There are many varied and interesting concepts and theories to explain the causes and nature of addiction. I often think that addiction is a word that is bandied about and over used in our society today. Do we really understand what it’s all about and what we are trying to grapple with?
When I think of the word addiction I think of chemicals, drugs, alcohol, energy, buzz, escape, euphoria, unreality, life force, intense experience and connection. We tend to look to the obvious causes like environment and family background, genetics etc to form our opinions and theories.
In my view addiction is borne out of a need that at times is very simple or a need driven by unconscious aspects of a human being. This could be a need for an experience to either enhance or escape the emotional and psychological world of the person. Where does this need start or is it a hurt that has not been addressed?
Leaving these questions aside and thinking then of stimulation. When babies are born they are full of life and at the same time utterly dependent on others for their life. They come into the world usually with all their senses intact. They are ripe for development and growth. The first moments of birth catapult them into a world that is full of stimulation both artificial and natural. They can also come into contact with repetitive emotional deadness and an absence of healthy communication. Babies need lots of care, both emotional and physical. Their very basic needs like hunger and thirst and a need for warmth and shelter are paramount. However side-by-side and almost as immediate is their need for emotional bonding, attachment and connection.
This continues right through the first year and up to five years of age with needs changing and adjusting over those years. In my view the thing that really encourages healthy development in a child is the capacity of the parents to interact, to look at and to play with, to hold, to hug, to talk to their child and to be able to do this consistently. Also to be able to manage the demand of that. This can be a challenge especially if parents got very little stimulation or interaction themselves in their early lives. Or if the only stimulation was the intensity of someone’s anger and the violence and aggression that can come with that.
It strikes me that if a young child grows up to be a young teenager and has not had natural and consistent loving stimulation – they are left with a lack or deadness or a need for the intense experience of stimulation and connection. At this point enter drugs, alcohol – substances, which can literally at that time bring a young boy or girl into that excitement, intensity and feeling of connection with themselves and with life.
There may be other factors as well that bring this about and one thing you can never do with addiction is to be dogmatic or too rigid about what leads to difficulties in peoples lives. Some children miss out on the stimulation of development but find other avenues growing up to experience that without becoming addicted. However there is an emotional component to most of these experiences that they seek out.
When a person looks to a chemical or a substance to activate that need for stimulation on a very regular basis – the danger is that it leaves them unable to manage any emotional blankness or boredom inside him or herself. Paradoxically when we spend all our time in pursuit of stimulation, we end up running our healthy need for stimulation way past what suits our bodies and hearts and we are literally spun out of control!
They key is to learn what is needed to energise and activate our own inner capacity for life and we can do that through learning how to live without chemicals. We can learn to reengage with our emotions, our minds and our creativity so that some expression can be given to our inner world. We may also need to make some practical changes.
So when you think about yourself today and your life. Ask yourself are you getting enough stimulation either through your work, the people in your life or the place where you live. Does your diet deaden you or stimulate you? Do you have a healthy respect for chemical stimulation in your life as in alcohol, medication, drugs, caffeine etc? Or do you still rely on those forms of stimulation to cover up the lack of what you really want energy and life from? And as a result are your boredom and your apathy increasing?