Underlying Cause of Addiction

“Anything that is “wrong” with you, begins as a survival mechanism in childhood.”- Dr. Gabor Mate

It is perfectly normal to run away from pain instead of facing it head on. It’s part of human nature. Most of us were not taught how to deal with our pain or our emotions. As a result, many of us have acquired habits along the way from painful childhood experiences that no longer serve us as adults. While some coping mechanisms can result in healthy habits, certain habits stemming from coping mechanisms can manifest as addiction in a variety of forms, ranging from alcohol and substance abuse, to excessive overworking, shopping addictions, addictions to pleasing people, etc.

Rather than asking: “Why is this person addicted to something?” ask: “What is the underlying cause of pain that results in the addiction?”. Addictions are used to cover up pain in our life. The definition of addiction is:

The process manifests in the behavior that a person finds temporary relief or pleasure and therefore creates negative consequences in the long term.

So it is basically craving relief and pleasure in the short term that leads to negative consequences in the long term for refusal to give it up or moderate it properly. Addiction is a behavioral compensation for something lost in childhood which can also include depression.

What does it mean to depress something? Pushing feelings down and suppressing them. Q: Why would somebody want to do that? A: To survive the moment and avoid conflict and pain. When a child is not allowed to show their emotions or express any anger, they learn for the sake of their relationship with their caregivers to push these things down.

Is it all our parents fault? There is no end to the blame game if we take this attitude. It didn’t begin with you or any of us. No parent deliberately screws up their kids. Infants have to be intact and connect with their parents and vice versa. The parents have to connect with their infants otherwise there is no survival given the helplessness of a human infant.

Without conscious awareness of the possible harm of our actions, we can get caught up in our patterns. We are not our patterns, our addictions, or our father who might have been an alcoholic. We have free will and with proper awareness we can change destructive behaviors.

So how do we deal with our addictions without getting into the blame game? This is a complex question, but in a nutshell it involves: (1) becoming aware that there is a problem and seeking to understand and act upon it, and (2) If harm was inflicted upon a child by a parent that contributed to the addictive behavior– it may be appropriate to discuss openly with the parent and expect some sort of acknowledgement of the damage done. Depending on the nature of the addiction, and the behavior of the parent, therapy for those involved may be needed.

We are more than the life events that have happened to us. We have free will. Addictive behavior can be stopped with awareness and appropriate actions. Addiction is a pattern of behavior to soothe pain. By raising your conscious awareness of your actions and the cause behind them, you can work through the pain and trauma. In doing so, you will ultimately help discover who you truly are and in so doing recover from the trauma and eliminate destructive, addictive behaviors.