One way that indulgences can quickly turn to addiction
Why good times in the wrong way put you at risk

One way that indulgences can quickly turn to addiction
Why good times in the wrong way put you at risk

The brain is a funny thing. Seemingly complex, but actually simple. A master manipulator in fact. Despite being painfully predictable in it’s interpretations and biases, it artfully manipulates thoughts and feelings to instigate it’s preferred actions and indulgences.

The brain makes associations based on our interpretations of events in our lives. Simple, right? If we feel good, our brain recalls our perception of what is occurring at the time and records it subconsciously. Makes sense, right? Obvious even.

But, the tough part is that our conscious memory quickly forgets exactly how these associations were made. I don’t know why I like dancing, I just do. But, it’s actually because I had an amazing experience of acceptance and freedom early in my dance days – more to do with the people that I was dancing with and my own improvement in something difficult than anything to do with dance itself. See, we tend to come to like things we’re good at. Even if that thing is getting good at new things.

Habit plays a role too. I don’t know the exact number, but something like 90% of our daily decisions occur without conscious thought. If we attempt to actively decide more things than that, we get tired and irritated and become unable to make effective judgement.

So, how does this all tie together to risk for addiction?

Well – our brain makes associations, then acts without intervention based on habits.

So, when things are going well in our lives and we explore and enjoy drugs, sex, attention, adventure, alcohol, etc. Everything is all good. We are generally happy and things are going well. What we may not realize is that we are creating and strengthening associations between those things and pleasure. It’s OK though, because when life is good we have plenty of healthy sources of pleasure – success at work, savings in our bank accounts, friends, health, hobbies, loved ones, etc.

But then what happens when it all goes to shit – you get sick, lose your job and money, and your spouse leave you within a year. Now you’re stuck being sick, struggling so much with health and money that you can’t focus on work or relationships and those start to slip, as do your finances, and most of all – your future outlook. You sit unshaven in bed on a rainy day exhausted and it takes all of your energy to just make it into the office without looking like a complete bag of shit.

What does your brain do then? It reaches for the things it has access to that it knows based on experience will bring pleasure – a cold beer, a pill at a party, a warm body to wake up to. Anything to give a shot of pleasure and provide some respite from the pool of cockroach shit your life has suddenly become. Yet,of course investing time into these things does nothing to fix your health, finances, relationships, work situation or whatever. In fact it makes those problems worse. And so the cycle begins – things get worse in other areas, pleasure is needed more than ever, and so addiction forms and gets worse.

The message I’m trying to get out here is clear – do drugs, drink, fuck, party, skydive, whatever floats your boat. But, when times are good, don’t let these become the things you look forward to, because if and when things suddenly turn to shit, they’ll become the things you need and the path out of the shit bath and back into the sunshine will be that much longer and harder. Make sure that healthy instant gratification habits are the instant pleasure sources you love most – running, dancing, reading, writing, and any thing else that spending way too much energy on will actually help you grow, or at worst at least not fuck you up.