Addiction Wall

Causes of Addiction

Understanding the causes of addiction can stimulate you to want to recover from it. There are many models of how addiction originates.

Bad Habit Model:

In this model of addiction, bad habits develop as a benefit of pleasure, comfort, and security. These habits have been influenced by negative environments. Habits can be stopped by changing behaviors, repairing relationships, and utilizing strength of will. Although this model offers useful ideas, it’s not the best answer for recovery.

Cause of Cravings

Brain Addiction Model:

According to experts, about ¾ of drug and food addicts, and likely many other types of addicts, have brain chemistry issues, specifically:

  • Mood chemistry deficiencies: Inherited or triggered in response to stress.
  • Poor regulation of blood sugar: Inherited or made worse by bad diet.

Both negative moods and irregular blood sugar result in cravings. This is what 12-Step programs and the disease model call an allergy. It’s the essence of the cause behind addiction. Increasing the health of neurotransmitter activity in your brain with good diet and nutritional supplements will decrease negative symptoms and increase emotional and physical well-being.

The process of addiction of all substances and behaviors, from liking to wanting to needing, occurs in the pleasure circuit of the brain. You experience pleasure from an experience, so you repeat it increasingly until your tolerance develops. As time passes you need more intensity or frequency for the same amount of pleasure to occur. Eventually, your liking becomes needing – not for pleasure, but to not feel bad and to be able to function. This process changes the addicted brain permanently. The neurobiology behind the addicted brain model is gaining visibility and acceptance in recovery communities and the scientific world.

Disease or Medical Model:

This model believes some people have a genetic predisposition for drug or alcohol addiction which causes them to establish a lifelong, incurable physical allergy. Evidence appears to validate this.


Loss of Choice Model:

A new theory states that in some addicted brains, the region of the brain needed to make good decisions is more vulnerable to addiction and addictive behaviors. As abuse grows, this region becomes more emotionally detached, and its decision making ability is reduced. Eventually, the natural yet inaccurate brain hardwiring that results from your addiction overrules all else, and you use, no matter the consequence. You believe that you need to use in order to survive.

Drugs, including sugar and addictive behaviors to a lesser degree, cause large amounts of brain chemicals, especially dopamine, to flood through your brain and control your thoughts and behaviors. Chemical floods produce new addicted pathways that start small then become large canyons, while normal pathways become weaker. These changes may become permanent.

Moral Model:

This model describes addiction as an immoral behavior by people who make sinful choices due to having bad character or those who violate social and moral codes. The addict is unworthy of sympathy and should be punished.

Personal Issues Model:

Core childhood issues or traumas may lead to negative patterns and emotions. If you don’t explore your personal issues, they will undermine the quality of your life, and you won’t maintain high-quality recovery. This is at least part of the cause of addiction for many, and a big part for some. As such, if you have unresolved issues or traumas, accept that resolving them may need to be a part of recovery. Denying issues will continue to cause pain. Please note, doing deeper work in early recovery deserves caution, leaning to contain core issue may be a better approach.

Psychological Model:

All addictions – except alcohol, drugs, and maybe sugar – are obsessive compulsive issues rooted in personality and character flaws. Some can be helped with medication. From this comes the Personal Issues Model.

Spiritual Model:

Separation from your spiritual connection causes a void. This leads to the desire to replace that void with something that makes you feel good or feel numb – this often leads to an addiction or addictive behavior.

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Community Reinforcement & Family Training (CRAFT)

Hands that help!

CRAFT is a cognitive behavior model for dealing with alcoholism and drug use that aims to achieve abstinence by eliminating the positive benefits of substance abuse and increasing the positive benefits of sobriety. CRAFT has several parts and is designed to build up motivation to quit using:

  • Helping the addict initiate sobriety.
  • Analyzing the addict’s using patterns.
  • Increasing positive benefits through reinforcement.
  • Learning new coping behaviors.
  • Involving significant others in the recovery process by teaching them skills.
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Pre-Treatment: Part Two


An intervention is a method for family and friends to give caring and supportive confrontation to the addict in their lives. In this collective group, the possibility of increased defensiveness, avoidance, manipulation, and hostility is reduced. The goal of an intervention is to awaken the addict to their need for help, and get them committed to recovery immediately. Traditionally, this involves an addict consenting to treatment in a residential program. For many, this isn’t the right fit. The person may be motivated to participate in a less intense option, it would be financially difficult, job restraints or there are no residential programs for his or her specific addiction.

The theme in an intervention is concern, and the approach is carefronting the addict with facts about how their behaviors have affected those participating in the intervention. If the addict is able to relax his or her defenses, and accept the truth, they may be rescued from hitting a lower bottom.

A well-done intervention is a loving, yet manipulative process. The motivation for an addict to recover comes partly from their relationship with the carefronters; the possibility of loss of support, family, or a job can be very persuasive. Often, once an addict has realized their need to change, recovery will take hold.

The phases of an intervention are:

  1. Family, friends, employer, etc. who are concerned about, and important to, the addict need to agree to participate. A group of eight people is about right. Ideally, get a professional interventionist, who will hold one or more pre-intervention meetings.
  2. At pre-intervention meetings, the following issues will need to be discussed and a plan finalized:
    • Each participant needs to understand the intervention process. They need to vent their negative feelings towards the addict and decide on a personal experience they will share with the addict as an example of why they are concerned.
    • It’s vital to break through any denial the participants may have about the confronted person’s addiction. Usually the addict’s addiction has been enabled by well intending family members. This must be addressed and an agreement has to be made to stop rescuing, fixing and saving the addict from the consequences of his or her behavior. Furthermore, the participants must get past their negative feelings about the addict, their using, and the intervention process itself.
    • A decision must be made to determine whether an intervention is going to happen, who is going to participate, and what the group will expect the confronted addict to do. Anything less than a strong, clear, and solid group agreement is likely to sabotage the intervention.
    • A plan must be agreed upon as to how to get the addict to the intervention location and other details that need to be arranged.
  3. The intervention experience:
    • One or more participants will bring the confronted addict to a home, doctor’s office, treatment center, or any desirable location. This may need to be done under false pretenses.
    • The designated facilitator will briefly share the reason for the meeting and ask the addict to agree to listen until everyone has shared. Hopefully, the addict agrees to listen. If not, a prearranged response needs to be initiated.
    • Each participant, in pre-agreed order, will share for up to five minutes one specific using-related incident that was difficult, embarrassing, hurtful, or scary and their feelings regarding the incident.
    • The participants can share their feelings and hopes for the addict to accept help and live a healthy life. This is not a debate about whether the addict has a problem; it’s a monologue of why the addict needs help.
    • The facilitator shares the group’s decision and expectations for the addict and attempts to get an agreement with the addict.
    • If no agreement is obtained, a second, less intense option can be offered with a consequence rider. That is, if the second option doesn’t work, the first option will be carried out. For example, if the addict refuses residential treatment but agrees to out patient care, if the latter is unsuccessful, then residential treatment becomes the only option.
    • If neither option is accepted, then it’s time for the participants to share their response to that decision. Until recovery is started, participants will break off their relationship, separate from marriage, be severed from work, etc. If the confronted still doesn’t respond, end the intervention and put tough love into action.
    • If the addict returns to using, a second intervention may be necessary. This last and final intervention sets up what the addict must do to continue having any contact with family and friends.

Intervention is a very hard experience, and not everyone agrees that it’s the best approach.

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Pre-Treatment: Part One

Hitting Rock Bottom

Hitting Bottom

Major motivation for recovery occurs when you have hit your bottom, which is the point in time when you experience the reality that you have an addiction and that it is hurting your life and the lives of your loved ones. When you hit a bottom, the negatives of your behavior become real, your defenses break down, and denial is gone. You are left with the consequences that your addiction has caused in your life. Connecting as fully as you can to this awareness will motivate your need for change. Everyone has their own enough level, which is their bottom. You can raise your bottom by looking at your illusions, and reconsidering the mythical value that using has in your life. Let the reality of your using sink in. Connect with your healthy self and with those who care about you.

If you are fortunate, you will have hit your bottom early in your using career. If you say, “I’m not that bad, yet,” good! Why would you want to get worse or get that bad? Hitting bottom is not completely negative. It’s a crisis, but like any crisis, it’s an opportunity to experience change and growth and become better. Choosing to continue your addiction can lead to many problems, such as jail, illness, loss of a job, loss of money, damaged relationships, and ultimately death.

Brain Scan

Brain Scan

A brain scan is a powerful reality check. It’s very hard to deny that there’s a problem while looking at an image of the physical damage that has resulted from your behavior. This can be expensive, unless you can get medical insurance to help with the cost.

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Before Recovery Can Start



You have an addiction when using causes significant life problems, and yet you continue to use. Using has become the problem, but it still feels like a solution. Addiction is a biological, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual based disease. It creates excessive negative behaviors that you can’t control. Addictions especially flood the brain with neurotransmitters.  These cause the brain to be rewired so it eventually believes, “I must use to survive.” Even when you aren’t using, you’re thinking about it. If you think you may have an addiction issue, you do.

Underneath the misuse of substances, destructive behaviors, and codependency, are emotional feelings that are pushing your addiction along. Coping with your addiction is difficult, but you must move past your issues and build a positive emotional life. A major factor in addiction is avoiding negative emotions. In recovery, connect with all of your feelings and with your heart.

In the beginning, your addiction likely did help you avoid negative emotions, or at least it seemed to help, but now it has turned on you. You may have sworn off using for a period of time, believing time off would solve your addiction problems, only to find the same issues reappearing when you started using again. It’s time to look at and accept the reality of your using before the dues become even heavier, or it’s too late. If there is no problem, prove it to yourself and abstain from using for six months or longer.

Addictions are common. Stop asking, “Am I an addict or not?” And ask, “How is addiction affecting my life?” or “To what degree is my behavior negatively affecting me and my family?” You may also be addicted to the process, to the experience, and to the behaviors of addiction. These include stimulation, scoring, obtaining, preparing, using rituals, social interactions, and a sense of belonging.

The key to the self-evaluation below is to be honest. Avoid rationalizing your responses. The following quiz should only be a starting place.


Addiction Self-Evaluation

Answer Yes or No:

_____ Has anyone asked me or commented about my using?

_____ Do I use more, or more often, than I plan on?

_____ Do I feel negative emotions about my using?

_____ Do I hide or sneak my using from others?

_____ Do I cover up my using or the consequences?

_____ Do I have fewer close friends than I used to?

_____ Do I continue to use despite negative results?

_____ Do I think about using for hours before I do it?

_____ Has my using caused me to act undesirably?

_____ Has my using decreased my desired activities?

_____ Has anyone confronted me about my using?

One yes answer should be a concern; three or more and you should seriously consider that you have an addiction issue and explore recovery; six or more and you have a problem. Start recovery immediately.


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Binge Eating Disorder (BED)

Binge Eating Disorder or BED is a food disorder in which a person frequently consumes large amounts of food in short periods and suffers severe guilt when finished. This disorder is exacerbated by anxiety and insecurity and, in turn, causes the vicious cycle to repeat over and over again. An individual who suffers from BED understands that it is cruel, humiliating and can strike at any moment of vulnerability.

During months where routine in predictable – September to June for those who work or are in school – binge eating can be easy enough to hide. Everyday practices are its best cover as we are in more control of our lives during these months. However, BED should not be dismissed during this time, nor should its warning signs be ignored.

During the holiday months, BED becomes much more punitive and often unbearable for those who experience the disorder.

Now that summer is here, for most people that usually means going to the beach with friends, hanging out by the pool, endless summer cookouts, shorts and tank tops, and the anxieties about body image. If you are one of the millions with an eating disorder, this time of year may make it even harder to manage your symptoms. Body image issues become obvious and maintaining a healthy relationship with food becomes more challenging.

Summer is a time to relax and recharge, but it is important to stay committed to your recovery. Consider these summertime challenges:

  • The increased “free time” that occurs during summer tends to create more “alone time” and eating disorder behaviors thrive in isolation and secrecy.
  • Body image issues may increase during summer months, as we tend to wear less clothing and show more skin.
  • Wearing a bathing suit can be particularly challenging for many.
  • The lack of structure in the summer months can lead to unhealthy routines like skipping meals or altering your normal sleep habits. This can make eating disorder and mental health symptoms worse.
  • Changes in the summer schedule can lead to an increase in physical activity and excessive exercise.
  • Co-occurring mental health issues like depression and substance abuse benefit from treatment and are not likely to go away in summer months.
  • Getting back into activities with “old friends” or even “new friends” can add to the social demand and thus increase overall stress.
  • Eating disorder behaviors may be exacerbated if stress increases due to new activities (taking courses or starting a new job) in summer.
  • Eating disorders are challenging to treat, require specialized treatment and have a high relapse rate. Anorexia nervosa, in particular, has the highest mortality rate of all mental health issues.
  • The longer that you wait to seek help for an eating disorder, the sicker you may become, making future treatment even more challenging.

But if you are struggling, or know that a loved one is struggling, do not delay seeking help any time of year. Call a professional for guidance. The courage you draw upon to choose treatment now will inevitably lead to improved outcomes and improved well-being.

Important information about Binge Eating Disorder

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),Binge eating disorder (BED) is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder in the country and is defined by eating large quantities of food ” as much as 5,000-15,000 calories ” in a single sitting, then experiencing feelings of guilt and shame as a result. Binge sessions may occur after a period of stringent caloric restriction or dieting and they are often characterized by feelings of a loss of control.

Those who struggle with binge eating are often overweight or obese and, as a result, are likely to struggle with medical problems such as heart disease, some cancers, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, high levels of “bad” cholesterol, and/or type II diabetes.

  • An estimated two-thirds of people living with binge eating disorder are obese.
  • Binge eating contributes to the development of obesity, which in turn can trigger a host of chronic health disorders, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
  • Binge eating disorder is the most commonly diagnosed eating disorder, and an estimated 3 percent of Americans are living with the problem. Additionally, about 50 percent of patients with BED are also diagnosed with depression, 24 percent are diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and 44 percent self-report struggling with eating habit management.
  • Cortisol released during the stress response and the corresponding storage of fat in the abdominal area are increased issues for those living with BED and obesity as compared to the general public, according to a study published in the journal Appetite. Stress can also be a trigger for binge eating.
  • Binge eating has been linked to increased rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, especially if the person with BED struggles with feelings of low self-worth and/or feels lacking.
  • People living with binge eating disorder very often also struggle with disrupted sleep patterns, including difficulty falling asleep, waking at night to eat, and struggling to go back to sleep.
  • The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that people living with binge eating disorder are at higher risk of developing such health problems as headaches, joint and muscle pain, sleep apnea, digestive problems, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancers, and fatty liver disease. They also experience difficulty in getting or maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

For BED victims, though it may not feel like it now, it does get better. Here are a few extra tips to help with your recovery, keep you on track and reduce the possibility of relapse.

  1. Set regular times for eating, but be careful about it. Do not starve yourself by allocating inconvenient times for a meal. The more control you have over food, the more you will find control in your mind.
  2. Look at food in a positive manner. Food is not an enemy but key to your survival. Learn to manage food intake to your benefit and overall health.

Most importantly, accept that some days are better than others. Do not blame yourself if you don’t feel invincible every day. Accept that you had a moment of weakness and continue to strive for a better day and a healthier future.

Good luck and have a Happy Summer!

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How to Thrive Living with an Addict in Recovery

Having a family member in recovery from addiction is one of the biggest challenges for a non-addicted loved one. A combination of relief, hope, emotional conflict and a tremendous amount of fear for the unknown surround your daily activities.

You are hopeful your addicted loved one will see what you have seen for some time – their addiction was not only ruining their life but yours as well – losing sight of your own needs while being focused on their needs. It is important that you evaluate your own wants and wishes irrespective of the addict’s progress in their journey to recovery.

With an understanding of what is involved with living with a recovering addict, you are more prepared to assist in the recovery process and provide the support necessary to decrease the chance of relapse. You already know that the addiction does not just affect the addict – family and friends are affected as well. This applies to recovery also. As recovery is a lifelong process, your loved one will not be “cured” upon returning from treatment.

As you play an important role in supporting the changes in life style required for long term recovery, here are a few guidelines for living with a recovering addict.

Recognize that problems may be prolonged.

Addiction effects are often felt within the family for a long time, even after the successful completion of treatment.  Typical challenges include financial difficulties, health problems and relationship matters.

The stress of these hardships can be assuaged with a few steps.

  • Consult with a financial advisor, who can help you plan short and long-term budgetary needs. You may want to consider a loan, if necessary.
  • Support regular doctor visits for your loved one, as health problems associated with the addiction may linger.
  • Attend family-based therapy. Honest and open communication is critical to all involved.

Stay involved and be familiar with the processes of addiction recovery.

As in most cases, alcohol and drug abuse significantly changes the lives of those close to the addict, particularly in the immediate family; therefore, the family often needs help too.

Many treatment facilities offer education for family members on topics that are vital to restoring the health of the family unit. The entire family should participate in the treatment and well as the recovery process. Deciding to participate in family education is an excellent way to support the addict’s recovery.

Many outpatient family therapy programs are available. A certified therapist teaches intervention skills that can be used to handle stressful and trigger situations. You also learn productive communication skills to express feelings without assigning blame.

Promote sobriety

One of the most important things that a family must do is maintain an alcohol or drug-free and sober lifestyle. Keeping someone in recovery away from the temptation of using is essential, especially in the first year of recovery. Ideally, a home should be completely emptied of any addictive substances. It may be necessary for the family to make a lifestyle change to support a loved one during recovery, even if your family has always kept alcohol or other substances on hand for social events or special occasions.

The family can participate in activities and hobbies consistent with a substance-free lifestyle, such as bike riding, gardening, planning a vacation, hiking, camping or going to the movies.

Find help for yourself

Just as the individual in recovery will require support from family and friends, it will also be important for family members to have support. Family support groups can help with the emotional and physical stress the may surface while supporting the individual in recovery. By seeking support for yourself, it may also encourage the addict to seek additional recovery and aftercare support services.

Here are a few support groups devised for family members and friends of recovering addicts:

  • Nar-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of drug addicts.
  • Al-Anon. 12-step program for family and friends of alcoholics.
  • Adult Children of Alcoholics. A group for adults who grew up in an alcoholic household and display characteristics associated with trauma and abuse.
  • Families Anonymous. All-encompassing 12-step program for family and friends of those afflicted by substance abuse or behavioral addictions.
  • SMART Recovery Family and Friends. A science-based support program for family and friends of alcoholics, drug addicts and other related addictions.

Reduce stress

Recovering addicts may be more susceptible to stress and may relapse.  Stress factors include:

  • Family conflicts
  • Relationships
  • Work
  • School
  • Health concerns
  • Finances

Understanding what to expect and how to help a recovering alcoholic or drug addict proceed with recovery can prove to be beneficial. You can offer resources that can help with stress, such as relationship counseling, adult education, therapy and support groups.

Keep in mind – it is also important to focus on yourself and manage your own stress.

Proven sources of stress relief for you and your loved one include:

  • Keeping a journal
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Steady breathing

It is important to remember that you should not expect recovering drug addicts or alcoholics to behave perfectly when they first enter recovery. They will often need time to adjust to life outside of treatment. Your job is to promote a supportive and comfortable environment for the recovery process.

Avoiding relapse

Finally, it is imperative that you take action if you believe that your loved one may be at risk of a relapse. If you believe your family member is in danger of relapse, immediately take steps to provide a safe environment. Look for these warning signs.

  • Romanticizing past drug or alcohol use.
  • Starting to reconnect with old friends from drug-using days.
  • Sudden changes in attitude or behavior.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities.
  • Appearance of withdrawal symptoms.

If you are concerned your loved one may relapse, you can:

  • Approach your family member in a kind and caring manner. Express your concern without judgment or blame.
  • Ask your loved one to contact their sponsor.
  • Suggest they attend a 12-step meeting. Encourage your loved one to attend a 12-step meeting or recovery support group.
  • Encourage your family member to talk with a therapist. Or recommend that they enter an intensive outpatient program to get back on track.

By understanding what is involved in living with a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, you can be better prepared to assist with recovery and offer support to decrease the chance of relapse.

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