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In the last section, we talked about the physical effects of alcohol on a body.
In this section, we will discuss addiction as a process. The section is broken up into two parts. In the first part, we will discuss common behaviors of addicts, and second part, we will talk about aspects of the relationship an addict will form with the object of his or her addiction.
As you well know, addiction is a process. In life, people will cycle through periods of happiness and periods of sadness. It is a natural cycle that we cannot control. People become addicts, however, when they attempt to control that uncontrollable cycle. For an addict, forming a relationship with an object becomes an addiction and produces a mood change that keeps them from participating in that natural cycle of highs and lows.
Jeremy, age 24 and recently unemployed, started using marijuana while still in high school but had recently turned to a "harder drug," cocaine. He stated: "I use cocaine when I am feeling depressed because it helps me feel better. There is nothing else that makes me feel as good."
Jeremy has developed a relationship with cocaine, his drug. His addiction started, like many addictions, with the emotional illusion that a relationship can be created with an object.
Regardless of type of addiction, I have noticed that there are two common behaviors that apply to nearly all addicts.
Two Common Behaviors of Addicts
♦ Behavior # 1 - Act Out
♦ Behavior #2 - Nurturing Through Avoidance
How does your addicted client treat themselves and others? I have noticed, like you, that the addict will generally believe that his or her primary relationship is with the object that they are addicted to and, as a result, will not treat others in an appropriate manner. The addict will begin to see people as objects as well and treat them as such. People become something that the addict can manipulate. This only increases their distance and isolation from others and their dependency on the relationship they have formed with the object of their addiction.
Three Key Aspects of Relationships of Addicts & their Addiction
There are three key aspects to the relationship an addict forms with the object of their addiction. These three key aspects are: objects are predictable, the addict’s priorities are misplaced, and intensity is mistaken for intimacy. As you listen to these three explained further, think of how your client with an addiction may be perceiving his or her relationship with the object of his or her addiction.
♦ Aspect #1 - Objects are Predictable
♦ Aspect #2 - Addict's Misplaces Priorities
He consistently turned to cocaine because in his perceived relationship with the drug, he was always first. Although it is a destructive relationship, it is a committed one; Jeremy believes all of his needs are being met. Can you see how an addict’s priorities might influence them to remain in a relationship with their addiction?
♦ Aspect #3 - Confusion of Intensity for Intimacy
Rather, intimacy builds over a period of time through many moments linked together. An easy comparison would be to an adolescent. Adolescents also have a tendency to confuse intensity for intimacy. They live for the moment. Practicing addicts, too, live for the moment and believe that the intense emotions they feel while acting out are intimate moments.
♦ 2-Step "Peiser's Calculating the Cost" Technique
With Jeremy, I decided to use Peiser’s Calculating the Cost technique. I handed Jeremy a small notebook to do what I call the Calculating the Costs exercise.
"What does it now cost you per day, week, month, year? What could you save in other benefits: social, financial, sexual, security?
"Wow," Jeremy said. "I’m in shock at how much I spend on this habit. I wouldn’t be worrying about bills right now if I hadn’t spent the money on cocaine for the last few weeks."
Do you have a client who, like Jeremy, believes that his addiction is the only way he can feel good? Does he find the object of his addiction more reliable than other people? Would he benefit from trying the Calculating the Costs exercise?
In this section, we talked about addiction as a process, the two common behaviors of addicts, acting out and nurturing through avoidance, as well as the three aspects to an addict’s relationship with his or her drug, which are an object’s predictability, misplaced priorities, and confusion of intensity for intimacy, and the Calculating the Costs exercise.
In the next section, we will discuss the internal struggle addicts face as well as some techniques to get their rational adult voice and feeling child voice to compromise.