"The Likely Cause of Addiction: Not What You Think!"

“Happy people don’t stick needles in their arms.” I am implying, by association, that happy people don’t enmesh themselves with porn or other unwanted sexual behaviors (UWSBs), as well. The reasoning behind this is that if people are happy, content, fulfilled, satisfied, feeling good about life and themselves, there is absolutely no need to medicate. I have no specific studies to refer to that validate this claim. However, my own anecdotal observations over the last 20 years have certainly been, to me, proof positive that this hypothesis is accurate.

Some remember the experiments done in the 1950s to 1960s on rats and addiction, but they were widely used as a basis for ads used in the 1980s on why cocaine use (and other drugs such as heroin) were so dangerous. Here is the link to that ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kS72J5Nlm8. The experiment was nothing more than placing a rat in a cage with two water bottles attached to it. One was pure water. The other liquid contained cocaine mixed in with water. The study found that 90% of the rats ended up using the cocaine/water mix over and over until they died. Pretty compelling evidence to prove how easy it is to become addicted to cocaine, huh? I know that’s the impression it made on me 30 years ago.

Enter, Professor Bruce Alexander of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. He wondered what the rats’ attraction to drugs would be if they weren’t confined to the tortuous conditions of a cage, but were able to enjoy, instead, normal healthy lives in what he would call “Rat Park.” (You can see a representation of his experiment at this link: http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/). The results were most interesting. The conclusion revealed that the difference between being “addicted” and “non addicted” wasn’t found in the drug, itself, but rather in whether we saw the world as our “cage” or our “park,” with its “normal” society, comfortable housing, and healthy social interaction.

I often refer to the origins or antecedents of our unwanted sexual behaviors as “The House of Misery.” This is the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual environment (as we perceive it in our minds) in which we live. In this “house” (or cage?) resides all of our thoughts, beliefs, mindsets, experiences, attitudes, habits, and skills that make up our character: who we have become (not necessarily who we are). The more troubling this environment is, the more difficult it is to rid ourselves of unwanted, self-medicating sexual behaviors. Herein lies one of Dr. Alexander’s key points that should reaffirm our hope that it isn’t “us” that is the problem, but rather our “cages.” The distorted thought “I’m such a loser; such a freak of nature; nobody’s as bad or dark as me,” along with hundreds of other automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) is not just part of the distorted cognitive cage we live in, but a lie that is found throughout the entire structure of the cage, itself. No wonder we feel such torture, as we consciously or subconsciously beat ourselves up with such distorted and self-defeating dialogue; leaving us ever vulnerable to another episode involving our drug of choice: our UWSBs.

My own journey of addiction and recovery, as I look back over 50 years, was, ultimately, nothing more than pursuing my own need to bond and form connections, albeit in a variety of inappropriate and selfish ways. As the article suggests, “it’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find.” We bond with our UWSBs because we haven’t yet learned, or acquired the skill “to bond with anything else.” We missed out on those lessons once we had our first taste of self-medication, and its anesthetizing effects on our lives. For me, the recovery journey has been less about the desperate attempt to rid myself of porn/masturbation and other UWSBs, but rather to find new interests that provide real bonding and connection with others, including myself. I loved the line the author offered towards the conclusion of the article when he said “the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is HUMAN CONNECTION.”

If this article has validity, then the heart of it suggests that our behaviors are symptoms, not causes. It suggests that as we peel the onion on addiction, we are looking for clues that reveal what our particular “cages” look like, so that we can begin to Face them. Replace them, and Connect by reconstructing/rebuilding/rehabbing them with “Human Connection.” This is at the very core of the Candeo program.

Whether we are a student or a spouse/partner with a loved one struggling with UWSBs, it behooves us to consider why we are addicted in the first place. It is not that we are flawed in character. It is not because we don’t have enough will power. It is not because we are “losers.” It is not even because of the drug (pornography/orgasm, etc.). It is, in great part, facilitated and even encouraged by the “cage” we live in – real or perceived. Others have constructed some of it. We have built much of it ourselves. It is my hope that we consider what we are doing to convert our metaphorical “houses of misery” into “houses of joy.” The bonds and healthy connections we make in that new “cage” are truly the antidotes needed to lose interest in compulsive, obsessive, and addictive, self-medicating behaviors.