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Looking at the Roots of Addiction

By May 8, 2014No Comments

Addiction is an effect of human unhappiness and human suffering. When people are Lanterndistressed, they want to soothe their distress; when people are in pain, they want to soothe their pain. So the real question is not “why the addiction,” but “why the pain.”  Gabor Maté


This is a profound statement from Gabor Maté about addiction. In his work, Maté focuses on the link to childhood attachment and trauma as the source of addiction.  Similarly, Terra Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, CADC, utilizes the lens of codependency to explore the ways in which deficits in early childhood development shape our thinking, feelings and behavior, which often leads to codependency traits and addiction. According to Terra, “Codependency is a child in an adult body.” She goes on to say that codependency  “is the disease of immaturity; the developmental arrest that leads to immature thinking, feeling and behavior that generates aversive relationships with the self, which the codependent acts out through self destructive or unduly sacrificial behavior.”  Thusly, it’s appropriate and necessary to view codependency as a facet of trauma work, because it addresses the adverse responses one may exhibit as a result of a deficit of early attachment, abuse, neglect, and physical and emotional abandonment.  The underlying wounds and their effects on one’s worldview and personal expression of unaddressed traumas must be addressed as part of addiction treatment, and as a part of family treatment.


Alcohol and drug abuse as well as addiction are a response to a larger issue, and that’s where treatment comes in. That’s where skilled clinicians and systems of support become imperative to excavating the causative factors of addiction itself. A kid coming form a supportive, loving home where they are regularly seen and heard is less likely to use drugs and alcohol than a kid who comes from a home where they are neglected, ignored, pawned off, and unseen. If you add in the factors of poverty, then you add another layer of trauma as result of being forced to take often-detrimental measures to make ends meet and having multiple layers of unmet needs. Likewise, privilege can produce factors of emotional neglect and abuse not always recognized as problematic at the fore. For example, a kid can seem to have everything when you look from the outside, in, but inside, it may be a different landscape. Perhaps parents aren’t readily emotionally available or the child is left to their own devices while parents are busy doing other things. Neglect may have many faces but it always has the same result.


Addiction and codependency affect everyone. The way in which it presents in each individual may differ, but the essence is always the same: a “developmental arrest that leads to immature thinking, feeling and behavior” which leads to “self-destructive” behavior. Treatment and therapeutic support are a necessary factor that will foster healing and recovery. Doing it without support denies one the ability to break free from the habitual nature of repeating history and perpetuating dysfunction.  Delving into the roots of addiction allows one to reconstruct their lives to create one that is healthy and thriving. Recovery is possible.


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