Last Updated on October 13, 2016 by Morris Green
Judging others for their addictions is easy when we don’t understand what they are going through. Every individual has his or her own set of challenges to overcome in life, and with this said finding compassion can, at times, be difficult. Sometimes all it takes is a better understanding of another person’s struggle through a scientific eye to open our awareness and reveal what another person may be experiencing.
Our judgment does not come from malice; we want to help our loved ones overcome the struggle of recovery from addiction, but we can’t seem to understand why it’s so hard to simply say, “No.” The key to better accepting the hardship a person with addiction goes through is in understanding the role of dopamine.
Addiction goes Beyond Indulgence
Addiction takes the form of powerful memories, from which the brain takes a very long time to recover. Dopamine, a brain chemical responsible for creating a reward circuit, is released whenever an addictive substance is consumed. This is the same chemical the body releases when it experiences anything desirable or pleasurable, such as an orgasm or eating a favorite meal.
Throughout this cycle, the brain becomes trained to feel as though it needs the drug responsible for the dopamine release, as if it were vital to continued survival. As the Latin term for addiction would imply, one becomes enslaved. The memory of this enjoyable experience is now cemented in the mind.
Understanding the Change
Dopamine restructures the brain on a cellular level. The need to repeat a pleasurable experience is likely to cause a later relapse, regardless of how well a person overcomes their addiction.
Dopamine not only makes us feel good, it tells our brain what it needs to survive. It’s easy to see how an addictive substance could be misconstrued as something a person must have, making it virtually impossible to just say, “No.”
Think of it like your favorite food. Let’s say you enjoy chocolate more than any other food. You eat chocolate all the time – every day in fact. Obviously the excessive sugar is not the best, and so imagine if your doctor said you had to give it up, cold turkey – no more chocolate. Can you imagine how difficult it would be? It wouldn’t be an overnight process. In fact, you might not even be able to shake the addiction for a long, long time if at all.
Perhaps chocolate isn’t your thing, but it doesn’t matter. You can substitute chocolate for any other habit, hobby, or thing that plays an important role in your enjoyment of each day. Imagine the difficulty you’d face if you had to let go of something you are more or less addicted to. It wouldn’t be so easy, would it?
Recovery requires more than simply “getting over it.” It takes patience, understanding, retraining, and a change of lifestyle. Thanks to dopamine’s role in addiction, it must be considered a vital part of recovery. As such, healthy activities like exercise, yoga, and meditation are important for supplying a natural release of dopamine while combating the unhealthier, addictive alternatives.
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