This course is for people (volunteer, worker, family member) who care about someone with addiction; anyone ready to engage in a three hour long course to support another or their own addiction recovery.
Addiction has been clearly defined by the experts, but many members of the public (and many professionals) are surprised about the facts that are not widely known. We rule out what addiction is not then lay out some definitions that start to shed the light of compassion and understanding on what addiction really is. Definitions are like lenses, there are more than one way to view addiction, each showing something different with some overlap. My favourite way of seeing addiction is that it’s a problem with managing emotions. That definition works for alcohol (and other drugs) as well as gambling and other addictive behaviours.
Myths about Addiction
There are many unhelpful myths about addiction, and they tend to contribute to hopelessness and the likelihood to blame. Some are thought to be scientific facts, that have been long disproved and debunked. Dispelling these helps create a foundation of hope that means recovery is possible.
Causes of Addiction
Everyone is different and no two people’s stories are alike. But Dr. Gabor Mate says in his excellent book on addiction, “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” that the number one factor that’s most prevalent in causing addiction is trauma, but not just trauma but trauma experienced in the first 3 years of a person’s life. Why do some people experience porn and shrug it off while others are obsessed and struggle to live their normal life overwhelmed by escalating compulsions? Similar questions can be asked about alcohol or gambling. What happens to humans, especially early in our development, that is largely responsible for our susceptibility towards addictions? People need specific emotional nourishment otherwise we are all at risk of developing addictions. I describe it as either trauma (our experience of something that happened to us that shouldn’t have) or neglect, (something that should have happened to us that didn’t). These views of addiction cultivate our compassion, remind us good reasons to persevere in our care, while challenging long-held stigma and judgement that persists.
Brain Science & Addiction
What goes on in the brain in addiction? The reward system, opioid and dopamine systems and neurotransmitters are all natural and normal wiring that help us avoid pain, survive and thrive as a species. We all have dopamine receptors that impact our decision-making, focus, memory, emotions and even motor functions. Addiction is when these are significantly hijacked, and recovery is working to address and improve them specifically. Emotions that for some of us seem elusive, have been tracked to naturally occurring chemicals in our brains, and addiction involves those relating to desire, energy, moods and bonding, decision making, intense fantasy, and even love.
Recovering from Addiction
KC’s years of working his own recovery, and supporting others in their recovery, has convinced him that the elements needed to overcome addiction parallel with the same components that are found missing in the formative years of most addicts’ childhoods. We cultivate and practice giving ourselves the specific things that we lacked when our brains were developing or when we were traumatised. Knowing what we missed shows us what to practice giving to ourselves: kindness, compassion, support, soothing, connections–with a big emphasis on accepting and processing all our emotions.