Looking at the Call of Other Addictions
You have stopped having wine. You are off of sugar and no longer eat “white things.” You have done all sorts of work to get your life in order. But there are still some things that creep in, rear their ugly heads and make you uneasy. What is going on here?
You got the idea of being a sugar or carbohydrate addict (or both). Learning the biochemistry of sugar sensitivity has helped to take the charge off the word “addiction.” You realize that your body chemistry is different and you get a bigger ‘hit’ from the substances that evoke beta-endorphin so you are drawn to go back to them over and over.
But some of those other secrets are connected to sugar sensitivity. Maxing out your credit cards, your intense attachment to Starbucks, playing Farmville, working eighty hours a week, going back to the guy who hits you. “You have got to be kidding, Kathleen”, you say. “These things are NOT connected to food for goodness sake!” You may think not, but let’s walk through some intriguing ideas and see what you think.
You may not realize that the beta-endorphin response is tied into many other behaviors. If you are sugar sensitive, you will be biochemically vulnerable to the effects of the behaviors and not have a clue that your sugar sensitivity is being affected. You may mistakenly believe that some of your other struggles are a function of willpower, discipline or habit. Thinking of them in the context of your sugar sensitive biochemistry can give you some helpful insight. Learning about the addiction amoeba can provide a new model for a solution.
The “Addiction Amoeba” can trap you unknowingly. Before we look at the solution, though, let’s revisit the idea of addiction. Just what is it anyway? As we go through this, remember there is ADDICTION and there is Addiction. I am going to ask you to stretch the boundaries a little because I find it an incredibly useful tool for healing. Because I think of addiction as more of a chemical problem than a character flaw, I don’t judge it as a moral issue. When we don’t know what is happening we are more vulnerable to being driven by the biochemistry. As we learn the variables that affect us, we can make a different kind of informed choice.
A Formal Definition of Addiction
Let’s start with the formal definition of addiction. The American Psychiatric Association publishes a book called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) which provides clinical diagnosis for mental illness and non-traditional behaviors. (They might refer to them as aberrant, 😉 ). One section of the manual provides a series of questions to determine addiction. These are typically used to measure whether a chemical is being used in an addictive way. Insert alcohol or drugs in any of these criteria to get a sense of how they work.
- The substance is taken in greater amounts or for a longer time than intended
- There is a persistent desire or one or more unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control use
- Major time is spent in seeking, using or recovering from the effects of use
- Frequent intoxication or withdrawal interferes with responsibilities
- There is a decreased level of social, recreational activities due to use
- There is continued use despite adverse consequences
- There is a marked increase in tolerance
- There are withdrawal symptoms
- There is use to prevent withdrawal
These criteria are easy to use if you are a professional in the field of chemical dependency. When you are on the inside of your own addiction, it may be hard to recognize a “marked increase in tolerance.” If you drink, you are likely to simply think you can “hold your liquor well”. One major marker for recovery is the ability to recognize how many of these criteria are applicable to your use.
For those of you who have not had to deal with alcohol or drug addiction, the effects may be slightly more subtle. You may think you are simply doing the food a little better and not think of yourself as a sugar addict. But applying the criteria to sugar addiction is uncanny. Sugar addicts KNOW the truth of the addiction story on a very intimate level. You have been working with sugar and carbs for a while. Try looking at other chemicals such as caffeine, nicotine, or diet products, to get a sense of whether they might be a part of your own addictive use as well.
The Addiction Amoeba
Let’s take it a step further. It is even more powerful to begin to apply these diagnostic criteria to your behaviors. Things like shopping, credit card use, gambling, bulimia, sex, exercise, work, tattoos and piercing, codependency or abusive relationships can be evaluated with this filter. I thought it might be fun to “play” with the concepts a little. Let’s look at some of the things that plague Sugar Sensitive people and see if any of them fit you.
The Addiction Amoeba Streaming
If we put a gate over an addictive substance or process, the amoeba will stream in a different direction. Not drinking wine? Let’s think about ice cream. Not drinking coffee? Let’s try sugar? Going off of sweets? Let’s go shopping. The addiction energy oozes to the places that are not gated. So we feel as if we are constantly battling with our addictions flowing to a new place.
As we *did the food*, the addiction flow seemed to quiet. It’s as if getting the biochemistry steady changed the entire equation. The “struggle factor” went away. And the desire for deepening recovery became a behavioral reality.
Going to the Root of It
No longer do I work with people to “do” one addiction and then another and then another, for a lifetime of change. I encourage them to work on the core, the root of it – the biochemistry. And, the most exciting thing – working on the root is easy. It’s the same program, same simple steps, same clear and uncomplicated process.
And rationally, when people first hear this idea that changing your food could alter a sexual addiction, or could affect the way you use your credit cards, it sounds nuts. That’s why I don’t go around saying it. But, then there is the reality that is happening over and over. People start with the food. Over time, they get skilled. They understand addiction. They embrace the concepts. They like the feeling of recovery. And they start looking at the other stuff. It’s not as if the “food” changes things, but the biochemistry provides a platform for change.
They stop exercising compulsively. They start working in a healthy way. They start going to Alanon. Their relationship to debt changes. Clutter gets thrown away, plans become thoughtful, compulsivity turns to spontaneity, and recovery creeps into unexpected places.
Most of you have progressed enough in the process to get a whiff of what this means. Work with it, explore where your own amoeba oozes. Share with one another on the forum, in the lists. As you explore this, you will discover the power of the model. It is big, it is exciting and can offer a powerful tool for your recovery.
Did you ever see a commercial saying “This is Your Brain on Credit Cards”? Or, “Just Say No to Overtime”? Probably not. But have fun thinking about this.
We can help you.
(c)Kathleen DesMaisons 2015. All rights reserved.