Mindful moments on addiction

POSTED: 03/16/15 1:10 PM

When one acquires a certain amount of concentration from practicing mindfulness, one notices that how often the mind springs from thought to thought. It is estimated that a person may have up to 60.000 thoughts a day. The mindful mind watches the thoughts and recognizes that one is not one’s thoughts. One’s craving (thought) is not one’s master; It is just a thought.

Oh yes, I’m going there. This subject is taboo on an island that sells pleasure to entice tourist to its shores (every country has its strengths). We are in the business of catering to the reward system of the brain; the dopamine circuit! To know that this is a chemical reaction does not take away from the experience of getting the high from our addictions. Let’s look at what the most common addictions are: Alcohol is the #1 addiction all over the world. It is widely used to move from one feeling or mood to another, so it is a mood destabilizer. Alcohol is abused mostly by individuals that have bad coping skills or suffer from anxiety. About 10% of the population is addicted to alcohol. It is important to know that wiring in the addict’s brain, whatever the addiction, is different than the persons who do not have an addiction. Please empathize that our brains are not all alike, there are many that are more vulnerable and susceptible to fall into the trap of succumbing to addiction. Genetics is a strong factor in whether someone will be inclined to abuse alcohol; there is a strong correlation between mental illness/neurological disorders (think ADHD) and alcohol abuse.

If the environment caters and encourages underage use; before the brain is properly developed (ages 21 – 25), the chances are bigger for indulging in addictions. The younger a child is with his first experience with alcohol, say 13, the more likely he will think it normal to drink for any occasion and to have problems weaning off later. As someone with an addictive personality, I can tell you that it is quite easy to set aside one addiction only to find yourself engaged in another frenzied high, reaching for a fix of “el dopa” in another reward-seeking activity.  Imagine you stop smoking and start running, but this too turns into a compulsive business of neglecting other areas of your life. Drug addiction may seem like a last resort for those who have smaller, and fewer harmful addictions like sex addiction (with strangers or multiple partners or an occasional encounter with the same sex).

Sometimes, compulsive masturbation or sexy chat rooms on the internet seem to appease the addictive beast in you giving the appearance of being more pious than visitors to the houses of ill-repute (brothels). Besides sex, there is a phenomenon called food bingeing where when a person is emotionally upset indulges in high carbs (cakes and chips etc.) as though taking revenge out on the food. Bulimia would be the repetitive motion of food bingeing and vomiting after leaving the sufferer with a feeling of catharsis. Shopping and work addiction are also addictions these are just more socially accepted, besides you would have to look closer to see the pathological occurrence to know it as an addiction. “

In a scientific research done by Dr Karen Ersche on addicts and their non-addict siblings, they had the same abnormalities in the region of the brain which controls behavior, the frontostriatal systems. The suggestion is that these brains may be “hard-wired” for addiction in the first place. If we could get a handle on what makes unaffected relatives of addicts so resilient we might be able to prevent a lot of addiction from taking hold,” said Dr Keedwell.

Addiction to gaming and gambling also has a detrimental effect on our society. On the southern half of St. Maarten, we have a number of casino’s that are frequented by our local population. Many stories of monthly incomes that were supposed to sustain families (families living from hand to mouth) ended in 10-minute tragedies on the dealer’s table. As I researched to what are the causes of addiction, there is a recurrent theme of genetics, trauma, social environment and inability to deal with setbacks in life but also a lack of spirituality and religious connections.

My favorite theory is from Dr. Mate Gabor (google him). He says; “All addiction is an escape from pain. All addictions come from emotional loss, and exist to soothe the pain resulting from that loss.” Maté explains how early neglect or abuse affects a child’s brain development, in particular, the system of self-soothing brain chemicals (such as endorphins and serotonin) that help make up a healthy human being. If we are going to build a country on catering to visitor’s pleasure purposes, would it not be responsible to recognize that the living population may be affected by the product we are selling? What messages, systems can we put in place to keep our people “on the wagon”? And who’s responsibility do we think it is to do this? Rotary? Lions? The University of St. Martin?

Debbie Zwanikken

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