- Mental Health
Addictions and What They Do to Our Emotional Health
How has addiction affected your life?
No one decides as a young child that they will be an addict when they grow up, it just happens. One day we wake up and realize that we no longer have control over our own lives. Loved ones express their concern that things are not working like they should, and they think it has something to do with the substances we are using, or the activities with which we are involved.
They gather around us and let us know that what we are doing is causing them grief and pain. There may even be an ultimatum given that we get help. If we don't choose it ourselves, they will make sure that we get it! We hit bottom, and there is no place to go but up.
How does this happen? How do our lives get to the point where we lose control of our ability to make positive choices? Why is it that we are unable to change, in spite of our continued efforts to do so? Is addiction an accident or is it a choice we make? There are no easy answers.
According to Medical News Today, we can become addicted to substances, such as drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, as well as behaviors; i.e. gambling, Internet use, excessive exercise, and sexual activity. Any time we become dependent to the point that we loose our ability to choose, we have fallen into an addiction. "When a person is addicted to something they cannot control how they use it, and become dependent on it to cope with daily life."
This article discusses how addiction happens, how it affects our emotional health, and what we can do to prevent it.
How does addiction happen?
Addiction can happen to anyone. There are basically three ways that it becomes a part of our lives:
- By Accident - addictions can come into our lives without us even being aware that it is happening. Prescription drugs given for legitimate reasons have the potential of becoming habit forming crutches that we cannot live without. This is especially true with pain medication following surgery, sleeping pills taken for insomnia during a difficult time, or anxiety medications to "get us over the hump." Other ways that addiction can come by accident include date rape drugs, punch laced with alcohol at the company party, or candy that has been injected prior to being handed out.
- By Default - the things we do on a daily basis, the behaviors that we engage in, the people with whom we associate, and the business dealings we get involved in determine the possibility that we will fall into addictions by default. Lifestyle is largely made up of habits, or things that we do over and over again. Our thought patterns, the foods we eat, the ways we react when we are faced with difficult circumstances, all have the potential to lead us into addictions.
- By Choice - there are those who choose the route of addiction in spite of warnings that it is not in their best interest. We all have a little bit of pride or rebellion within us, wanting to do things our own way, fit in with the crowd, or look "cool." It starts with curiosity. We think that one time won't hurt, and before we know it, we are pulled into a downward spiral and cannot find our way out.
How does addiction affect our emotional health?
Addiction blinds our minds by taking away our ability to be sensitive to the needs of others.
According to NIDA for Teens, "When drugs enter the brain, they interfere with its normal processing and can eventually lead to changes in how well it works."
Our brains govern our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The various parts of the brain work in concert with one another, just like the instruments in a symphony orchestra. Each depends upon the actions of the other to make sense of its own functioning. When these parts are out of tune or out of sync with one another due to the introduction of foreign substances, the entire brain is affected, natural processes are interrupted, mimicked, and even changed, leaving the person without vital communication capacity within the nervous system. Reaction times are delayed, emotional sensitivity is marred, and the person only thinks about meeting their own needs. The needs of others are seen as a mere annoyance and easily brushed aside.
Addiction binds our hearts by removing our power of choice.
According to the National Institute of Health, "The rewarding effects of drugs of abuse come from large and rapid upsurges in dopamine, a neurochemical critical to stimulating feelings of pleasure and to motivating behavior. The rapid dopamine “rush” from drugs of abuse mimics but greatly exceeds in intensity and duration the feelings that occur in response to such pleasurable stimuli as the sight or smell of food, for example. Repeated exposure to large, drug-induced dopamine surges has the insidious consequence of ultimately blunting the response of the dopamine system to everyday stimuli. Thus the drug disturbs a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substitutes new priorities concerned with procuring and using the drug."
Addiction ties up our pleasure centers to the point that is all that we seek. The desire for the "high" that accompanies addiction leaves us without the ability to choose other worthwhile activities. The heart becomes bound to seeking out and using the addictive substance or behavior, to the exclusion of other activities. We remain powerless, unable to change our behavior, in spite of repeated efforts to do so.
Addiction breaks our spirit by reducing our feelings of self-worth.
Alcoholrehab.com tells us that addiction increases our feelings of self-worth initially. This false sense of self-worth does not last, however, as the "individual begins to rely on these substances in order to cope with life. Addiction means that the person’s life begins to fall apart as their self-esteem hits an all-time low. In AA, they describe the situation as, alcohol gave me wings but then it took away the sky. Lack of self-worth can then keep people trapped in addiction."
Low feelings of self-worth often lead to hopelessness and helplessness, leaving the addicted person open to problems with further destructive behaviors such as self-harm, the abuse of others, and illegal behavior. Addiction further dulls the spiritual senses, leading to a loss of the sense of moral responsibility or obligation, and the loss of personal spirituality.
Fortunately, it is possible to get help for addictions. Although they are considered to be a disease without a self-cure, professional help from addiction counselors, spiritual advisors, and addiction support groups will assist the person who has a desire to change this self-destructive lifestyle. Far better, however, is the prevention of addictions in the first place.
Key elements of prevention
- Proper nutrition and exercise - eat right, keep fit, and get enough sleep.
- Support networking - build a support network of people that can be contacted at a moment's notice, both for fun and for assistance.
- Communication - talk to others about what is happening in life to facilitate problem solving.
- Covenants - make promises with God and others to stay clean from addictions and destructive behaviors.
- Time - allow time to heal wounds from the past. Share when ready, then move on.
- Music - use music to lift the spirits, enjoy work, be inspired, and learn.
- Journaling - write feelings to bring them to resolution.
- Thought Stopping - put up a stop sign in the mind to stop difficult thoughts from taking over.
- Visualization - visualize your problems and fears to figure out what to do with them.
- Shift of Focus - do something different for a few minutes. Take a walk, ride a bike, go up and down the stairs, or read something aloud.
- Deep Breathing and Relaxation - close your eyes, breathe deeply, and relax your body.
How can we prevent addiction?
Prevention is a three-fold responsibility:
- Set specific boundaries. Life is made up of choices. It is up to us to make the decision to stay away from addiction. If we allow ourselves to play with fire, one day we will get burned. It is in the setting or boundaries that we build protections for our emotional health. Choosing not to engage in addictive behavior means choosing to have a plan in place for when we are emotionally distraught. Our emotions play a big part in our habitual behavior. We do not make rational decisions in the heat of the moment, rather we go into automatic mode. Whatever we have done, we will continue to do unless we have made plans otherwise.
- Focus on physical health. We are busy people, surrounded by hectic schedules, time constraints, the need for convenience, and easy access to low quality foods and activities. It takes time and extra planning to keep us and our families physically healthy. Check to see that nutrition is high on the priority list of things to do. That means fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-processed meats are a regular part of the diet. The value of these foods comes out in our emotional health. Our bodies require high quality fuel to run properly.
- Establish effective emotional habits. Our emotional habits are the result of our ability to use the vital life skills of problem solving, communication, conflict resolution, recognizing and expressing our emotions, and preparing for the future. We are able to live life to its fullest and help our family members do the same as we establish those habits that will help us be emotionally healthy. We become free to explore higher levels of spirituality as our roots are deep in the soil of high quality living.
There will always be circumstances that work to undermine our emotional health. Our lives are surrounded with detours, crises, and circumstances that zap us of our ability to live life to its fullest. As we work to prevent addictions, we are also giving ourselves the tools needed to deal with life's inconveniences.
The Mormon Message
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormons, herein referred to as the Church), are known for their abstinence from tea, coffee, tobacco, and alcohol. The origins of these practices date back to the days of the Church's beginnings with the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Revelations given during the formation of the Church are contained in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) and are included in the Standard Words, along with the Holy Bible (King James Version) and The Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Principles taught in the D&C include what is known as the "Word of Wisdom," found in Section 89. Abstinence from these substances is recommended, along with the use of healthy, life-giving foods.
Modern revelation through the Church's prophets and apostles have also warned against addiction to pornography, gambling, excessive use of social media, and other modern ills of society, indicating that these rob us of our ability to make wise choices and use our ability to receive inspiration from the Spirit.
Knowing the power that addictions have, the author penned the "Temptation Rap." It is performed below by the young single adults from the LDS Church at a conference in Bismarck during September of 2014. The video was produced by the author.
The Temptation Rap*
I don't drink coffee and I don't drink tea, and I won't get high on a gambling spree. I don't smoke and I don't swear, and modest clothing is what I wear. I don't do sex and I don't do drugs, no alcohol, man, I won't budge. For I am a Mormon through and through, and I'd be happy to share it with you!
No matter what their source, addictions have the power to destroy our lives. Allowing them to continue is to write a sure ticket to the loss of our self-respect and emotional health. We jeopardize our future, and that of our loved ones.
*Temptation Rap written and produced by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved.
© 2014 Denise W Anderson