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How Addicted are you?

“Neurons that fire together, wire together.” - Donald Hebb.

Never before I have seen so many people falling victim of drugs and alcohol abuse as in this past year. As I walked this morning to my car and took a look at an unconscious body on the sidewalk, surrounded by several empty bottles of liquor, I couldn’t help but thinking how quick we are to judge addicts. The reality is that we all carry addictions of our own. The addictions might differ in nature and yes, some will kill you faster than others but at the end they are all just as detrimental to your life.

And I am not even referring to the most obvious ones like food, smoking or meds. I am talking about your emotions. Your behaviors.

One may think it’s stupid to compare a drug addiction to an emotional one but what people sometimes forget or don’t know, is that the addiction it’s as real when it comes to emotions as it is to drugs.

Our brain (the hypothalamus to be precise) creates peptides (molecules formed of chains of amino acids) for every thought/feeling you have.

The more intense and the more frequent the thought or feelings are, the more peptides are produced for that specific emotion the thought creates. These peptides are then sent out to every cell in your body. Your cells have emotion receptors that are a specific fit for different peptides. The peptides function by fitting into receptor sites on cell membranes in your body like keys into locks. When cells divide they increase these receptors for whatever peptides are most available and intense. This results in your cells (and therefore your body) becoming addicted to the chemicals produced by each feeling.

When these cells go without those specific peptides they have receptors for, they will send signals to the brain to create them, thus causing us to seek out the people or situations that helped us generating those thoughts or feelings in the first place.

All patterns of behavior have a starting point, that we may remember or not. An initial event that trigger a strong reaction.

After the initial event, the more this process in repeated through the years, the more people develop an addiction to the different chemicals of different emotions.

The point is that the more people feel a certain emotion, the more addicted to that emotion they become. For example, if you get angry on a consistent basis, you develop an emotional addiction to the anger chemicals. And if you play a victim and cry long enough, you adapt to that way of being and develop an emotional addiction to those specific chemicals.

So how do we change that?

Well, as my favortite neuroscientist Dr Joe Dispenza says: ' The hardest part about change is not making the same choices you did the day before, period.'

Sounds so easy but in reality it’s not. It takes commitment and discipline.

Overtime we literally create an intricate pathways in our brains that will bring us back to a time where we were sad, angry, depressed and so on. And the more addicted we get to the feeling the more we create situations using family, friends, colleagues etc to get us back to that dark place.

And that is why change is so difficult and uncomfortable. Because it’s not just a question of will but also of physical discomfort.

Having said that, like with any other addiction, once you are actually aware of your behavioral patterns, how it works and are committed to change, you are on the way to recovery.

And as you start shedding those old behaviors and embrace new positive healthy feelings, you are actually destroying the old pathways and building new pathways to happy healthy behaviors.

So instead of thinking that your life sucks and you are so unlucky and everyone is out to get you, look within and see what triggers you, what actions/situations or people make it easy for you to go back to that dark place.

Become aware of your reactions. Pay close attention to how things are happening within you. Then start small. Pick one of the minor situations where the trigger it’s not so overwhelming and make a conscious decision to react different to that that you would have in the past. So if someone is starting to make you angry, instead of engaging, move away. If your boss, boyfriend or husband says something that upset you, instead of focusing on the comment distract yourself, let it go. Eventually, once you have practice this enough, you will notice that it will be very difficult to get you to that dark place. You will become so aware of yourself that you will know the moment you start slipping and catch yourself in time.

But most important, you will realize that we are all human so the people that trigger you are victims of their own behavioral patterns and whatever they say or do has nothing to do with you and 100% to do with themselves and their need to feed their own addictions.

To sum it up here are the steps to Change :

- Identify your past triggers

- Identify the people or situations that enable you to relieve those triggers

- Notice your behavioral patterns, your reactions

- Come up with simple strategies on how to avoid finding yourself in those situation and a way to react differently to each.

- Start seeing people around you under a new light. They are not the enemy. You are the only one with the power to send you back to your dark place.

- Start replacing those old patterns with new healthy ones. Find time to do things that make you happy and surround yourself with people that truly care about that happiness until that become your new reality.

But most important love and cherish yourself! You deserve all the happiness this life has to offer.

The key to that life? YOU.


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