The Root Cause of All Addictions

The Root Cause of All Addictions

I have always had a problem with the concept that a physical allergy or disease is the root cause of alcoholism and chemical addictions. It does not explain the cause of chemical type addictions (including alcohol) and it absolutely doesn’t explain non-chemical ones like food addictions, compulsive gambling, compulsive sex and the like.  I have observed many recovering folks who, with numerous years clean and sober, pick up non-chemical addictions. If the allergy explanation was the whole story then working the 12 Steps for one of the chemical addictions should cover all the addictions, but it doesn’t. Something is missing.

A clue to the real root cause of all addictions can be found by carefully listening in meetings of 12 Step programs to members sharing their “how it was” stories. Someplace in those shares they will usually state how, when they took that first drink, hit, sex act, gambling game win or whatever, it filled “that empty hole inside of me!”  This is approximately the same rendition of that event for chemically and non-chemically addicted people. The narrative usually continues with a rendition of feelings of well being and relief, along with a new ability to do many things that heretofore they were inhibited from doing.

Everyone talks about “filling that empty hole,” but few bother to ponder what exactly that hole represents and what was not present that cause that hole. As best as I can figure out, that missing ingredient is self-esteem and usually, but not always, a lack of self-confidence.

I once had a client who, when describing his feelings when he attended his first AA meeting said, “The speaker was talking about how when he was newly recovering he had very low self-esteem. I thought to myself, ‘God, I wish I was able to have low self-esteem! Right now I have none!’”

Although the terms, self-esteem and self-confidence are usually associated with each other, and sometimes used synonymously, they have quite different meanings and functions. Self-esteem is a measure of one’s feelings of self-love and self-worth, whereas self-confidence is a measure of one’s evaluation of one’s ability to perform as task or a skill.

Although it is quite possible to develop a great degree of self-confidence without an equally high self-esteem, it is certainly a less than optimal state to be in, and in the case of very high performing people such as rock stars and high power executives, it becomes a perfect storm for the development of all sorts of addictions.

When people’s performance greatly overshadows their level of self-esteem, they are susceptible to feeling like a fraud, The accompanying internal dialog (self talk) is along the lines of, “if they only knew how much I’m messing up” or “If they discover the real me, I’m toast!” That paranoia of being “found out” can be enough to trigger a variety of coping behaviors including addictions, suicide and perfectionism.

Perfectionists are an interesting group. They have little or no self-esteem and are usually fairly high performers in what they do. Their paranoia of being found out leads them to attempt to do everything perfectly. Unfortunately, perfection is impossible to attain, so they continually fail, which creates a feedback loop that reinforces their negative self-evaluations. That in turn feeds into the obsession and another addiction is born.

Most people with low self-esteem including, unfortunately, many people in recovery, also have a similar feedback pattern. Less obvious, it appears as a habit of harsh self-criticism of their actions, their appearance and just about anything else that touches their lives.  Unlike the perfectionist, they are not obsessed with rectifying their uncovered flaws. They use their harsh self-criticisms and both actual and imagined failures as proof of their negative self-evaluations. These folks rarely give themselves an even break. For them the cup is always half empty. They beat themselves up at the drop of a hat. The slightest criticism from a boss, peer, or even a client can throw them into a depressive state akin to giving up.

High school age underachievers are a good example of this. Although usually misdiagnosed as kids lacking motivation, they are very smart with very low self-esteem. Actually they have very high motivation. It takes considerable motivation for a smart kid to intentionally fail. These are young folks who think of themselves as potential failures (aka, losers) and who voluntarily take themselves out of the competition. That way they don’t risk being actual failures, and have a perfect cover story, “I could have won, but I chose not to play.”  They are perfect candidates for a variety of addictions.

The value of learning self-enhancing techniques to boost self-esteem

Understanding that the lack of self-esteem is the core problem that drives people to adopt behaviors (addictions) in a futile attempt to cover up “that empty hole inside,” it stands to reason that once folks have developed great self-esteem and self-love that the empty hole will be truly and permanently filled, and the need for any addictions, chemical or otherwise, will be over.

For this reason, a major component of treatment needs to be teaching the tools that effectively promote positive self-esteem. Many of these tools are quite simply taught and through daily repetition are quite effective.

There will be noticeable improvement in the degree of self-esteem after a month of daily practice. The real payoff of learning these tools will come upon completion of the 9th Step. It is very difficult to work on self-esteem when “the real self” is viewed through lenses clouded by feelings and trauma that working The Steps will remove. As those negative feelings are eliminated, it opens up space for self-esteem to grow and, with these new self-enhancing habits firmly in place, that new self-esteem will grow automatically and exponentially!

©2015, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

Note: This article first appeared as a column in the Keys to Recovery Newspaper.

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*
Jason Wittman, M.P.S. has his masters degree in counseling and psychology from Cornell University. He has over forty years of counseling experience and is certified as a clinical hypnotherapist and as a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He is currently in private practice as a Confidential Consultant and Mentor Coach. As Certified Level IV Addictions Counselor, he assists people to figure out all the “getting on living skills” that they either neglected or never learned, do to their continued usage of drugs, alcohol and other addictions.. He can be contacted at http://steppingintorecovery.com or jason@mcaatalk.com

58 thoughts on “The Root Cause of All Addictions”

  1. I’m truly enjoying the design and layout of your website.
    It’s a very easy on the eyes which makes it much more pleasant for me to
    come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your theme?

    Great work!

  2. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog
    with my facebook group? There’s a lot of folks that I
    think would really enjoy your content. Please let me
    know. Thank you

  3. Hi there! This article could not be written any better!
    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He constantly kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this information to him.

    Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  4. You’re so interesting! I do not believe I’ve truly read a single thing like that before.
    So great to find another person with genuine thoughts on this topic.
    Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is one thing that’s needed on the
    internet, someone with a bit of originality!

  5. Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you,
    However I am going through problems with your RSS. I don’t
    know the reason why I can’t join it. Is there anybody
    else getting the same RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond?
    Thanx!!

  6. With havin so much written content do you ever run into any issues of
    plagorism or copyright violation? My blog has a lot of exclusive content
    I’ve either written myself or outsourced but it looks
    like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without
    my permission. Do you know any solutions to help prevent content from being ripped off?
    I’d really appreciate it.

  7. An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a
    little homework on this. And he actually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him…

    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!

    But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this topic here on your web site.

  8. Wonderful site you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked
    about in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get
    opinions from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

  9. I simply couldn’t go away your website prior to suggesting that I extremely loved the standard info an individual provide on your
    visitors? Is gonna be again frequently to inspect new posts

  10. Pretty portion of content. I simply stumbled upon your website
    and in accession capital to say that I get in fact loved account your blog posts.
    Any way I will be subscribing on your augment or
    even I fulfillment you access consistently rapidly.

  11. I am the manager of JustCBD Store company (justcbdstore.com) and am looking to broaden my wholesale side of company. I really hope that someone at targetdomain share some guidance 🙂 I thought that the best way to do this would be to connect to vape shops and cbd stores. I was really hoping if anyone could recommend a trusted site where I can purchase Vape Shop Business Data I am presently checking out creativebeartech.com, theeliquidboutique.co.uk and wowitloveithaveit.com. Unsure which one would be the most ideal selection and would appreciate any guidance on this. Or would it be simpler for me to scrape my own leads? Ideas?

  12. Heya are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and set up my
    own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

  13. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve visited your blog before but after browsing through a
    few of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely pleased I discovered it and I’ll be bookmarking it
    and checking back often!

  14. Hi there colleagues, how is everything, and what
    you desire to say regarding this piece of writing, in my view its actually awesome in support of me.

  15. Hi there! This post could not be written any better!

    Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I will send this article
    to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a very good read.
    I appreciate you for sharing!

  16. I’m very pleased to uncover this website. I need to to thank you for ones time due to this wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every bit of it and i also have you book-marked to see new information on your blog.

  17. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you ought to write more about this issue, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people do not talk about these topics. To the next! All the best!!

  18. Your style is so unique in comparison to other people I have read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just book mark this page.

  19. Hi, I do believe this is an excellent web site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may come back once again since I bookmarked it.
    Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide other people.
    adreamoftrains hosting services

  20. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy I found this during my search for something relating to this.

  21. Hi there, I believe your website could possibly be having browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in IE, it’s got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Apart from that, fantastic blog!

  22. First of all I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind prior to writing.

    I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas
    out. I truly do enjoy writing but it just seems like the
    first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to figure out how to
    begin. Any ideas or hints? Thank you!

  23. This web page is really a stroll-by way of for all of the data you wished about this and didn抰 know who to ask. Glimpse here, and you抣l undoubtedly discover it.

  24. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills
    and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Either way keep up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog like this one nowadays.

  25. I needed to write you that very small word to help thank you once again on the awesome suggestions you’ve documented above. It’s quite particularly generous of you to present publicly what exactly a lot of people might have made available as an ebook in making some bucks for their own end, primarily now that you might well have done it if you desired. Those thoughts additionally served as the easy way to fully grasp that many people have similar dreams the same as my own to know the truth whole lot more with respect to this problem. I think there are several more pleasant sessions in the future for those who looked at your blog.

  26. I simply wanted to thank you very much yet again. I am not sure the things I might have tried without these opinions shown by you regarding such situation. It seemed to be a real fearsome situation for me personally, however , spending time with this professional approach you solved that made me to jump over joy. I’m happy for this assistance and hope that you realize what an amazing job that you are providing instructing many others via your web blog. Most likely you have never got to know any of us.

  27. Aw, this was a very good post. Taking a few minutes and actual effort to create a great article… but what can I say… I put things off a
    lot and don’t manage to get anything done.

  28. Have you ever thought about writing an e-book or guest authoring on other
    websites? I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss and would really
    like to have you share some stories/information. I know my viewers would enjoy your work.
    If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to send me
    an e-mail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.