The Root Cause of Addiction

[Written around 2004.]

The root of addiction is unresolved emotional trauma. When traumas, be they extreme or mild, are not resolved they leave behind a slew of painful, unprocessed feelings in the unconscious. These feelings are never content to remain silent and instead clamor for release. When they express themselves openly and without disguise this activates the healing process. The healing process, however, is so painful and potentially discombobulating that very few people, unless they have a great deal of mature external support and internal self-understanding, can dare undertake it.

But a person’s inability to heal does not stop his unresolved feelings from needing to express themselves. Lacking healing as an option, these feelings instead express themselves as symptoms, of which addiction is just one subset. The purpose of addiction is to divert and assuage painful, upwelling feelings into a seemingly comfortable alternative without allowing them to become conscious. In the short-run this feels much more placid than healing, but in the long-run it only prolongs underground psychic misery and adds new consequences to an already troubled life.

The scope of addictions vary in their intensity, side effects, and degree of societal acceptance. Some are clearly weighted toward the conventionally negative end of the spectrum, like heroin addiction or gasoline-sniffing. Others, like workaholism or membership in a cult or cult-like group, are not so definitively negative in society’s eyes, and can receive societal approval and even perks. And some addictions, like having children and being in unenlightened relationships, are so pervasive, accepted, and even lauded that they are rarely even considered addictions at all – and thus form the backbone of society as we know it.

At present our society, and most of our society’s healers, treat conventionally-accepted addiction by simply helping “sufferers” find milder substitute addictions or other milder symptoms. Alcoholics Anonymous is a great example of this: its members are encouraged and even pressured to learn dissociative techniques whereby they can replace their alcohol addiction for the addiction of membership in the cult of AA. Although this might make life more consciously peaceful for the addict – who has to admit that he remains an addict in order to maintain his membership in AA, which suggests that at least AA is honest in that realm – it falls far short of helping the human race optimally evolve, or helping the individual find any deeper or more honest peace. There is no substitute for the resolution of trauma, and symptom or addiction replacement is nothing but a substitute. Emotional wounds that are not grieved poison the psyche, poison the species, and ultimately poison our world.

17 thoughts on “The Root Cause of Addiction

  1. I find these comments to be very insightful, or, more accurately, so in agreement with my own beliefs held for many years. Most of my family and friends think I’m so far removed from reality by suggesting childhood trauma is the primary root cause of ANY addiction that impacts the quality of life. I believe they think this because the phrase “childhood trauma” suggest they failed as parents. Well, duh, they did fail. Even though parents can have love in their hearts for their children, have the very best intentions. For example, I have , more than once, been told by some family members that “you better start beating that kids ass before she becomes a real problem.” I think my point is that all children will experience some degree of trauma from time to time. The parent who addresses it in the most healthy way is least likely to be a parent of an addicted child. How do you know if you handled it in a healthy way? The child will tell you every single time. Of course you usually have to understand non-verbal to get it. They either get happy again, or, they will do something that will definitely piss you off. Acting out, it’s called. How does this relate to addiction? Acting out with an addictive substance, before the brain is mature, and, with a frontal lobe that’s “empty”, or, has mostly unhelpful information is a big head start to addiction. Start addictive substance before age 19 or so (commonly starting before age 14) you would be in a group least likely to stop. Starting between age 19 and 23, or so, would be in a group most likely to quit. After age 23 you would be in a group most likely to not even start.
    Regardless of the source of childhood trauma, repairing that trauma is the key to prevention and the same key to a cure.

  2. This definition of addiction was just sent to me by a friend who was watching the Dr. Phil Show. He’s just got to provide an answer for everything.
    “Addictions are simply fast falls down the “down gradient”. Everything in the universe is running down or being pushed up by that which is running down. The universe is like a shaken bottle of water. The water represents energy; the air, probability; the bottle itself, the limitation of impossibilities; and, the bubbles represent information. Matter is called “alpha code information”. All information is trying to undifferentiate back into nonexistence. It’s all laws of the universe; and, pursuit of the down gradient is the true will.”
    Also, he sent me the analogue of that which shakes the bottle that there wasn’t room for in his answer space. It has been printed in here several times, but, now is the time to repeat it. “The infinitesimal point nothingness, . , is rastered by time into timespace, U , which exerts its oneness in one direction, / , stirs closed circuitry, O , that all going the same way, vO^XvO^, clashes, a Big Bang, X , forcing confluency, = , of the differentiated back into nonexistence.”
    Critics have criticized that the exertion of the oneness is equal on both sides. The answer to that is that as this manifestation happens the value of pi is going from zero to higher values, thereby leaving one side of each circuit more pressured than the other, thus, the circuit circulates. Also, the friction of the circuitry is from the Planck’s volumes that compose everything. Nothing can be smaller than Planck’s volume. Without this friction there would be no consciousness.
    Differentiation causes consciousness. That which is differentiated enough is fully conscious; and, that from which things are differentiated is thereby differentiated, and thus energy is eternally conscious. This process of creation occurs in the infinite dimensions of the universe every Planck’s time, causing energy to be eternally conscious. If we were energy we would never sleep. We are only information, and thus we are capable of losing consciousness, and even becoming nonexistent. These facts are consequences of the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

  3. I will only comment on what I know to be true and not pretend to be an expert on a subject matter in which I lack experience or education… that being said, I would invite you to do the same. I read a brief background about you on your home page so I respect that you have worked as a psychotherapist. However, I will assume that you are not an addict/alcoholic and in turn, are not personally involved in the AA fellowship. The statement you made about AA being a cult is ignorant and to some extent even destructive, because it seems to me that a significant role of this site and perhaps some of your other work, has been to help and educate people – particularly those suffering – and by inaccurately stereotyping AA as a cult, you could potentially be steering a hopeless suffering addict away from a real shot at a happy healthy NORMAL life. A quote from the program: “the only requirement for membership is thr desire to stay sober” …And that’s the truth. No one is told to leave, does not matter what they believe in or don’t believe, if they are mentally or physically handicapped, or literally smell like piss and beer and just walked in for a hot cup of coffee. There are no “donation” baskets or any required fees, however to pay for the bare minimum of rent, a suggested dollar or two IF YOU HAVE can be given during a meeting. So far, by society’s definition of a cult, a standard church is far more “cult-like” than this…membership fees are almost always a definite, or you’re expected to donate in large sums. There’s also a reason it’s called “your Sunday best” – better look and act your best at church, despite the pain inside, and most importantly, you essentially must share the religious beliefs being preached if you are to belong to a religious congregation such as a church (by the way, AA has no leaders or preachers, only sober alcoholics and addicts asked to share their story to provide hope for the guy in the corner of the room whose next stop would be to blow his brains out because he just can’t seem to stop drinking or snorting or shooting although he’s lost it all and thr eorld shuns him – yet these people not only understand him, they welcome him with open arms and understanding and GENUINELY want to help because the same was done for them) Now, I am not putting down religion, although it does not appeal to me personally, but to each their own. However, AA is like a super charged support group, meant to heal the alcoholic or addict, so thst they may HAVE a life – NOT to make AA their new addiction or cult or whatever you implied. There are no “dissociative” techniques used, no repression of memories or personality traits. It’s about looking at thst trauma, if that may be the case, and dealing with it in a way that allows a person to move on in life no longer being a victim or punishing themselves or escaping through drink or drug. And no matter how many times a person may relapse, he or she never has the door shut in their face. And although AA or NA or any of those that followed the formula (and there are many that have, for a good reason: because it works) may not be for everyone, it certainly has saved millions from a life of prisons and institutions, spared their loved ones from the agonizing pain of loving an active addict, or simply saved them from a miserable life cut short by a violent, shameful death.

    So besides providing some truth from my own experience – and I guess I can’t prove it to you, but I am NOT a cult member lol – I just hope you may pass on a possible solution, if you happen to interact with someone needing, desperately, hopelessly, seeking help, instead of demeaning and misrepresenting a fellowship that continues to grow and offer hope to a secretly suffering population all over the world.

    • hi nina
      you make some points that i agree with — and i think you stated your points well. and i do see that AA helps some folks, for sure. but also, i’ve spent quite a bit of time around the rooms (though for me much more in al-anon), just so you know — so i’m not just spouting off. i also think 12-step programs are a step in a healthier direction for a lot of people…..yet i still stand by what i’ve written about their limits…. (and i also know a lot of people who have had their emotional progress impeded by them.) that said, i’m glad you posted. daniel

      • I have been involved with AA for over ten years, in one way or another, I too believe it is a cult, always have!! It works for some but not for most. It is a pseudo religion at best and a cult at its worst. It was developed by a wet brain dry drunk lunatic!! In fact he stole the hole damn thing from the Oxford Group’s. It is not Christian in any shape or form though. The way to freedom from addiction is through Christ not AA, but don’t say that a an AA meeting because most will lose their collective mind!!

  4. Addiction is caused by a “recipe” of dysfunctional factors in one’s life and allopathic recovery systems – just like allopathic medicine – do not want any solution to permanently “cure” any addiction because it would take away control of the individual’s life by any addiction. Addiction takes a person completely away from a productive lifestyle and keeps them in oppression. Addiction has to be “attacked” on all 3 sides: mind, body, and spirit by feeling good without the substance or activity originally used to get “high” or “low”. Relapses will be less severe over time, but can occur.

      • this answer is as telling as any, I would say that it demonstrates the cause of unresolved trauma, we as a whole, in the human race havent dug deeply to see the cause of lifes tensions, pains, and disatisfaction,
        strange as we shine so brilliantly where we apply our effort, so its a wonder we havent focused on the two topics most important to each of us, removing suffering, and tge nature of lasting happiness… Here’s what may or may not seem a strange thought, can a non existant person have trama? ….. I ask because i believe it points to the root of our trauma, what if its all rooted in what we identify ourslves with? if ligtning tears into a beautiful new home, were not traumatized, but if the home is “ours” thats a differnt story, yet in reality, its a buildong destoyed by a weather phenomenon in both cases, the only thing thats changed is our inner relationship to the building, and thus the meaning we place on the event, what is other wise an event arising due to the conditions for its existance coming together, is now seen as “the destruction of “MY HOME” or worse (punishment from God, bad Karma, the result of my stupidity for buying a house in this location, etc) and the trauma we experience I sugest comes not from the event, but from our story….which has as its central theme our self. In western nations there seems to be a lot of enphasis on self esteem, do we have high self esteem, or low self esteem? as if there were no third option, what would happen if the notion of a “self” that life was “happineing too” were dropped altogether, and repalced with the simple vision of life happinging, with, and through the body/mind/emotions we previously claimed to be, “me, myself, and mine” what if there were a way to realise ourselves as life itself? what then would happen to the stories that traumatise us? wihout an idividual too traumatise, what happens to trauma?

    • Everyone has trauma, every family has varying degrees of dysfunction. The only lasting help we and others we know have found is turning our lives over to the God who made us and Jesus the one who saves us from our selves. We and others who have done this have been healed. It is just like the prayer says ‘Thy will be done”… The will of God is for me to belong completely to Him, and that can only be done by giving over my will to Thy will. God is good, all the time 🙂

  5. I could not imagine a more succinctly insightful description of this subject. A fantastic resource! Thank you for writing & sharing such a well-thought out response to the question, “What are the emotional roots of addiction?”

    I look forward to reading more of your pieces here at the wild truth!

    On on,

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