Believe it or not, and you should because it’s true. Many of the causes of addiction are rooted in our childhood upbringing. That’s not to say that genetics or environment are totally responsible for someone being addicted, although many addicts use this as an excuse and blame other people and circumstances for their own addiction, when in truth that is just an excuse to continue to indulge their addiction. There is no doubt that genetic and environmental factors can play a part in someone being predisposed to addiction, but that is not and cannot be used as an excuse for the person not to choose recovery. If someone had a heart attack we would not blame them for getting sick. But if after successful heart surgery or other treatment, their Doctor had prescribed a healthy diet and exercise routine that would keep them healthy the rest of their lives, and they purposely chose to ignore it, instead going back to bad eating and poor exercise, then we would definitely blame them for not choosing to be healthy. Because the path to health was there, they are just choosing to ignore it. It’s the same with addiction. We do not blame people for becoming addicts, and we understand many times circumstances and issues from their childhood played in role in their susceptibility to addiction However we do blame them (and should blame them) for not taking the necessary action to resolve these issues once they know that there is a problem and there is help available.
As a child we all had defense mechanisms built in us that helped us cope with life as children. These defense mechanisms (our thinking and the way our brain processed stuff) were very helpful and appropriate to us as children, for at that time they helped us cope individually with the circumstances, reality, and experience of childhood. When you were a little baby your mother pushed you around in a stroller because you couldn’t walk by yourself. Also when you were a young child you had diapers on, because you had not yet been toilet trained. Now of course it would be absurd to see you walking down the street today as an adult being pushed in a stroller, or wearing diapers. Why? Because you have outgrown these things. Obviously they are no longer necessary. There was a time and place in your life when they were very necessary and they served a very important purpose. But you’ve outgrown them and they are no longer necessary.
Unfortunately in the lives of some addicts many of the psychological defense mechanisms that they had employed in their mind to help them deal and cope with the realities of life when they were young children have not been placed aside or discarded as they should have been. As well they have not been replaced with healthy, adult thinking. Instead of thanking these defense mechanisms and thoughts for helping us when we needed them as a child and then discarding them as is appropriate for an adult, many addicted people still cling onto them and that is reflected in their addictive behavior. That’s why we often see addict’s behavior as childish, selfish, and often think they are acting like a baby…because they are!
One of the great things that an addict will learn in the rehabilitation process (either in a rehab/treatment center or through therapy or possibly in a 12 step program but not as likely) is their own individual reasons for clinging on to these childhood defense mechanisms. They will be able to identify them, which was a critical step for me (I was shocked and surprised when I saw my own childhood defense mechanisms that I was holding onto as an adult) and now having understanding of these things, they will be able to make a choice to put these things aside and move forward and not continue to indulge in their addiction. The key to it is for the addicted person to see the truth and then they can decide what to do with it. Usually most people upon seeing the truth will choose to put aside the past and move forward to a productive, happy, and joyful life. I believe this is a critical piece to an addict’s recovery, and makes for the most successful path to addiction recovery because it is truly a path to freedom.
While there are some people who can overcome their addictive behavior and stop indulging in their addictive behavior without this knowledge and information about how the mind works (what they think and why, in other words understanding the basic traits of all addicts and why addicts think and behave as they do), I don’t believe that type of recovery, one of abstinence without finding true peace and happiness, is the best type of recovery. I believe the type of recovery that shows us the truth and allows us to choose freedom and gives us freedom is definitely the way to go. That comes from learning about yourself with the help of others who can show you the way. I pray that is the choice your addicted loved one will make. It was a life- saving and life changing choice for me.