Cheers Sexy People!
It is with great excitement that I am introducing the first guest blog post from my very good friend. I have interviewed her here before for our humble little blog – an interview that has been on my top ten list of favorite posts of all time since its inception. You go, girl! She is actually the person who opened my mind more fully to alternative and open relationships, and first told me about the book, Ethical Slut, which changed my life! Since I have been doing research and musing about sex addiction being concealed under the guise of saying one is polyamorous, I asked her to share some of her expert knowledge on addition as a recovering addict herself. Without further ado…
Hi. My name is Rebecca, (Kitty’s Friend) and I am an addict, an alcoholic to be exact. I am the daughter of mental illness and addiction. I married an alcoholic, then a sex addict and I am quite possibly the mother of an alcoholic. I have truly looked at addiction from both sides, all sides, in and out.
In a recent post Kitty talked about the sex addiction of her beau. I agree with her. I believe (Barry) is a sex addict, and likely an alcoholic – but ultimately if he wants to change, only he can determine that for himself.
Sooo, since my life has been touched, and in many ways shaped, by the apocalyptic force of addiction (I say apocalyptic because addiction is indeed a force that can destroy both the addict and the people who love them), I thought I would share what I have learned on my journey in hopes that I can shine some light on the often misunderstood topic of addiction. Also, Kitty asked me to and I hate saying no to her.
Before I talk about what addiction is, I would like to address what addiction is not. Addiction is not a moral failing or a lack of will power. Let me repeat that. Addiction IS NOT a moral failing or lack of will power. No one announces when they are a child, “Hey I’d like to grow up to be an addict, Mommy”, just like no one asks to have cancer, diabetes or any other chronic illness. It is also not a respecter of persons. Addiction is a disease process that touches lives of many millions of people from all walks for life, rich or poor, educated or not. Addiction, like cancer, could care less who you are.
So then what exactly is Addiction?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses (and insurance companies to define who gets treatment and what treatments will be covered) uses the term substance use disorder. They have recently expanded that definition to gambling (behavior) addiction. Other countries expand that definition to include internet gaming and pornography. Unfortunately, we prudish Americans are still so freaked out by all things sexual that we haven’t quite gotten to the place of officially defining Sex Addiction.
Addiction as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, and craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response.
Addictive substances and behaviors directly or indirectly target the brain’s reward system by flooding the circuit with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. The overstimulation of this system, which rewards our natural behaviors, produces euphoric effects and teaches us to repeat the behavior. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission.
So there you have it folks, the repetitive use of substances or behaviors that stimulate the dopamine system in the brain can result in physiological addiction. It’s all about the pleasure. We are wired for pleasure for one reason – survival. We find pleasure in the things that keep us alive and ensure the continuation of our species. Survival behaviors are centered in the limbic brain, the oldest part of the brain that has kept us going for millennia. We don’t have to think about them – they are instinctual and they drive many of our actions and choices. When addiction occurs however, it supersedes these instincts and becomes the primary survival mechanism. The brain actually goes through a physiological change and once an addict becomes an addict, he cannot go back to being a non-addict without treatment or engagement in recovery activities. The addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
A good example of this transformation is:
When a cucumber enters a barrel of brine and is submerged for a period of time, it becomes a pickle. Once it becomes a pickle, it cannot go back to being a cucumber.
So it is with the addict and the disease of addiction. I know with 100 percent certainty that I am a pickle – I’ve done the field work and have proved that I can never safely ingest alcohol. My behaviors will change. I will be unable to predict what will happen once the addiction is reactivated in my brain, but I’m pretty sure all hell will break loose. That inability to predict outcomes is a hallmark of addictions (as is lying and secrecy to try to hide the addiction). I believe that inability to predict outcomes can be applied to both substance and behavior addictions.
So what does this all have to do with Polyamory?
With addiction and its consequences at an all-time high in the U.S., it is very likely that someone in your poly world meets the criteria for addiction. If you believe that someone you love is suffering from addiction or any other form of mental illness, please understand that YOU are in no way responsible for their behavior or recovery. You can’t love them more or do more for them in order to stop their behaviors. That is called co-dependency. What you can do is TAKE CARE OF YOU. Set boundaries and reach out for help. There are many support groups out there for loved ones of addicts and they do help. If the one you love refuses to get help, you may have to leave the relationship in order to protect your own mental health. Recovery IS possible – I am a walking, talking testament to that – but it’s personal journey that only the addict can take.
Thank you, Kitty for asking me to share my story. We have a saying in the recovery world: “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.”
My dear friend, Rebecca, you freaking ROCK!!!! I am thrilled to share this knowledge with our readers here at Loving Without Boundaries. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time and care to write such a wonderful piece. I am certain that you are helping many people by putting this information out there. I love you to the moon and back!
How about you? Have you ever had a loved one suffering from addiction in your life? Any insight that you would care to share with us all here? I’d love to hear your thoughts, friends. I am passionate about health – mental, emotional as well as physical. Let’s help each other live satisfying, authentic and happy lives.
Wishing you peace, love and happiness,
(and thrilling, fun sex too!)