so strong that it overcomes any thought or evidence to the contrary; an idea strong enough to overcome concern for possible negative consequences.

Allergy (physical component of addiction) = an abnormal reaction to something. In an addict, allergy almost always presents itself in the form of abnormal CRAVING.

Examples of an “obsession” (an irrational idea):

“I can take just one drink (bite) and stop” even though experience has shown the opposite to be true.

“I haven’t had a drink for three months; I must not be an addict any more.”

“If I do it just this once it won’t matter.”

“That pair of shoes is such a great price; even though I haven’t budgeted for them, I really ought to buy them.”

Examples of an “allergy” (abnormal reaction):

I eat a piece of cake; rather than feeling satisfied like a “normal” person, I have a strong craving to eat the entire cake!

I buy a new T-shirt and end up getting it in three different colors.

I see an inappropriate picture on the internet. Rather than being repulsed by it, I have this compulsive craving to see more.

Addiction is a two-edged sword: we are smitten with an “insane urge” to do what ever we determined we would not do; once we do it, the abnormal reaction (allergy) kicks in and we can’t stop.  This explains why serious addicts rarely, if ever, recover on their own resources.

The problem of addiction is both mental and physical. The solution has to be spiritual.

The literature explains that “only an act of Providence can remove it from us”.  This is where the spiritual solution comes in. We pray for the willingness, the surrender, to stay abstinent. Then we work the 12-steps which provide the spiritual and emotional healing which will eventually overcome the mental obsession.

Addiction = 1) allergy of the body,  2) mental obsession

Recovery = 1) complete abstinence,  2) spiritual healing through the 12-steps.

By staying abstinent—never  putting the offending substance or idea in our body or brain—we prevent the “allergy” which makes us unable to stop.

By working the steps, we heal the mind in such a way that we are able to overcome the mental obsession and face life in a rational, healthy way.

For today, that covers the topic in a nutshell.

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