From Susan at LSRsafe —
Sent: Thursday, March 1, 2012 8:38:57 AM
Subject: [LSRsafe] Re: 1 year anniversary not a good one
Another way to look at it is that addiction is a “habit loop.” This is from a NY Times article on marketing:
“The process within our brain that creates habits is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out whether this particular loop is worth remembering for the future. Over time, this loop–cue, routine, reward; cue, routine, reward–becomes more and more automatic. The cue and reward become neurologically intertwined until a sense of craving emerges….Neurological studies…have revealed that some cues span just milliseconds….
“Habits aren’t destiny–they can be ignored, changed or replaced. But it’s also true that once the loop is established and the habit emerges, your brain stops fully participating in decision-making. So unless you deliberately fight a habit–unless you find new cues and rewards–the old pattern will unfold automatically. (From, “Psst, You in Aisle 5,” by Charles Duhigg, NY Times Magazine, 2/19/12.)”
This helped me understand that whole business of getting up in the morning swearing you’ll never drink again and “finding yourself” buying a bottle after work, and I think that same loop can get activated at times even after years of abstinence. It’s why finding “new cues and rewards,” making a new habit loop, is so critical. Over time, the old one fades, but it never entirely disappears, so you have to keep the new one strong and healthy. For me, it explained why long-term involvement in some sort of recovery group seems to make a difference.
— In LSRsafe@yahoogroups.com, Craig wrote:
> Greg wrote: “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t I have learned my lesson by now?”
One of the hardest things to accept about addiction is its seeming lack of logic, or rather the hidden nature of its logic. We’re used to the “hot stove” type of logic, where you learn from touching a hot stove not to do that again. So it’s hard to understand how we can be drawn to repeat behavior that leads to misery and the risk of death.
The difference, I think, is that there is no reward for touching a hot stove, but there IS a reward for using drugs, including alcohol. It’s short-term, and totally not worth the price, but it is centered in part of our brains that doesn’t care about price. It’s the same part that causes people to get fat — they don’t want to be fat, and they know perfectly well the connection between what they eat and their weight, but they (we) eat too much anyway. And even if we don’t eat too much, we choose foods more for pleasure than for nourishment, damaging our health with every Twinkie.
I think there’s a primitive part of our brains where the desire for pleasure overrides rationality. Cravings aren’t unique to drugs. And by “pleasure,” I include easing pain. In an evolutionary sense, it was important for humans to have a very strong drive to eat when hungry, to mate at every opportunity, to feel pleasure in order to fend off despair. Evolution didn’t prepare us for the refinements of civilization, including substances that are refined to the point that they provide a strong blast of pleasure instead of the milder versions available “naturally.”
The pleasure blast is immediate and the consequences are “in the future” and handled by a different part or our brains. The contest between the two parts is where “recovery” enters the picture: we need to strengthen the thinking (sober) part of our brains and weaken the craving (addictive) parts. We can’t make the craving disappear, but we can shrink it, tie it in chains and lock it away. The cell door has to be guarded, though, or an escape is possible.
The above is my own thinking and is not to be taken too literally.