Addiction: The Disease of Disconnection

For several decades, the majority subscribed to the theory that addictive substances were the cause of addictions or an incurable disease, and sobriety was only possible through means of punishment and isolation.  In recent years, views and theories have shifted to view addiction as a disease of disconnection. Humans are social and possess an innate desire to connect with others and with ourselves. Whenever something severs our connections, it creates suffering, a void within us. We may or may not be able to identify this disconnection felt and begin to seek out food, alcohol, drugs, or behaviors that provide temporary relief. 

Support from a person’s community is critical to an individual’s overall well-being during times of difficulty; without people to lean on for encouragement, help, or guidance, we become isolated in our suffering. Disconnection within ourselves has the potential to cause us to feel lost, adrift, foggy, or we may even feel a detachment from our own body. Inner-disconnectedness often leads to disconnection in relationships and increased isolation. The expertly trained and licensed team at Mindful Living Group believes that healing and recovery are possible by approaching addiction treatment in uplifting, empathetic, clinical, educational, and relationship-building methods. Addiction does not have to control you, and you are not alone in facing it. 

Disconnection, Where It Stems From, And The Relationship To Addiction

Addiction is not a moral or ethical issue. It is not a sign of weak character in the face of adversity. Are some people more susceptible to becoming dependent on substances or harmful behavior? Yes. The problem is not substances or the chemical reaction caused by risk and reward. The heart of the issue lies in isolation, avoidance, and ultimately disconnection. Addiction is defined as “the repetitive process of habitually satisfying cravings to avoid, change, or control the seemingly unbearable conditions of the present moment. This process of craving and indulgence provides short-term relief but causes long-term harm. It is almost always a source of suffering for both the person struggling and the individual’s loved ones.” 

There are an overwhelming number of causes that may bring about disconnection for a person. The ability to disconnect from our own emotions and feelings is a double-edged sword. It is a fascinating defense mechanism our brains utilize during distressing or traumatic situations, but if these emotions are left unprocessed, we risk future mental and physical health problems. 

Substances create a distorted perception of how someone views themself and causes damage to their inner connection. Individuals struggling with addiction often lose sight of who they genuinely are, their values, and their mind-body connection becomes fragmented, if not completely separated. Shame and guilt override most thought processes and prevent people from reaching out, coinciding with increased isolation. The state of connection with a person’s inner self is mirrored throughout other relationships. If an individual is disconnected from themself, relationships with friends, family, and even romantic partners will suffer.  

Disconnection can occur on inner, social, or spiritual levels, and is often brought on by psychological distress, the stress of daily life and responsibilities, expectations, imbalance, and mental health issues. Disconnection leads us to seek connection, whether we are aware of it or not, and addictions form when unhealthy bonds are made with substances or dangerous and sabotaging behaviors. Dependency is sneaky – no one consumes alcohol or drugs or begins risky behaviors with the intention of becoming addicted. Generally, a person is not aware of their addiction at first because it may create a false sense of connection and does not happen overnight. The use of particular drugs and alcohol has the ability to alter the physical structure of the brain, such as neural pathways and dopamine receptors. Over long periods of use, the body becomes dependent on the substance. The excellent news, it’s not permanent. Our brains have a fascinating ability to adapt and change, called neural plasticity. 

Disconnection and Recovery From Addiction With Mindful Living Group

One of the leading causes of inner disconnection stems from abuse, trauma, or distressing situations. Our brains block out the emotions or memories from the trauma or abuse when it is too overwhelming to process at the moment. If we do not address what happened and how we feel, it can create an array of issues later on in life. The emotions we “block out” cannot stay hidden away forever. Whether subconscious or consciously, we are aware of these emotions, behaviors likely develop as the body still remembers. We may fear intimate relationships with others or avoid genuine connection with ourself and seek a bond through anything else, including substances. Childhood trauma has been shown to cause brain areas to develop improperly and may lead to higher susceptibility for addiction. 

A prominent cause of disconnection is the result of shame and fear of vulnerability. Individuals who have experienced abuse or trauma in their life often report immense feelings of shame around the experience. Victims of trauma and abuse may blame themselves for what happened, and feelings of guilt or failure have the potential to consume them. These emotions are difficult to come forward with and openly discuss; there’s a fear of rejection, harm, or being physically or emotionally attacked. The fear of being vulnerable with these emotions causes people to bury them beneath a facade of opposite emotions, often numbing themselves to feelings of sadness, discomfort, anguish, or other hard to face emotions. 

The problem is that we cannot numb ourselves to one type of emotion without the same happening to others. Balance is required. Sadness needs happiness; anger needs joy; stress needs peace. Numbing ourselves drives our inner disconnection deeper, and isolates us from others even more. 

This shame and feelings of failure often arise during recovery when an individual slips back to their addictive substance or behavior. Admitting to relapse is not easy or comfortable and requires extreme levels of vulnerability.  Group and family therapy sessions provide a safe place to express concerns, be vulnerable, and establish and build upon genuine connectedness. 

The Benefits Of Acknowledging The Relationship Between Disconnection and Addiction

The traditional means of “punishing” people for their struggle with addiction only validates the fear of vulnerability, shame, and guilt. Punishment as a consequence was intended to create enough deterrence for a person to choose not to act on their cravings or compulsions. These consequences often include loved ones shunning the person if they continue with their addiction, imprisonment, job loss, home loss, custody over children, isolation from community, and more. The reality is this treatment method merely allowed for disconnection to remain. Wounds were not healed but instead given a bandage to hide beneath. Fortunately, many people are beginning to recognize the benefits of addressing the disconnection and how it impacts addiction recovery. 

As stated by Johann Hari,

“the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

Connection brings purpose and meaning to life. Denying someone the opportunity to heal and establish social, intimate, and spiritual relationships because of their suffering does not allow recovery. Education is essential for both the person in recovery and their loved ones. Understanding the role disconnection plays in addiction provides a starting point for healing and recovery. Working with a licensed therapist allows you to address uncomfortable emotions, memories, events and learn to build healthy relationships. 

Addiction Does Not Have To Control Your Life

Addiction is not permanent, and you do not have to face the challenges of recovery alone. At Mindful Living Group, there are multiple services offered to help you reconnect with your mind, your body, your spirit, and with those you care about. You can join in on group support sessions, individual sessions, day retreats, and more, all led by expertly trained and compassionate licensed therapists and counselors.

Contact us here today to learn more or schedule an appointment. It’s time to take back your life. Let us help you reach your full potential.