What are Soft Addictions?

Soft addictions are patterns of behavior we develop as coping mechanisms.  These so-called addictions are considered endogenous in the treatment community.  What this means is that the end result of the behavior is an internal release of reward chemicals in the brain.

Human beings are all reward driven.  Some of us like the reward of excitement, that feeling of being “on top of the world,” and there are others who seek to feel more repressed or subdued.  Regardless of which you are, you would not choose to continue to live if you could not experience an emotional reward.

Truly depressed people will share that their life is dark and empty, with no meaning.  These people are experiencing a life with little or no reward; and many who are truly in this place choose to end their lives.  It has been said that no normally functioning person could imagine what the person whose brain chemistry lacking in reward chemicals experiences.

These naturally occurring chemicals are either dopamine or serotonin, and they control our moods.  When we have extra dopamine flowing, we are considered “high” or excited.  When we inhibit our serotonin levels, we are mellow or maybe even depressed.  Just for the sake comparison, cocaine is considered to be a dopaminergic drug; it increases the amount of dopamine in the synapses of the brain, giving us the reward of a high.  Alcohol is considered gabainergic, which is a depressant.  Alcohol acts to lower serotonin levels throughout the body.

When we find a particular behavior that seems to work to bring the desired result, some of us become dependent on them.  When this dependency stops us from maturing and developing other coping mechanisms, that addiction takes place.  The difficulty in diagnosis is that most of the so-called “soft” addictions are common behaviors that, much like drugs and alcohol, if consumed correctly and with moderation, are very normal human actions.  What defines them as addictions is also the same as with drugs:  “repeated usage in spite of negative consequences.”  You will see this phrase used in this column often.

When you lose multiple jobs from being tardy or absent, you may want to see if you are continuing unhelpful behaviors in spite of negative consequences.

If you find your partners, whether they be spouse or other, continue to leave you, citing your behavior, it may be time to see if you have been repeating behaviors that bring negative consequences.

Do you know all the first names of the police officers in your town because they have all given you tickets?  This is continued dangerous driving in spite of negative consequences.  And just to let you know, when a normal driver, one who is not seeking brain-reward chemicals from speeding or running red lights, gets a ticket, they take the blame for it and see to it that it never happens again.  Okay, I’ll admit, I needed to hear that and see it in writing as well!  My own son termed me a “habitual traffic offender.”  Nothing like the innocence of a young one to help break down your denial!

Do your friends not want to hang out with you anymore because you argue all the time?  Have you ever admitted to being wrong about something?  Have you admitted you were wrong just to win another argument and be proven right again?  Has anyone ever called you “Mr. or Mrs. Right,” first name “Always”?  The addiction to being right could be one of the most damaging behavioral defects in our society. The effects are very clear to all but those who are smitten by this very divisive, anti-social, ego-driven compulsion.

These are just a few of the soft addictions that plague humanity and keep us from experiencing our full potential as Triune Beings.  The willingness to look at ourselves and do a simple inventory of our lives and experiences we have had can unlock the door to the freedom and joy that we all say we wish to experience.  The world outside of us does not need to change for this to happen, and we would do well to stop waiting for the world to change before we do.

Recovery is a personal journey that starts when we turn our focus inward and confront the reality which is our lives to date.  Every act is an act of self-definition, meaning everything we have said or done is who we are.  The hardest thing to do is give ourselves an honest and open appraisal.  The help of another person on the same journey is extremely important for us to arrive at our own truth.

Denial is the biggest obstacle to recovery.  When we continuously place the blame of negative experiences outside of ourselves, we are in a reactive pattern.  Keep this in mind:  When you have one finger pointing at someone or something other than yourself, you have three fingers pointing back at you.

(Kevin McCormack is a Conversations with God Life Coach, a Spiritual helper on www.changingchange.net, and an Addictions recovery advisor.  You can visit his website for more information at www.Kevin-Spiritualmentor.com  To connect with Kevin, please email him at Kevin@theglobalconversation.com)

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