It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behavior.
As addicts, we use addictive substances and behaviors not to feel better, but to distract ourselves from emotional discomfort. And it works, too. Addictive substances and behaviors trigger a highly distracting neurochemical response—primarily the release of dopamine (pleasure), along with adrenaline (excitement), oxytocin (love and connection), serotonin (emotional well-being), and a variety of endorphins (euphoria). This response creates sensations of pleasure, excitement, control, and, most importantly, distraction and emotional/psychological escape. Over time, we learn to cope with stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, and the like by engaging with our addiction instead of turning to people who might emotionally support us. As we do this repeatedly, this choice becomes a pattern, and then an addiction.
Task for Today
Make a list of your most potent emotional triggers. Ask your therapist or sponsor to help you develop non-addictive ways to cope with them.