Charlotte Sophia Kasl, Ph.D. © September 2006, 2007, 2012
1. Addiction is a response to overwhelming emotions—such as fear, terror, pain and aloneness. People use addictive substances or behaviors to anesthetize pain, feel relaxed, calm themselves, feel alive, numb out pain, turn off a racing mind, hide from shame, or feel a sense of belonging. Addictions are used in an attempt to manage what feels out of control, missing, or very frightening.
2. Trauma, neglect or alienation often lead to disregulation of feelings and thoughts. They also lead to impulsiveness, detachment, denial, and self absorption. When one’s primary task is managing a restless, painful fearful or chaotic inner world, it becomes difficult to have true intimacy with others. The resulting lack of authentic relationships perpetuates the sense of isolation and shame and keeps the addiction cycle in play. Addiction thrives in isolation and loneliness.
3. Overcoming addiction is greatly helped by addressing core issues of trauma that lead to anxiety, depression, pain, and negative beliefs—I’m powerless, damaged, unlovable, invisible, alone, worthless, inadequate, incompetent, and so on. The task is to process trauma in order to ease one’s inner anxiety and chaos, and learn to manage feelings and emotions This, in turn opens the way to stable, soothing relationships, which then become an antidote to addiction.
4. The more we move toward the highest states of human development, the less we will be inclined toward addiction. This includes developing an internal center of control, attuning to one’s truths, taking charge of ones life, questioning, accepting differences, experiencing compassion, and developing values through observation and experience. This also includes sorting out the essential self from the conditioned self–namely the voices of criticism, censorship, fear and self loathing that are intruders in one’s mind.
5. Authentic human connections are essential to overcoming addiction because they comfort, ease stress, assuage loneliness, lower anxiety, and provide shelter and companionship—all the things people attempt to do with addictive behavior. This includes primary relationships, friendships, and connections within a supportive community.
6. The more we are self aware and accepting of all the parts of ourselves the more we are able to have warm, stable, caring relationships. That’s because accepting our own imperfections/ humanness leads us to be more open hearted, less defensive, less fearful and more able to attune to others and hold them in our awareness at all times. This prevents us from doing harm to others. We learn to step back and observe ourselves with compassion and curiosity. Hmm, what’s that about? What’s going on with me? Why such a big reaction? Why so much fear?
7. Overcoming addiction has many facets: financial stability, education, jobs/career, healing the physical body, learning self care, connecting with others, and affirming ones heritage.
8. It is important to understand addiction in a personal, family and cultural context. People are not simply “addicts,” they are people with addictions. It is by realizing that they are much more than their addictions, and by focusing on their strengths and all that they can be, they move toward wholeness and crowd out the desire for addictive behavior.