I read somewhere that we get a dopamine burst even in times of worry and pain. I thought, “How can this be? I thought dopamine was just for pleasure?”
I found this Article in psychology today which helps explains it:
“….in the moment, anger feels good; it feels like the thing to do. It overrides all other moral and rational brakes in the brain because it originates from our primordial, original limbic system: the brain center of our most automatic emotions like fear and desire.”
And as far as the dopamine release:
“What happens is that anger can lead to similar “rushes” as thrill-seeking activities where danger triggers dopamine reward receptors in the brain, or like other forms of addiction such as gambling, extreme sports, or even drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines. Anger can become it’s own reward, but like other addictions, the final consequences are dangerous and real…….”
In life’s tragedies, sorrow, unbearable grief, and pain, it’s easy to let to resentment and bitterness live in our hearts and breed discontentment. We let our space be filled with rumination of what has been done TO us–especially if that’s where we feel the most comfortable.
Even if we have good reason to be angry there comes a time when it’s causing more distress to hang on to it than let it go. Living with anger and ruminating on what others have done to us, drives wedges between those we love. Even those of whom the anger is not directed, will feel our discontent because we can never be truly free to be our authentic selves if we hold on tightly to anger.
It’s very difficult to break out of these patterns of thinking. Certain triggers activate our emotions and automatically seem to make us react or lash out in anger and spite. Surprisingly, we may be so used to reacting that it doesn’t even feel like we are lashing out. Some personality types will even be offended if you suggest they are lashing out or even overreacting. Whatever anyone else thinks, WE know when we are miserable and when our moods seem to be dependent on others’ actions. At some point, hopefully, we can have the desire to make a change and create emotional boundaries.
How to disengage from conflict: Learning healthy boundaries about not trying to manipulate situations, mindfulness, meditation, counseling. Also joining positive support groups, not those with toxic angry vibes which perpetuate our victimhood.
Many people believe that God alone has the power to turn weakness into windows through which his glory can shine through.
Whatever method you use to work through your emotions, as long as you feel yourself becoming less reactive, and more authentic; then we can celebrate progress.
After all, when we are feeling content and emotionally stable, we can lean into helping others do the same, thereby contributing to the healing of the world.
Here’s some other Interesting facts that help us to understand why they don’t want to quit.
I didn’t write this but I actually have my son on audio saying this exact same premise.
It’s one of many audio recordings I have of him, that I put in my upcoming book 1000 Last Goodbyes.
“If you can think of the happiest days of your life, i.e. wedding day, birth of your firstborn, landing your dream job, etc. your dopamine level rises to about 200 units. Methamphetamine’s powerful effects come from its impact on the brain’s reward, or pleasure, center. Meth does not directly release dopamine. It attaches itself to dopamine receptor sites and fools neurons into releasing large quantities of dopamine. This accounts for the intense rush a user experiences from meth.
“In addition, meth prevents dopamine from being recycled. Instead, dopamine is active in the body for much longer, explaining the extra long duration of the meth high. The drug does this by blocking (inhibiting) the dopamine transporter involved in its reabsorption (reuptake) into the original neuron that sent it. Transporters are places on neurons that reabsorb the dopamine after it has completed its job. As a result, more dopamine becomes available to the brain. This extra dopamine, in turn, activates an even greater number of dopamine receptors. This increased release of dopamine is primarily responsible for the intensity and duration of meth-amphetamine’s effects.
“In lab animal experiments conducted by UCLA’s Integrated Substance Abuse Program, sex caused dopamine levels to increase to 200 units and cocaine caused levels to rise to 350 units. With meth-amphetamine, dopamine levels jumped to about 1,250 units. Overall, this study showed that meth causes about 12 times as much feelings of pleasure as sex, food, and other activities, including the use of other illegal stimulant drugs. All illegal drugs of abuse release dopamine, but that methamphetamine “produces the mother of all dopamine releases.” So, when an addict stops using nothing seems right, life seems dull and gray. Meth is a beast but I do know addicts who fought hard and got free of it”.
Until they are ready to get help, we also have to be open to new thoughts of saving their life, such a harm reduction.Believe me, I never thought I would be saying those words until the last 6 months when I was met with the immensely stubborn, deeply hijacked version of my brilliant, driven entrepreneur son.
Harm reduction is an entire blog in itself so I’ll save that for later but the important thing is it BUYS TIME until they can decide to seek recovery. My bottom line that helped me see harm reduction as a necessity is when I witnessed my son in full withdrawals thrashing around in the back seat of my car. He was begging me to take him to get drugs just to stop him from this torture. I said ( yelled) to him “Good hell xxxx, is this not enough to get you to stop? How can you be this sick & not want to ever experience it again?”. He told me, “Mom, this is nothing- try lying in a drug house so sick you can’t move or walk and begging people there to help you- either with drugs or take you to the hospital while they laugh saying -no way dude, we’re not getting arrested”……
I realized in that moment that if he had a needle covered in swamp water or ‘anything’ it would NOT HAVE STOPPED him from plunging it into his arm for relief.
An addict is NOT going to suddenly stop using because they don’t have clean needles. Clean needles WILL however prevent further pain & suffering by avoiding the added disease of hepatitis and Aids.
We have to keep pointing them to recovery! A whole new life is right there waiting for them”.
I have a large collection of recovery quotes (over 200) on my Facebook profile under photos- We Do Recover album . I love to share.
I know I usually write about addiction in the form of opiods, but I actually have some intense interest in the fallacy (?- is that the right word?) of alcohol dependance.
Since it’s so widely shown, glamorized and basically accepted, on the movie and media scene; and since it’s even politically correct (does that even mean the same thing anymore?) to laugh at an alcohol meme; it sometimes gets overlooked as the horrible, slow killing addiction, it is, or can be.
“We live in an opioid epidemic. The articles about it come out every week. People are addicted and dying and it’s horrible. According to the CDC, there were about 47,000 deaths related to opioid use in 2017.
So, it might surprise you that according to the same CDC data, there were about 88,000 deaths related to alcohol use”.
If someone you know insists that they have it under control, there’s a great questionnaire on The government’s website SAMSHA This is the very same website that the social media influencers will give you when they say they “have access to rehabs all over the country” including the ones they ‘broker’ for, if you have good insurance.
But all that aside, if you need help please CLICK or CALL. I’ve called it and they’re very informative. There’s also tons of articles on this site for moms of teens and everyone. This site is our tax dollars at work, so use it.
Meanwhile, if you have managed to quit, or moderate your usage, or even thinking about it; I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind of what would you do instead of drinkng?
It’s sounds like an easy enough question, but those who spend hours and hours with their ḂḕṠṮ ḞṙḭḕṆḊ will understand this fear.
No worries, Benya Clark (from Medium again) has the answer. He listed cooking, drawing, and running as his top three.
Now to those who are used to massive amounts of dopamine that substances provide; these are going to sound boring. And they probably will be at first. Until the natural Dopamine sources get built back up, you’re going to have force yourself, with some good accountability partners maybe, to start small and build up the habit— Ya know-
ᴊᴜꜱᴛ ʟɪᴋᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴅɪᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀʟᴄᴏʜᴏʟ ᴏʀ ᴅʀᴜɢꜱ
Boredom, ingrained habits in the brain, and the lifestyle of connection that all and drugs bring; along with this lack of Dopamine; is the reason for allot of relapses. People feel alone, lost, and bored, without their old coping mechanisms.
The good news is, new friends, new coping skills, new job opportunities can and WILL happen when you don’t have the consequences that addiction brings. You will mostly have your FREEDOM back. You won’t be enslaved to the time and MONEY.
THIS Article quotes the average American spends $22,600 over 40 years drinking 1 – yes 1- cocktail a week. ($11). There’s a Spending calculator you can use HERE. I guess it’s variable what constitutes “too much” spending on alcohol. I certainly would not use that to predict if someone is addicted.
It’s surprising how much addiction actually cost – just for the point of sale. Not even touching on the money from jobs lost, fines, insurance, and the many other fees that go along with alcohol & drug use.
Drugs are a completly different story when it comes to money.I would say you can quadruple those numbers, easy, if a movie star or wealthy person.
It’s all very sad.
Not sad for the business end, but sad for families and children.
It’s not a fact that escapes people with a substance use disorder (SUD- not addict). It’s one thing that contributes to their shame and blame of their condition. So much so, that I think it keeps alot of them IN that very cycle, because they think they can never pull out successfully or make up all that money or fix all that they’ve broken.
Our healthy brains KNOW it can be done, but remember, their brains are technically damaged or at least temporarily hijacked in the areas of emotion, self control & that darn jacked up reward center.
My favorite person with a SUD-turned Doctor, says it best in this video. If that link doesn’t work- here’s next best one. Nicole Labor. Also buy her book and stuff… She humanizes addiction because she’s been there. Even while in Med school!
Regardless of where you or someone you love is at in their consumption journey, there is no reason to not at least have the conversation about how they’re doing and where they feel they want to be in 5 years.
Study after study, and -headline after obituary- show that all addictions are progressive, leading to jail, death or recovery. So early intervention is paramount. It is a treatment condition. Despite the statistics shown, you can be part of the 21 million Americans who are in some form of recovery rather than the 88k who die every year due to alcohol related deaths.
The people who seem to be on their ‘high horse’ looking down on others or because of their choices or conditions in life. Or maybe it’s actually us,who find ourselves saying about others, ” If only- THEY wouldn’t have done THAT– I wouldn’t have to do this, then my life would be exponentially better”.
Possibly, that’s a true statement. But what if our own attitudes and actions have a greater impact than we think regarding OTHERS’ choices? I am specifically talking about our own stress response to situations- especially at the beginning -of the addict’s journey.
Admitting our own frailties is difficult especially when someones else’s are blatantly front and center, blasting us in the face.
Today I was thinking about this ᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇғғᴇᴄᴛ. There are many scientific articles rebuking cause and effect mostly in the subject of matter & objects- not humans. Well except for this human example.
I decided to go down the rabbit hole and explore ᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇғғᴇᴄᴛ in addiction-
(Surprise Surprise! Says Gomer) since this IS an addiction blog..
I see so many frustrated and bitter posts on mom’s addict support groups about how awful the person with a substance abuse disorder is. They are mean, crass, irresponsible and everything else that you would expect from someone whose frontal lobe is in dysfunction mode in order the let the midbrain do it’s hijacked thing: fight or flight; sick or not sick etc.
We Must, at some point realize that our one finger pointing out, still has 3 pointing back at us.
For example, looking at a homeless person brings out all of our, ” I’m so glad that’s not me or one of my kids-I mean we all work and do responsible stuff right?”
Or the allure of trauma news stories or murder shows makes us think of how fortunate we are that we don’t have those people in our family. I’m not a therapist but it may even be trying to justify, downplay our own problems or even deflect from them.
I know that quote seems harsh.
We all have our faults, some of which we are distinctly aware of. Things such as being disorganized or always being late. Usually, we are oblivious to how much those faults affect others. Luckily we manage to get by without too much devastation and learn to function around our “faults”.
With addiction, the person suffering may initially suffer in silence. They may not even know yet that they are falling into the whirlwind of needing the drugs to avoid being sick. As their dependency escalates they become even more unaware of how their actions are starting to affect others because they are so hyperfocused on their goal..
With the devastation that addiction causes in the short term and eventually long term; the ripple effect to everyone involved, is devastating. By then it’s sometimes difficult to look back and think what we may have done to “cause”( I say this with extreme caution- hear me out) the ‘addict’ to turn to that particular damaging coping skill.
Before you tell me all the things your loved one has done while in addiction, I will save you from having to relive it.
We have all been there, we who have had our lives interrupted and turned upside down. We all know that we didn’t ask for it. Even- those momma’s & dad’s with a history of addiction.
Their recovery is valid and by no means deserving or even destined to have a child with a substance use disorder.
Let me ademently state that personal responsibility is always number one.
Personal responsibility or Individual Responsibility is the idea that human beings choose, instigate, or otherwise cause their own actions. A corollary idea is that because we cause our actions, we can be held morally accountable or legally liable.
If we go back to basic cause and effect diagrams, every cause has an effect of course.
What I want to focus on though is TᕼE ᑕᗩᑌSE.
We all know the effects, but Why does the cause happen?
If you look at this Article with a study from 2014 from Samhsa it shows how closely related mental health is to addiction. Dependent on what age someone is faced with certain traumas, their resources for coping skills may determine increased drug use.
As I read through this Article explaining Dopamine, I can’t help but imagine that when faced with these life stressors; certain people – especially those with a genetic deposition to addiction- NO MATTER WHAT AGE, will choose to feel good over feeling the angst of stress.
Of course, it seems like a no-brainer. We ALL would choose feeling good over feeling yucky. As I’ve made this journey into my son’s addiction the last year, my days are spent on a roller coaster of emotions. I can be fine one minute and the next start thinking about my firstborn son who’s deeply lost and isolated from our family. I will burst into tears while driving down the freeway. At such devastating times, I have to evaluate what it is that I need- right now- to feel better.
So many times the thought comes: “If I was a drinker- it would NEED a drink right now”. So why is it different from a drug? I know, because alcohol is legal. I get that. I’m just saying that once someone is addicted to the dopamine response of ANY DRUG, they are going to run to that when any sign of stress comes their way.
Life and relationships are hard enough to maneuver, but people with poor coping skills and/or people prone to addiction use those skills to feel better.
So, ANY KIND of stress, including difficult bosses, insecure or spouses with their own deeply rooted issues, troubled children, the addict resorts to escaping to their (new?) coping skill. First silently, because it seems harmless and a welcome relief to the stress of the day. Like a glass of wine to a non-. Alcoholic.
Ultimately, as we all know, this eventually creates mounds more problems than they originally ever had and as a result, they become the fall guy for all things gone wrong after that point.
After their secret is made known and the house of cards starts to fall, anything and everything (EFFECT) that happens as a result of the addiction is now deemed the addicts fault
They even start believing what the drugs tell them and, by now, what everyone else is telling them and showing them. The stigma of being worthless and useless imbeciles of society is further “proved” by involvement in crime and/or the justice system.
The addicts’ behaviors are now so wrong that any previous behaviors of others is forgotten. Everyone -including the addict -becomes stuck in this spin-cycle of destruction which is very difficult to hop off of.
The addict is bound to his own shame and blame game. Yes, it was HIS initial CHOICE to start due to his coping mechanisms, so the cause and effect seem pretty clear cut.
I’m not in any way trying to take the blame off of the addicts’ initial choices. I also am NOT advocating any more guilt on the addicted loved ones’ families. God No! We have enough. I’m simply saying that there probably were a lot of problems before the addiction because there just IS, in life. But NOW because of the EFFECTS of The Addict, every other personality problem or characteristic of anyone involved in the addict’s journey suddenly disappeared.
So, because HIS choice was made along with every one of our choices and CAUSES we made. Ours just may not have bankrupt us, or make us chained to our disease like them.
And yes, we do still suffer immensely because of their choices (& effects of those).
I believe that true compassion is remembering the person as a human being who got caught up in the devastating whirlwind of addiction. Like driving through a windstorm, thinking you’ll get through it with a couple of scratches but a hurricane is waiting within to give you the ride of your life.
I believe that it’s us, with healthy brains, who can show the addict how to handle the stress of a Windstorm again.
Of course, they have to be somewhat willing, but we can still model UN-toxic behavior & healthy empathy.
Being treated like they are humans who made some mistakes will give them hope that they CAN SUCCEED at recovery and that they are NOT a lost cause.
I believe that WE can be their HOPE in a world that only shows them more turmoil and darkness.
This quote is so interesting to me, because we (society in general) “seem to” look down on addicts or homeless people in some fashion. I’m not saying there’s ingrained ‘bias’ at all. I’m just going on what I’ve felt myself & seen in my culture and community before addiction hit my family head on .
I realize that not all homeless people are addicts, and of course not all addicts are homeless; but we still have these fleeting first impression thoughts of self-righteousness and judgement when you see that guy -or gal- on the street.
“Why didn’t they just quit –when they first realized they had a problem-or how sad-it’s too bad they didn’t get some help”. Or the biggest one “Why doesn’t he just get a job in this thriving economy?”
There isn’t one complete answer to all those questions, but that doesn’t stop us from seeing them as having some sort of weaker character.
As we drive past them quickly, we are thankful to not be under pressure to look at them because that would mean to face the stark reality of the "failings" of our society.
This comes with the relief of the burden of NOT having to decide to give them something. Because we all know what they’ll spend it on right? Or because the news stories have proven some are scammers.
So we gladly drive by, with a quick exhale as we pull out our phone to see what we might have missed in our lives or in the social media world, in those few moments of awkwardness.
Back to what will make us laugh or who liked our last post. Back to what to make for dinner.
Or we reach for the chocolate covered pretzels full of delicious fructose that melts on our tongue signaling those endorphins to release the dopamines so that the serotonin in our brains will make us happy.
Hmmm. Same process, different ‘drug’.
I mean it’s normal, we are human. We NEED these endorphins to even get out of bed in the morning.
Everyone needs to self regulate their emotions and find their happy place.
The problem is when we fail to see that what we are doing is the same thing ‘they’ did, no matter their reason for starting. (Drugs or alcohol)
Whether it was surgery or one drink on the weekend to relax, some of us don’t have, or lose that ability to self regulate the amount and be able to stop.
Is that a character defect?
Who knows? Gabor Mate might. Many other experts might. But bottom line, we are all human. We all need comfort, to feel warm & loved & that we belong.
The fact that 21 million Americans have an addiction, with only 10% being treated; tells me that we still have a huge way to go in reducing shame and sigma of addiction.
One way to do this is reduce the judgement that they are somehow any different than us, in the way of willpower or strength.
We have zero idea of what choices they had to choose between, whether escaping from abuse one day or a traumatic event or just normal life’s stress that we all have. Maybe next time you see someone who’s obviously struggling or “looks like they’ve had a rough life” maybe we could offer a McDonald’s gift card, or hand them a heart shaped chocolate candy, or if they seem safe, ask them if they need you to go buy them anything just for today to help them get by. 💞🙋♂️💞
How good would that feel to boost our endorphins for even more than a brief moment, probably for the rest of the day? Just by helping others.
How good would it feel to feel compassion for another struggling soul. How good to feel like we somehow made a difference in someone’s life. I can’t think of a greater endorphin boost.