Self-Awareness can help prevent addiction

This article explores a fresh way of preventing and addressing the opioid crisis at its root - by exploring the unconscious drivers in our mind behind it.

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans currently have a substance abuse problem - which includes alcohol and drugs, but excludes other addictions like gambling. The actual number may be much higher. 107,000 people died of a drug overdose in the US in 2021. It is a global problem, and no country is unaffected.

Perhaps the solution to the problem of addiction lies in a question that nobody asks: What makes the human mind, perhaps the most intelligent and capable on earth, slide into addiction, knowing it is doing so, but unable to stop itself, and resistant to any offers of external help?

To begin exploring this question we need a mind that is curious, and open to learning about itself without judgement. Since the problem of addiction begins in our thinking, the answer also lies in a deeper understanding of ourselves. This understanding could help prevent it, and help people more easily resolve it.

Current efforts focus on education about the dangers of drugs. This has not made much of a difference because the drivers that push us into addiction are hidden from our awareness and are usually more powerful than our will power.

Addicts are not to ‘blame’ for their addiction, because our mind reacts automatically to its circumstances, and most people are unaware and not in control of this reaction. If you think addiction is what happens to other people, you may be in for a surprise. If you are faced with the same circumstances your mind may respond in the same way. This is one reason why addicts deserve our compassion.

Let's delve deeper and understand these 3 unconscious drivers that lead to addiction. None of these are right or wrong, but understanding them allows us to be in charge of how we respond and be more compassionate to others.

The first of these is our conditioning. We are not aware that our past has conditioned our opinions, beliefs, and narratives about ourselves and how attached we have become to that conditioning. If we grow up in an environment where drug usage is common, we think it is normal, and it's easy to begin experimenting with them.

The urge to be part of a group is powerful and if others in the group are taking drugs we take them as well because we don’t want to feel excluded. Our mind can justify its actions, and we can convince ourselves that drugs are harmless, or that we are always in control, or ‘it's my life and I want to have fun’, and so on.

Understanding and being able to question our various conditioning influences can allow us to break free from them, be in charge of our own thoughts and actions, and walk our own path in life.

The conditioning module in the HappierMe app helps users understand their own conditioning and avoid the pitfalls of it.

Another reason we get pushed into addiction is our inability to deal with our emotional pain and our need to escape from it. Drugs and alcohol are a convenient way to numb this pain. The nature of addiction is such that we need to consume more and more drugs to feel the same effect and this can lead to a fatal overdose. The more drugs or alcohol we consume the less we seem to be in charge of our own thoughts or behaviour.

We can tackle this in two ways.

By understanding why we get hurt, we can avoid much of the hurt we experience. Our mind assumes others, or external events are responsible for our pain, but in most cases our pain is caused by how our mind automatically reacts to people and situations. For example, our expectations (of ourselves and others) begin in our own thinking. When they are not met we suffer, and blame others for our suffering. Unless others change, our suffering continues. If we can see this clearly, examine our own expectations, and let most of them go, most of our suffering can end. This is explored in more detail in this discussion on - Why do we get hurt?

Secondly, there are better ways to deal with emotional pain once it rises in us. It involves a mix of accepting things as they are, being grateful for what we already have, being positive, and meeting the discomfort we feel with a deep breathing exercise. This can help us stay with the discomfort till it dissolves, rather than escape from it. The escapes often cause more problems than the original pain. This is explored in more detail in this discussion on Dealing with Emotional Pain.

The third hidden driver that pushes us to addiction is our unconscious need for stimulation and pleasure. Hidden from our awareness is a sense of emptiness or a void from which our mind is constantly trying to escape. This explains why we always need to be occupied, or are never satisfied with what we have, or keep chasing something. Recreational drugs and alcohol are one way of feeling good about ourselves and distracting ourselves. The nature of pleasure is such that we need more and more stimulation to get the same effect, and that means our usage of drugs or alcohol gradually rises till it becomes a habit that’s difficult to break and that can damage our health. This is explored in more depth in this Module on Pleasure in the HappierMe app.

Prevention is so much easier than trying to break a habit or an addiction once it is established. This is why it is so important to introduce this understanding of the unconscious drivers in our thinking that lead to addiction to young people at an early age. This understanding may still help someone caught in the vice of addiction but they probably need professional help as well. Once they get better, this deeper self-understanding can help them stay off drugs. This is explored in more depth in the Module on Addiction in the HappierMe app.

In summary, the roots of all addictions lie in the hidden drivers in our thinking that shape our thoughts and actions. Learning about ourselves and how our minds function makes the unconscious conscious, and helps us take charge of our own life and flourish in the world. The HappierMe app has all the tools you may need to begin your own journey to freedom, to live a happier life.

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Understand your mind. Live a happier life.

Life can be tough. The HappierMe app is your personal guide to help you feel better now, but also to take you deeper to understand your thoughts and feelings. It supports you to become the person you want to be, to be happier, manage your emotions and  succeed in the world. There are also coaches you can speak to through the app.

Copyright © 2024 HappierMe. All rights reserved

Copyright © 2024 HappierMe. All rights reserved