A couple of years into recovery, I was on vacation back home on the small island where I grew up. I remember driving to my first AA meeting there, convinced that I would see half the friends I had known in my twenties…it would become a fun reunion of sorts. I envisioned me saying “Hey, fancy seeing you here!” whilst smiling sheepishly, coffee in hand. Not so 🙂 It was an enjoyable meeting for sure but I didn’t know anyone. Furthermore, I didn’t recognise a single person at any of the other five or so meetings I went to whilst there. What had happened to all my drinking buddies? We had all been as crazy as each other back in the day. Surely I couldn’t have been the only one to develop addiction issues. Why me? Why any of us? Why not them?
For years, researchers have been searching for the causes of addiction…if it could be determined what makes people susceptible to addiction, perhaps it would be possible to divert the development of it and better help those in recovery. Sounds good and currently there are a few determining factors or theories on the table.
The first one that springs to mind is the addictive personality, something I often hear mentioned in a meeting setting. It’s a controversial concept with there being an argument out there that such a thing doesn’t exist. However, in the corner that does believe in it’s existence, some common features of an addictive personality are…all or nothing thinking, doing things to extremes, impulsive behaviour and the desire for instant gratification. Tension and heightened feelings of stress or anxiety could be present. There’s also shyness or antisocial behaviour or a sense of social alienation, feeling apart from, different. The list goes on, there is no one clearly defined set of parameters.
True enough, whether it be classed as an addictive personality or not, many or all of the above traits (plus others no doubt) may lead to excessive use of drugs, alcohol or other substances and also behavioural issues relating to stuff such as eating, gambling, sex, shopping, exercise etc. At some point down the road, that invisible line can be crossed and an addiction occur. But not always. There are many people that display the above traits to one extent or another who don’t go on to develop an addiction. Why not?
And there are those that display few or none of the above personality traits and yet do go on to develop addiction issues. People who are perhaps unaware of the dangers of repetitive use or behaviour or think a related addiction can’t or won’t happen to them. They simply practice long and hard enough in an active addictive mode until the brain has no choice but to rewire itself and adapt to the behaviour. But, again, that’s not always the case. Some don’t go on to develop an addiction issue and either remain active in the behaviour unscathed or walk away from it at some point for a healthier life.
Then there’s the genetic component. Addiction can run rampant through families going back generations. The hereditary factory appears to increase the risk of addiction occurring, but again, not all end up disappearing down a rabbit hole of addiction.
And finally, the environment can play a huge role. Social and circumstantial characteristics of the family plays a huge role. Also, a person’s peer group, work or the community in which they live can play a part. Personal history can, whether it be trauma of some sort, physical or sexual abuse, parental upbringing, school experience, and so on. All these things can trigger addictive behaviour, but then again, not always.
Interesting to ponder. What were your contributing factors in developing an addiction or multiple addictions? Were you pre-wired with an addictive personality do you think? Was it behavioural by way of repetition? Genetic? Or was it environmental in some way, or due to personal history? Or a combination of factors? Why do some seem to escape the clutches of addiction do you think? In every scenario, there are those that don’t succumb to addiction. Why not?
There are no right or wrong answers here, just thoughts and experiences to be shared. Feel free to use the questions or some of them as a guideline, or not. Write as feels comfortable. Looking forward to hearing from you.