January 22, 2016
What is addiction?
Typically, the textbook example of addiction says that, addiction is a condition in which an individual ingests some substance or participates in a behavior harmful to themselves or others, but is also found pleasurable to the point that the neural networks in the brain hardwire that behavior into the individual’s framework.
This very black and white explanation is great on the surface, but for us flawed humans, tends to not factor into it the behavior we all exhibit relating to it. There is a mystery to the way many see addiction. Can it be said that one is addicted to water? Most certainly, without water we would most certainly die. If starved from water long enough, we’d long for it like a euphoric paradise.
Can it be said that one is addicted to food? Definitely. Some more than others, but for the most part we all are. Without food our very society might collapse. Famine alone has been known to cause wars and bring about the darker side of humanity, but all in all we still need it.
The only reason we even need these substances is because our brain knows it needs them to survive. It will then manipulate the emotions and taint the actions of whoever it controls, to the point we eventually become powerless to the needs of the flesh. Without our brain reacting to these external factors that might cause the body harm, we would most likely not be here as a species, hence is the very nature of the universe. But what if the brain is getting a misinterpretation of what the body was feeding it?
What if the brain can’t tell the difference between something the soul wants and something the body needs?
The brain is the command hub of every living being. It will always call the shots as to what the body does. Through our daily motions, we feed information to this command hub, which will then interpret and give out commands. But all to often we feed it wrong and manipulated information regarding the world around it. We tell it that we crave that extra cigarette like we crave water when we’re thirsty. Soon the brain will react accordingly. The brain doesn’t know the difference between water and the cigarette, it just knows that according to the body it controls, it needs it. Through time and error, we eventually lie and manipulate the brain into thinking this is part of its reality. No longer will the brain try and sort out that information. Now it knows that whatever substance the body craves, it must crave because it’s vital.
It is this that makes addiction so prevalent and confusing to many.
Addiction over time becomes another element in nature like water is to the laymen. The addict unknowingly modified the brain into thinking something about reality that isn’t real. But in all its glory as the most complicated and successful machine we know of yet in the universe, it adapts and does its job fantastically. Addiction now has became a certain part of what the brain considers reality, and changing neural superhighways in the brain, created in this mass exodus of new information, can sometimes be a life long struggle.
It is because this strange paradox of addiction that many have an even harder time to understand it.
If a man were walking around with a visibly crushed foot, it wouldn’t take long for someone to stop him and take him to a hospital. The damage is clearly debilitating, if not excruciating. Rarely if ever, would we hear of someone saying that the person is weak That the person should just suck it up. If anybody would ever say such ludicrous things, they would be seen as a person gone mad.
We now know addiction changes and cripples the brain like the crushed foot of the man earlier. But somehow because the injury isn’t visible, we treat it completely differently.
This type of thinking is the antithesis of what it is to think rationally. We know now, more than ever before what is going on in the mind of an addict. The disease of addiction, like viruses manipulating the DNA it invades, changes the way the brain will react to external stimuli. Simply because the way addictions are formed, anything and everything can cause it. The reason we as rational human beings don’t get addicted to everything is because we build within ourselves a resiliency.
A simple and easy way to understand the very many faces of addiction is to use going to the gym as an example. Going to the gym is difficult for most people, reason being that we are putting time aside from our day only to inflict pain and stress on our body. Naturally the human body will fight this by way of procrastinating and making up excuses as to why not to go. It is in this phase that it is easy to fall into temptation and give up, as many people do.
How, might one ask is addiction prevalent to that?
How would anyone get addicted to pain and stress?
If one were to ask around to those people we see wake up early every morning to go for a run, or people who go the gym after work day after day, many will give the same excuse: they feel terrible when they don’t. In their brain they have cemented a benevolent addiction of sorts, that only after forcing their body’s to withstanding it, the brain eventual responded by making room for this new information, information the body thinks is important enough to warrant it a permanent mental task.
Giving the example of the gym and running might seem absurd to some, but I used those examples only to show the strength at which the brain will make real estate in itself for any task we deem important. The brain doesn’t know whether a certain activity is good for it or if something else is bad for it. What it knows is positive stimuli and negative stimuli. When the body responds positively to an action, the brain records it and makes a note. Depending on how much the body want it, it will actively seek whatever that might be, creating the addiction.
Addiction is something that every living being will always have to deal with.
It is a mechanism that our very own body created for our survival, but that mechanism is easily able to change and run amuck unknowingly. Becoming more aware and understanding what addiction is and how one can benefit from it rather than suffer from it, is vital for all our futures. Understanding that we can use its own momentum for us rather than against us.
It is the riddle that addiction truly is. Terrible, destructive, and yet undoubtedly needed. It is a tool that can burden us for eternity, or simply make us stronger to it. However, it ultimately depends on the person using it that will determine its inevitable outcome.