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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 8:51 am 
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I've been doing some more research into addiction and came across an interesting article. This one looks at behaviors related to pleasure seeking and pain avoidance and how it relates to addiction.

An excerpt from article:

Recovery From Addiction Through Basic Mindfulness; By George Shears

Currently, there is no clear consensus among health professionals in precisely defining addiction. Historically, it has been defined narrowly only in relation to psychoactive substances, such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

Increasingly in recent years, however, many dysfunctional behavioral patterns that are not specifically substance-based are viewed by many professionals also as "addictions." Some common examples are addictions to: gambling, food, sex, pornography, computers, video games, watching TV, dieting, internet use, work, exercise, shopping, cutting/burning oneself, etc.

A common unifying theme with the victims of all of these disorders is how powerfully and repetitively they are internally driven to engage in the particular activity that defines their addiction.

There is, moreover, growing evidence from neuroscience research that the neurophysiology of ALL addictive disorders, whether substance-based or behavioral, is very similar in many ways. Endorphins (or endogenous morphine), for example, as well as key transmitter substances such as dopamine, epinephrine, and serotonin are common mediating factors in all of these disorders.

The prevalence of these addictions in the modern world is staggeringly high. In the U.S. alone 15.1 million people are addicted to alcohol, 4 million to drugs, and over 20% of the population is still addicted to tobacco.

Although there is no reliable way to estimate the total prevalence of all the behavioral addictions, there is abundant evidence that they are extremely common. As a matter of fact, there are probably very few people alive today who are not subject to some form of addictive behavior.

In this regard, answering the following question with complete honesty will help you determine if you may be one of them: Do I ever feel driven to engage in any form of behavior that I personally regard as self-defeating or harmful and about which I later feel guilt, shame, embarrassment and/or remorse to some degree?

A New Way to Understand Addictions

The following formulation, although grossly oversimplified in many ways, is intended to help provide an initial rough framework for understanding how Basic Mindfulness offers a highly effective way to deconstruct the brain/mind formations that underlie all addictive behaviors.

Like all other creatures on this planet, humans universally tend to seek pleasure and to avoid or escape from pain. Although these two extremely strong genetic instincts have been and continue to be essential to survival, they are also the extremely fertile common ground in which all addictive behaviors become strongly rooted and sustained.

The basic habit patterns that comprise the core of these addictions start developing out of these intrinsic propensities in a very natural and lawful way even before we are born and continue to proliferate from that point onward.

The twin principles that govern their natural initial development can be stated quite simply, although they progressively evolve into highly complex and subtle brain/mind processes that are much more challenging to understand.

Principle #1: Whenever we do anything that is followed by an increase in subjective pleasure or satisfaction, the probability that we will do it again increases to some degree. In general, the probability of recurrence of such a behavior is proportional to the degree of pleasure/satisfaction experienced.

Each subsequent repetition of this particular sequence further increases the probability of its future recurrence or its "habit strength." As it continues to develop, it will tend to become increasingly streamlined or "automatic," requiring progressively less conscious awareness and/or intentionality for its occurrence. An automatic habit pattern that has developed primarily in this way will be referred to here as a pleasure-seeking reaction.

Principle #2: Whenever we do anything that is followed by a decrease in subjective physical/emotional pain, discomfort or dissatisfaction, the probability that we will do it again also increases slightly. Again, this increment in the probability of recurrence is generally proportional to the degree of reduction in subjective pain/dissatisfaction that is experienced.

Each subsequent repetition of this sequence similarly increases the probability of its future recurrence or its "habit strength." As this happens, it will also become progressively more automatic as described above. This type of automatic habit pattern will be referred to here as a terminating reaction.

As used above, the words, "do anything," refer to external behaviors as well as to their internal representations -i.e., the emotional feelings, mental imagery and/or self-talk to which they give rise. Typically, these internal representations are strongly linked to the external behavioral reactions from which they are derived and thus become a key part of the overall reactive pattern. Very commonly, they also play an important part in activating the external behavioral part of the reaction.

For example, thinking about/imaging a piece of chocolate cake in the refrigerator will tend to activate the corresponding pleasure-seeking reaction of actually eating it. Similarly, if you have a headache, your terminating reaction of taking an aspirin is highly likely to be preceded by thinking, for example, "I need an aspirin," and/or an image of taking one and getting relief.

As nearly everyone knows from much personal experience, reliving a pleasure-seeking reaction in imagery tends to activate--at least to some degree-subtle feelings of pleasure; conversely, reliving a terminating reaction in imagery similarly tends to activate subtle feelings of getting relief from pain/discomfort. The same is true of anticipatory imagery and/or engaging in internal self-talk about future occurrences of pleasure or pain.

For example, someone experiencing a lot of stress at work may repeatedly imagine what she is going to do when the weekend comes and/or think repetitiously, "I can hardly wait to...." Both of these internal processes can be understood as subtle, garden-variety internal terminating reactions. It's very important to understand that they also commonly occur very automatically, without any conscious awareness.

Within this framework, then, an addictive behavior can be defined as any pleasure-seeking reaction, terminating reaction, or a combination of both that is significantly harmful to oneself and/or others and that has become sufficiently strong and automatic that it effectively overrides-at least on some occasions-- one's intentionally conscious efforts to suppress or control it.

By this definition, all addictions cause pain-physical and/or emotional; and since pain tends to activate automatic terminating reactions, this sets up a self-perpetuating process or "vicious circle."

Consider, for example, an alcoholic who chronically worries about how to pay his bills and who has had a highly stressful week at work. Predictably, this triggers a strong terminating reaction of stopping for "happy hour" at his favorite bar, where he ends up getting drunk, spending a large part of his paycheck, and staying until the bar closes.

His wife, expecting him to come home to participate in a special birthday celebration for one of their children, becomes very emotionally upset, as do all of the children. They are traumatized further by the loud argument that ensues between their parents after he finally gets home.

When he wakes up the next morning, he has a terrible hangover and is filled with intense guilt, shame, and self-loathing about what he has done. His baseline level of emotional pain, which he temporarily terminated through ingesting a large amount of alcohol, has now increased tremendously-far above its original high base level.

Given this level of pain, it is extremely likely that the same terminating reaction will be quickly reactivated, setting off another addictive round in this tragically vicious circle.

This is from: ... id=4567143

The rest of the article talks about mindfulness and how it can help the cycle of addiction. Mindfulness is something that I'm working hard on in therapy, so I'm very interested in learning more about it.

On Mindfulness (from the same article): "A Definition of Basic Mindfulness: Basic Mindfulness, as I will refer to it here, consists of three powerful interrelated mental skills:

1) Concentration power;
2) sensory clarity; and
3) equanimity.

With adequate guidance and through disciplined practice, this skill set can be developed to a very high degree by nearly anyone. Once acquired, it can be applied effectively to every area of one's life.

In particular, it is a means second to none for enhancing conscious awareness and thus become liberated from a wide array of highly automatic and unskillful habit patterns-which, very importantly, includes all addictions. Likewise, it provides a way to enjoy all of life's pleasures much more fully, while also offering a very powerful means of coping with all forms of physical and mental pain."

I'm really hoping that mindfulness can help me in many aspects of my life - not just addiction. I'm sharing this with you so that perhaps you can also get the benefits of mindfulness as well.

-As I have grown older, I've learned that pleasing everyone is impossible, but pissing everyone off is a piece of cake.

-I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:32 am 
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Hat, thanks for bringing up this topic of mindfulness. I think it is important information for the site and you've reminded me it is an area in my recovery I've slacked on. So, I've been thinking more about DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) and mindfulness since you brought it up. Marsha Linehan from U of Washington is the "author" of DBT, although others have piggy backed on...I actually had a professor when I was in grad school who has her own version of it and has games like charades, cards etc using mindfulness and the other "modules" of DBT. Its actually a great tool to use in groups for treatment in understanding DBT.

I have a lot of info about it if anyone is can PM me but I''ll post some resources and info for the general population. I believe the concept of DBT and mindfulness (which was first introduced for the treatment of borderline personality disorder) is helpful for everyone and especially those of us in recovery who struggle with similar issues of staying present and focused in the moment, emotional regulation and distress tolerance. The fourth "module" so to speak with DBT is effective interpersonal communication (DBT: 1.) Mindfulness 2.) Emotional regulation 3.) Distress tolerance 4.) Effective Interpersonal Communication)

On a personal note...mindfulness and dbt has changed my life in recovery. I would use it while facilitating groups and then go home and think wow I need to really do this myself more. And as I slacked in my own recovery program my ability to regulate my emotions, get along well with other people and stay present was out the window. I'd get more obsessive in how I thought about things and get back into that controlling behavior that gets me into trouble so much of the time. Recently, with the events that I've written about here: the new move, the 3 day benzo relapse, I've thankfully been able to see how much more work I need to do and have really connected with others in recovery in my community. Its been a humbling that I really mean humiliating!

As a woman in recovery and based on how I grew up (obviously dysfunctionally) feeling humiliated is not a foreign concept. But the difference for me is now in recovery humiliation can be turned to women I think we don't grow up understanding how to ask for what we need or want, we don't know how to say no a lot of the time or if we do we feel we need to either defend it or qualify it. No is a complete sentence! There doesn't have to be an explained reason. That took me a long time to understand and to do. If we ask for anything for ourselves I think many of us feel compelled to apologize. But, for me, humility just means I have a strong sense of who I am. Unfortunately, lately, that has slipped away somewhat. But I've become much more aware again. Asking for help, recently, was humbling. I also became more willing to look at the changes I need to make and to also work on my lack of spiritual connection. Being honest and putting myself out there is pretty scary. But for me if I don't do this my recovery suffers...not only do I feel unhapy but I'm putting myself at risk for relapse. As was obvious 2 weeks ago....

So as I thought through this idea of humility vs humiliation I realized I was feeling humiliated at the truths I was seeing about myself. But that is not remain feeling humiliated, that is not what recovery is about. Humility is a clear headed perspective that faces doesn't minimize or avoid. I had to face the truth about myself. (no wonder I needed a benzo...LOL) But I guess what I've learned is to say "ok this is what I did (the truth) and ok, its done". So I fess up and move on. Romeo said that to me in another post...that I fessed up and moved on. Well, sort of! I continued to feel like shit about taking this guys benzos and I guess in order for me to forgive myself and have him forgive me I needed to beat the shit out of myself. I went out of my way to make it right but the reality is if I hadn't taken them from him in the first place I wouldn't be doing this mind fuck now. Ok, back to the topic....trying to stay on track here!.....How this all fits in with Mindfulness is this and this is how, for me, working those 12 steps works: I admit what I have done (either in the past or currently...) make amends when possible or necessary, and move on. Doing it this way means I don't judge myself. Doing mindfulness and dbt work the idea is that we don't continually negatively judge everything around us, including ourselves. We can have a thought, for instance like anger and being pissed off at someone, and instead of feeling badly and beating ourselves up for it we can just say, ok I know I feel angry, its ok its just a feeling, I don't have to ACT on it and I don't have to judge it or judge myself for having the feeling. It sounds simplistic but for me I know that I've lived my entire life negatively judging myself. Someone says something to me that is constructive and probably useful but I'll usually initially take it as a put down or negative and reinforce those bad feelings I have about myself. I don't do that any more...or rather a lot less anyway...but that is part of how DBT and mindfulness works...that is one small part.

I realized this week that my mistakes are my mistakes. In this process of moving and things not working out the way I thought they would I've found myself in a lot of old behaviors. And really being mad at myself for allowing myself to do things that I supposedly don't do any more! There are things I can do about them (admit it, try to fix it if possible and move on accepting myself) but they don't define me any more. When I'm defined by my mistakes I am humiliated. When I see them for what they are, just mistakes, I can humbly admit to them, ask for forgiveness, and then ask for help to do something differently the next time.

I have learned so much this month. One is that I have no control over anything but myself. I have a responsibility for this process and what I do with it but i can't control it. And self acceptance is a part of it. I've come to realize that humility is about self knowledge,self acceptance, and knowing where I am in this place....that I can be who I am and not apologize for it.

Now, the next step is the process of changing....yikes

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