Whether it is called a moral, ethical or spiritual matter, messing around with substances tends to affect our inner beings. This is where animal experimentation around the problem runs into a snag. In “Addiction: The View from Rat Park,” Prof. Bruce Alexander pointed out, as a basic premise, that rats are rats, and went on to ask,
How can we possibly reach conclusions about complex, perhaps spiritual experiences like human addiction and recovery by studying rats?
Surely, some critics must have asked him what on earth he meant by that. What does shooting up in an alley have to do with our interior spiritual selves? Only everything! Dr. Pretlow has written,
Disordered overeating and obesity in youth appears to be a psychological problem, suggestive of an addictive process. Disordered overeating and obesity should be considered an eating disorder and treated by psychologists/psychiatrists.
He is not the only expert to have noticed that in these cases, psychological factors are inevitably at work. Be that as it may, the sad state of affairs is that mental health professionals who specialize in treating obesity, whether child or adult, are rare.
An essay titled “Shame and Addiction” by an uncredited Gateway Foundation author outlines the symptoms of shame (perfectionism, low self-esteem, people-pleasing, and guilt) and also lists the beliefs that someone may be led into by a sense of shame. These include convictions that the self is bad, defective and unlovable, and a failure undeserving of happiness.
The article says that shame “can trigger a dependency on alcohol or drugs as a method of escape,” which of course is no help at all when dependency on a substance (or on behavior associated with substance use) is the underlying problem in the first place. Dr. Pretlow often speaks of vicious cycles, and this is one of them.
The article goes on to specify how the addiction recovery process is impacted by shame. The person may keep quiet and hide the truth about matters that would better be explored aloud. Shame can destroy a person’s sense of worthiness, and convince them that their dreams can never be achieved. To get better, the person needs proper guidance and a safe, supportive environment. But those side effects are the very factors that prevent so many people from seeking help.
Then, the Gateway Foundation includes instructions for healing, which can be accomplished with proper guidance in a safe and supportive environment:
Face the root of your shame
Make amends and let go
Be kind to yourself
Find a safe space
Develop a support network
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Addiction: The View from Rat Park,” BruceKAlexander.com, undated
Source: “Shame and Addiction,” GatewayFoundation.org, undated
Image by CPSU/CSA/CC BY-SA 2.0