How Does Addiction Work?
Have you ever seen somebody on their way to rehab to get over an addiction and wonder how they got there?
In my mind I’ve thought to myself, “How could they let themselves get so caught up?” or “How on earth could they let their life get so out of hand?” and “Why would you let that happen?” I don’t think that way anymore.
Nobody on their first time taking drugs, or first cigarette or first time drinking thinks to themselves “I’m totally gonna let this take over my life.”
The more I learn about human behavior and the more I learn about counselling and the human mind, the more I learn that we can all be mastered by something. As humans we have a brain that is wired to increase the behaviors that are rewarded and to decrease those behaviors that are not rewarded. Plain and simple, we do more of the stuff that makes us feel good and do less of the stuff that makes us feel bad. This is a consistent rule throughout all human beings. This rule is the source of our addictions. Today in this blog I want to share some information with you all that might help us understand what happens in people’s brains as they develop addictions.
Let’s take somebody battling with alcohol for example. Each time they drink alcohol they are rewarded. That reward is an increase in Dopamine in a little tiny area of the brain. Here we have the behavior (the alcohol consumption) and the reward (the brain chemical release). The person realises that alcohol is good at providing the high, so they create a habit of drinking alcohol.
However, our brains get used to whatever happens to it consistently. Have you ever been sitting in your room with the fan on? At first you notice the noise but because it’s always buzzing, you tune it out so you can’t even hear it. Our brain stops noticing something like the noise of the fan because we get used to it. Our brain does the same thing with heaps of different things each day.
So the brain gets used to having the addictive stuff around- it becomes so normal that the usual amount of the substance doesn’t produce the same high as it used to. So to combat this, people consume more alcohol to make up for it. Also, our brain gets so used to having alcohol that having no alcohol becomes a negative thing. This is what cravings are; feeling bad without the substance we crave.
This cycle continues: more and more alcohol for less and less of a high, and more of a negative state from being sober. That is how an addiction is formed. Eventually the person can’t function as they once did because they are in a constant state of needing more alcohol. It happens silently, it happens easily and it can happen to any of us.
This process is exactly the same for any addictive behavior. Every addiction follows the same pattern in our brains. Whether it is alcohol, or heroin or shopping or over eating, all these things can become addictive.
Today I want to talk to you about one of the most common addictions in our society, Pornography. Just like any other addictive substance or behaviour, pornography provides that same high. I’ve seen countless people who can’t live without pornography. At night they can’t sleep until they’ve watched a few videos or they can’t have a day at home without starting it off with watching something erotic.
I’ve also seen people who try as hard as they possibly can but are unable to stop watching pornography despite their spouse’s heartache, their own guilt and their constant struggle against it. I’ve even seen pornography invade the minds of people in their everyday life, finding themselves distracted at work, aloof in their relationships always craving that high provided by their internet searching.
Porn is an addictive substance and countless people are addicted without knowing they are.
Today I have 4 questions to ask your self:
1.Is it difficult or even possible for me to stop watching pornography?
2.Do I find myself continuing to engage in this behavior despite any negative feelings about it?
3.Do I watch pornography more now than I did when I first started?
4.Am I searching things now that are more intense or graphic than when I first started?
These questions are there to highlight that process in our brains. The high you used to get diminishes and your brain wants more, or wants new things. You might be in a state of craving or you might be searching out new things all the time to try and get that same high you first got.
Just like your brain was trained to need these things you can retrain it. With some work, alcoholics become sober, drug addicts become clean and porn addicts become free! I’ve seen it many times.
If you think may be struggling with an addictive issue there is hope, you are not alone and tomorrow can be different.
Below are some resources that can help:
Triple XXX Church
This awesome website exists to help people quit porn. For an online test, steps towards recovery, an online workshop, weekly articles and real talk about real people, go here now.
S.A. Lifeline Foundation
If you are struggling with a porn addiction or have a family member of friend who is doing so, this website has varying articles, videos and information so you can become educated and receive the help you need.