In his insightful book, “The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior,” author Craig Nakken explains why, even after an addict has given up the bottle or the weed, she will never be done with recovery:
Addiction is a process of buying into false and empty promises: the false promise of relief, the false promise of emotional security, the false sense of fulfillment, and the false sense of intimacy with the world….Like any other major illness, addiction is an experience that changes people in permanent ways. That is why it’s so important that people in recovery attend Twelve Step and other self-help meetings on a regular basis; the addictive logic remains deep inside of them and looks for an opportunity to reassert itself in the same or in a different form.
Nakken brilliantly explains the addictive cycle that I merely call “the exploding head phenomenon”: the process by which I continually seek relief from uncomfortable feelings, a “nurturing through avoidance–an unnatural way of taking care of one’s emotional needs,” as he says. The addict, he clarifies, seeks serenity through a person, place, or thing. The cycle is made up of four steps:
- feeling the need to act out
- acting out and feeling better
- pain from acting out
Just in case you weren’t paying attention, he mentions pain twice.
It’s so simple it’s laughable, really. When you can draw your little neat diagram to see what’s going on. But when you’re in the midst of it, emotions take over and it’s about as easy as driving your car through a blizzard. On a back road.