Addictions, Anxiety, and Abandonment
By: Javan
February 28, 2014

Many addiction sufferers are unable to experience a full range of emotional  health within their day to day lives. Somewhere in life, this process was short circuited. For many people, this also leads to another issue of being unable to process and resolve interpersonal issues with other people and within themselves. Abilities to manage emotions like anger, disappointment, fear, intimacy, and joy all are affected and influenced by the addiction process.

Addictions follow a cyclical pattern. The need and anxiety exist due to an emptiness. Shameful feelings follow the actions required to fulfill this emptiness with something unhealthy. Then the abandoning and self-sabotaging experience occurs since true healthy needs remain unfulfilled. Confidence, self-worth, unconditional love, are all too far away to be felt. This cycle continues within the person, all their lives until they seek help.

Addiction is not just about substance use or abuse or the choice of the addicted person to act out. This is only the expression of the addiction. The stemming of addiction is about the belief system that created the need for addictive behaviors in the first place. I work with clients who have approval seeking, pornography, and substance use addictions. Approval seeking is not more healthy than substance use or substance use less offensive than affairs. All are painful for the addiction sufferer as well as the family members. Many times, addiction sufferers are not able to fulfill their own needs. This leads to many life experiences of self-sabotage and abandonment. Being personally invested and present within oneself or a relationship is a high price to pay for an addiction.

Addiction allows the brain to temporarily feel relief from some stress, joy, anger, any emotional pressure, in an unfulfilling way. It literally short circuits the brain, takes an exit to a highway that was designed in unhealthy learning. Over several years, this process becomes normal. That’s why addictions are so difficult to stop. The organ of the body that would normally allow for the decision to be made cannot make that determination. The brain has become modeled after the addiction. So addiction is no longer a matter of “strong will.” It simply becomes an internal war that usually ends badly.

So what can someone do? Addressing addictions is a multi-layered process. Since the entire body is experientially involved many layers of care are required. Someone who is struggling with addictive behaviors needs to “borrow” another person’s brain, so to speak, to do the cognitive work. Changing belief systems, altering the brain’s ability to feel delayed gratification, manage anxiety, and emotions. This requires medications, a mental health therapist, group support that is safe and confidential, and friends and family.

Because life experiences have become altered through substance use, pornography or affairs, the mind’s ability to maintain intimacy within itself has become weakened. Approval seeking is based in shame and abandonment. Being unable to heal oneself and remain in a healthy place of self-worth, the person seeks a pain killer to address these anxious emotions. Some examples that I have worked with are workaholism, affairs, or pornography and substance abuse. These are all uses that do not address the core issues but simply band aid the discomfort temporarily. The issue just comes roaring back in some way, harming the person’s ability to maintain relationships.

Seeking a larger, overall treatment plan that addresses the physical responses with medication, cognitive therapies, and support is the best chance for gaining recovery. You can gain a full life that includes the range of emotional intimacy that you have been hungering for, instead of abandoning your personal needs of love and intimacy. May you gain peace and joy on your recovery journey!