There has been a lot of talk lately on what addiction is and how everything we thought as professionals about addiction is wrong. In the past one of the ways to treat addiction was with “tough love”. When I work with an addict, one of the first things I see is an individual who is disconnected from himself/herself and the rest of the world. It’s a very lonely place to be in. The addict’s deepest desire is to be connected/bonded to others but at the same time is terrified of the vulnerable state that is required to have the bond. Tough love is not going to work with this population. There needs to be a balance between consistent boundaries and simply love.
Think back to infancy and early childhood. We are 100% vulnerable and dependent. How was that experience for us? In my experience the type of relationships we form with our caregivers are crucial and sets up who and what we will bond/attach with as adolescents and adult.
There are 4 types of attachment styles which describe how we connect/attach to our caregivers.
If the caregiver is present, attentive, and consistent to the child’s needs that child will form a secure attachment.
If the caregiver is distant and disengaged that child will subconsciously believe that his/her needs will not be met. This child will form an avoidant attachment style.
The third style is ambivalence. In this one the caregiver is inconsistent. At times they are sensitive and other times neglectful, as a result the child believes they cannot rely on his/her needs being met. This child typically presents as anxious, insecure and angry.
The final style is a disorganized attachment in which the caregiver is usually extreme and erratic, they are usually frightened or frightening and can be passive or intrusive. This child grows up extremely confused with no strategy to have his or her needs met.
What happens in addiction is that if the individual forms any of the last 3 attachments they will inevitably attempt to form a secure attachment with something or someone. The only problem is they never learned how to form a secure attachment from healthy modeled behavior.
So what happens? An individual has an “experience” with a substance, food, a person, sex, etc…that alters their current feelings. All of a sudden they feel in control, powerful, wanted, noticed, confident and fundamentally an illusion of peace. Naturally they engage in the experience again and find the same results. They realize that this experience is pretty consistent and they attach to whatever that experience is for them. The only problem is that whatever the experience is will soon enough begin to give them consequences. But for most at this point they are hooked to a lifestyle, bonded with people that also engage in the lifestyle and have a pretty distorted sense of reality. They are chasing the peace and an increasingly distant illusion of connection.
So treatment for addiction is not merely about stopping the drug or experience the person has become addicted to. It is primarily about education and rebuilding trust in humanity.
With the rebuilding of trust individuals learn how to form healthy relationships with those around them.
If you have any questions about addiction, and addiction treatment please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org