We are in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in the history of this country. Everyday more and more addicts and alcoholics are dying of drug overdoes. It appears that nothing that is being done to help has had any positive effect on stopping or even reducing the devastation that is now taking place. I believe that we need a new paradigm from which to both better understand drug and alcohol addiction and as a result from which to provide effective, efficient treatment. The intention of this post is to start that needed and overdue conversation.
Based on my research and clinical experience, I believe that the fundamental cause of drug and alcohol addiction is ideational in nature. The primary cause of substance abuse is to be found in the addict or alcoholic’s thinking or thought process. The addict and alcoholic have a core belief that they are not good enough, a belief that defines their self-image and negatively impacts every area of their life. This negative self-image produces negative feelings and poor self-esteem resulting in a lack of self-love.
This core belief, what I refer to as the self-limiting belief, has been in existence for years, getting its birth between the ages of three and six. The self-limiting belief tells us that we are not good enough and is created by us from the reactions of the adults around us early in life. We are the authors of this limiting belief. The self-limiting beliefs was not imposed on us or caused by others. The self-limiting belief is solely of our creation, created from our interactions with others. This beliefs sets limits on what we can experience and even creates the possibility of our demise.
While we do our best to change this core belief that we are not good enough it continues to exist inside us like a deadly virus. We try our best to eradicate this belief, sometimes consciously but mostly unconsciously, by doing and having things to be good enough in the eyes of others. While we may get some temporary relief from doing and having, at night when we are alone we continue to feel the existence of this self limiting belief, we continue to think and feel that we are not good enough regardless of what we have accomplished or accumulated in our life.
Living in our society we eventually discover the existence of drugs and alcohol. When we first experience drugs and alcohol we tend to feel good as a result of using them. While we are not necessarily conscious of the fact, the using of drugs and alcohol also gives us relief from the emotional experience and impact of a negative self-image. It is at this point that we begin to form an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Simply stated, addiction is the repetitious use of drugs and alcohol to help us to feel good and give us relief from the emotional impact and even pain created by our self-limiting belief.
As stated above, we created our self-limiting belief from our perceptions of other people’s actions and behavior towards us. Having created the self-limiting belief we are also completely responsible for its existence and everything that it eventually sources into our life. The self-limiting belief is like a magnet, a magnet that attracts experiences that must be a match to the self-limiting belief. As we created and are responsible for our self-limiting belief you could also state that we choose it. Creating and choosing thoughts are synonymous in this respect.
Drugs and alcohol are sourced into our lives to serve us. Initially we bring them into our lives to help us feel better and to reduce our cognitive and emotional pain produced by our thinking and thought process. While the self-limiting belief determines the context from which we make our decisions and choose our experiences, we are responsible for the existence of and our relationship with drugs and alcohol, for the bringing of them into our life. While a dependency on them may get created, our addictive relationship to drugs and alcohol only exists because of the existence of our self-limiting belief.
Now there are implications for treatment. If the cause of drug and alcohol addiction is in our thought process and specifically with our self image, what we think of our value and worth as a human being, then the individual addict or alcohol needs to transform their primary beliefs about themselves if they are to stop using drugs and alcohol. To be in recovery the addict or alcoholic has to reinvent themselves, from one that believes that he is not good enough to an individual that believes that he is perfect, whole and complete. While this sounds simple, it is not easy for the addict and alcoholic to do.
Dr. Harry Henshaw