Home Base

Deep Learning versus Disease?

I despise the argument of addiction being a disease or a choice. For the simple fact that I’m a nurse. If a child has a sliver in their finger, it really doesn’t matter how it happened; we just have to get it out. Even while the child is fighting us trying to get it out.

With addiction, I just don’t see the relevance to what it matters after the fact. If it’s a choice then are we really going to use that as a punishment?

Someone is writhing in pain from excruciating nausea and chills and shaking uncontrollably and we are going to tell them you made this choice? Really?

Or the unconscious patient, as we stand there holding the narcan saying, “I don’t know dude, I don’t know if this was accidental or your choice so I’ll just stand here and play God for a minute until I decide if you’re worth saving”.

Remember the tainted Tylenol episode from year’s ago? Someone put stuff in bottles of Tylenol then put them back on the shelf. Customers took them for pain or discomfort and a few died.

Well -I make the argument that Addicts are in pain and discomfort and they take something to make themselves feel better too. And some of what they take is deadly. Just because we don’t agree with what they took doesn’t make their life less valuable.

I’m all about finding better ways to get them to not want to take the “tainted” Tylenol.

So it was interesting to read this article from the National Drug and Alcohol Centre in Sydney; stating that addiction may be more the result of Deep Learning. Rather than a disease. …or basically Habits as I wrote earlier.

The article states that:

“Addiction still is ‘probably’ triggered by stress or alienation. It can duly be unlearned by forging stronger synaptic pathways via better habits”.

This gives me alot more hope for recovery for my son, than being chained to 12 step meetings the rest of their life and forever facing “triggers” that will surely cause relapse.

I feel that way because that seems to be my son’s attitude too, and a main reason why he doesn’t seek recovery. He just doesn’t believe in the current advertised recovery model. He sees the statistics and sees the relapses and he feels like the stigma perpetuates that it’s a lifelong battle and only makes addicts feel hopeless that they can’t achieve that.

Some of this attitude is definitely his hijacked brain talking, trying its damndest to extend the addiction as long as it can, to keep my son it’s slave in misery.

My son also doesn’t trust the medical prefessionals who he feels perpetuated his early addiction. ( Again, this IS his hijacked brain talking- BUT The proof has also come out that this is true. )

The article agrees:

“The implication for the $35 billion-dollar treatment industry in the US is that tackling addiction as a medical issue should be only a small element of a more holistic approach. The problem is, there’s a lot of vested interest – and financial investment – in perpetuating the disease model”.

Professor Allison Ritter expresses fatigue with the brain disease model.

“It has not produced any new technologies for treatment nor necessarily decreased stigma or improved the lot of people who experience dependence problems”.

Matthews Hope Foundation is one model that’s trying to change the landscape of recovery with remapping the brain to imbed different pathways which result in better habits. It’s called Iasis technology.

On their website they have Nicole Labors’ Neuroscience of Addiction video. She is one of my favorite advocates for explaining addiction and this video hits it all.

Regardless, the cause isn’t nearly as important as the solution. As this Mother who has lost a child stated: What does it matter? The pain of loss is heartbreaking.

As I sit here in the early morning hours finishing this article, awaiting my nurse shift to begin; I’m overwhelmed with a sadness that I even have to defend my son’s recovery. So much energy spent on some sort of moral aspect of addiction, when people are suffering and dying. It’s heartbreaking. My entire family has a big hole in it from this journey, just as we would if my son had a debilitating, progressively deadly disease such as Lou Gehrig’s. Some diseases do affect the mind eventually yet that doesn’t lessen our compassion for them.

Addiction is a complex insidious, torturing disease of the brain and all I’m asking for is some compassion that will move people toward more action- less judgement.

Home Base

Habits & Healing

While spending some time with my grand kids this weekend, the two eldest, 9 and 10; were playing in the sand on top of a mountain no less! (we live in an amazing place). As they were raking it and molding it, they kept saying “This is so satisfying!”

Our life is comprised of thousands of daily habits which we do without even thinking about them.  It’s these daily habits that determine where we end up- sometimes without us even knowing it. These ingrained daily habits keep us feeling safe and secure and somewhat connected or grounded to battle the things outside which we can’t control.

Being so ‘human’ requires us to constantly reach for a state of well-being that feels good to us in order to achieve that safety.  It is sometimes difficult to get out of the negative patterns that we developed just to feel ok.

There are many programs or rituals that keep us in sync to being in our healthiest state. Mel Robbins became famous with the 5 seconds in the morning routine seen here in my previous post.

I recently received this email from her that goes along the same concept as Tacos!

“Life Hack I’m Using 

Here’s a super cool life hack backed by science that will help you make your new habits stick — and it involves TACOS 🌮! Yes, you read that right. Forget willpower and pass the guacamole. To make a new habit stick you need a reward. 

Here’s why this works…every habit has three parts: a trigger, the pattern you repeat, and a reward. The reward is the MOST important part of changing a habit.

My reward for exercising is a breakfast taco. Once you have the reward in place, here’s the freaky part: Your brain won’t even think about what you need to do (exercise), instead tacos will just pop into your head randomly. 

Here’s how I’ve been using this hack: when the alarm rings at 5:30am (trigger “it’s time to exercise”) — tacos immediately pop into my mind. When I head to the gym to work out (new habit) — tacos.

When I am dripping in sweat and hyperventilating during squats (new habit) — my mind is all about the tacos. And when class is over, I walk down the block and get that reward — a King David Taco. BOOM 💥 the exercise habit is locked and loaded. 

Pick a reward and give it a try. Tag me on social when you do. It’s weird how well it works”.- Mel Robbins

Dr Judson Brewer has a seemingly simple solution to breaking a habit in this Ted Talk. He says it’s all about triggers and rewards:

Seeing what we get from our habits helps us understand them at a deeper level — to know it in our bones so we don’t have to force ourselves to hold back or restrain ourselves from behavior. We’re just less interested in doing it in the first place.

As we move past the daily mundane habits and onto more fulfilling things.  Think of the benefits and satisfaction of cleaning out your fridge, or going to the car wash.

The feeling that ‘s͙o͙m͙e͙t͙h͙i͙n͙g͙ i͙s͙ g͙e͙t͙t͙i͙n͙g͙ d͙o͙n͙e͙ a͙n͙d͙
y͙o͙u͙ a͙r͙e͙ a͙c͙t͙u͙a͙l͙l͙y͙ b͙e͙i͙n͙g͙ p͙r͙o͙d͙u͙c͙t͙i͙v͙e͙’ is so rewarding- temporarily. Until we need something else to fulfill us.

It’s all part of purpose, motivation and the reward system of the midbrain as shown here:

The reward pathway (deep orange) is activated when a
person receives positive reinforcement for certain behaviors (“reward”). This area is hijacked with massive amounts of dopamine when a person takes an addictive drug.

Setting new habits requires discipline and persistence. Therapist aide has a Worksheet to help achieve that. It basically follows the taco imagery from Mel:

  • Start with small changes.
  • Tie habits to other activities.
  • Celebrate your successes.

Hɛǟʟɨռɢ ǟռɖ ƈʟɛǟռsɨռɢ

If you want to go a little deeper than tacos and perhaps clear your brain body first then add tacos, here’s a great exercise from my friend Mirna Trpkova.

“The techniques for Cleansing the Energy around the Physical Mind (Body) is to this day the most Powerful Self-Perseverance Method existing. Intuitively, we all know where the Stuck (Blocked) Energy in our Body is.

A simple scan/check-in via standing or lying flat on the floor will do it.

Giving one’s Conscious Mind attention to the place in our Body which needs it most is the First and most important Move.

Not much needs be done afterwards if one wishes to proceed Passive.

What can be done, though, is borrowing from the rest of our body, and giving unconditional support to the spot which needs it most.

Doesn’t this sound {like} the Analogy of the more Blessed giving to the more Unfortunate thus balancing out the scale of the Yin and the Yang… Not that we are to easily tell which one is the Blessed and which to be the Unfortunate one(!).

Much of life’s fulfilment lies within the Struggle. Until one gets addicted to it.

Not an easy Addiction to let go of.

Perhaps the hardest one of all.

Going back to the initial thought which should help tie it all in a knot…

Registering the Blocked Energetic Points in our Physical Body (Mind) will allow us to have more Free-Flow Creativity which is vital for giving one’s purpose to be awaken each and every day.

And, to overcome addictions such as “living a Struggle” and feeling “Unworthy” in order to tune in to Life’s Genuine and Beyond Good and Evil ways of balancing that sacred scale we all stand on…”- Mirna Trpkova

Ah, the old “upper limit theory” from Gay Hendricks. I love that stuff. Thinking (unconsciously) that we belong in a certain situation because we don’t deserve anything better.

Matt Licata has an excellent video on how to cope when life didn’t quite go as planned as far as Health, relationships, and career. He explains how healing from these traumas will push you toward better things. If that video doesn’t work you may need to enter your email address here.

The important thing is that we are constantly refreshing and cleansing out all areas of our life, like shaking our rugs out at home. This process of cleaning and creating space is so important if we want to receive inspiration and ideas to move forward in our lives.