Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol or drug seeking and usage, despite the conscious awareness of harmful consequences. Addiction is considered a brain disease because alcohol and drugs change the structural wiring of the brain.
The brains communication system works through neural pathways. One of these pathways is the ‘neural reward pathway’. These neural pathways initiate the release of the dopamine neurotransmitter to help us feel good or ecstatic in body and mind. Human beings like the feeling of feeling good in our body! For some, that feeling of feeling good becomes a never-ending obsession. The want turns into a need of more, and more, and more. And more is never enough!
This adverse rewiring of the brain alters and compromises brain signals, which in turn changes the way the brain functions. Once we cross over that invisible addiction line, this rewiring of the brain can and often does become permanent. We can never go back. Therefore, active addiction turns into a never-ending roller coaster ride, and instigates negative behaviors such as selfishness, insecurity, shame, guilt, feelings of being unworthy and unlovable, self-sabotage and other self-harm actions.
When in the throes of active addiction, the brain chases the first high experience relentlessly. The brain desperately wants to replicate the feeling. However, the first high can never be replicated with the same intensity as the first experience. Hence the brain lives in a constant state of dissatisfaction. Addicts fail to realize and/ or comprehend the fact that they are caught in the web of addiction for many reasons. A primary reason is that addicts in the throes of an active disease, become incapacitated and oblivious to the power of denial.
For example, when alcohol or drugs are ingested, the brain circuitry automatically kicks in to release dopamine. Therefore, people feel good or euphoric after using certain drugs or alcohol. However, when it comes to pleasure, the brain is never satiated. The brain always wants more pleasure, so the brain will artificially create a craving for more dopamine to be released.
The user slowly loses control of the reins, and subserviently hands over the reins to the Dragon. From an evolutionary perspective ‘neural reward pathways’ were originally created and evolved to help us access pleasure as a reward and aided in our species survival. Alcohol and drugs ‘hijack’ this neural reward pathway, while the addict slowly loses control of their sense of pleasure.
Addiction is a progressive, self-diagnosed disease; meaning over time addiction always gets worse, it never gets better. Active addiction is a downhill spiral in which addicts often lose all sense of self, identity and even their moral values. Addicts lose all sense of control to the point of believing the brains illusion that it needs alcohol or drugs to survive. The bottle or the drug become so vital to an addict’s very existence that everything else; family, friends and career become more of a nuisance, and even a threat to our addiction. Eventually, we become subservient slaves to alcohol and our drug of choice or both.
This is soul loss at the deepest level. From a shamanic perspective addiction represents a misalignment or imbalance within psyche and soul. This psychic imbalance causes addicts to deviate from their true path, hence the feeling of chaos and confusion. The addict becomes both the victim and the perpetrator. In a sense addiction is just as much a psychospiritual construct, as it is a brain disorder.
There are many approaches to treating addiction. However, it is my firm belief there must be an aspect of soul retrieval and psycho-spiritual healing in conjunction with a recalibration of the way the brain functions. One without the other is incomplete and doesn’t correct psychic imbalances that reside deep within psyche and soul.
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