Day 3 of the new year. As I have already mentioned, my focus this year is on forming better habits. I’ve been reading and studying habits since last year. I’ve always found behaviorism fascinating: our brains are machines and can be trained. We may be more sophisticated than dogs, but we can be trained just the same.
Habits can be either good or bad, depending on the context and the goal we wish to achieve. The brain, of course, doesn’t know whether a habit is good or bad, not the subconscious brain. Habits, for some things, are the brain’s way of helping us be more efficient. For tasks that would typically require concentration, if it is a habit, it requires no conscious thought, and it frees us up to think of other things. Other habits are formed because they provide some sort of reward. And who doesn’t like rewards? The brain certainly does, and it is simply trying to help you achieve that reward more frequently by repeating the behavior that previously obtained it.
Habits can be great, and per the book by Charles Duhigg, you can’t get rid of a habit. Once it is formed, it is always there. You can associate the trigger within your existing habit to act out a different behavior. In other words, you can retrain your brain to respond differently to a stimulus. But the original trigger and response are in your brain, tucked away somewhere. They have proven this by doing studies on people that have brain damage destroying their ability to retain new memories. It is a lengthy discussion, but let’s just go with that these are truths.
Addiction has a multifaceted origin, but it is connected to habits. Understanding habits and how they are always there brings new meaning to once an addict, always an addict. The automated responses to use drugs and alcohol are in our brains, always once that habit has been formed. However, the brain can form new reactions to triggers. Those new reactions, over time, become more accessible and automated.
Addiction treatment is interesting because of how diverse each individual’s needs are in achieving recovery and whole-body health. Because addiction has psychosocial and biological origins, treating it often requires addressing each component. Each individual has a different history. Temperament, personality, history of trauma, beliefs, culture, self-efficacy, mental health, family and social support structures, and much more all impact the origin and, therefore, the necessary treatment of addiction. There is no such thing as a one size fits all plan for treating addiction. Now, because we are all humans, there are some treatment procedures that we all can benefit from, such as social support. We are social creatures, afterall.
Ive learned a lot on this topic, but still have much to learn. Wishing you all peace in present moments today.
Cover Photo by Manan Chhabra on Unsplash