Number 4, October 31, 2021
Genes are the blueprint for a host of traits, from the basic architecture of a brain cell to the behavior styles that largely define who we are.
They impact how long a drug will remain active in a users’ bloodstream, how many dopamine receptors will be displayed on the surface of a neuron, the proper balance of mood-controlling chemicals in the brain, and they also influence basic temperament and personality traits, such as stress sensitivity, impulsivity, and risk taking.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, studies of twins have indicated that genes account for about 50 percent of the risk for addiction. For now, it’s impossible to know if any particular individual’s genetic makeup makes him more vulnerable to addiction, but people with a family history of addiction are at higher risk than the general population.
Smoking a single joint or drinking one beer can wake up the sleeping monster of addiction genes. But as with other risk factors, genetic predisposition just increases the chances of getting the disease; it doesn’t guarantee it.
It’s not unlike other complex diseases: a person’s DNA can predict only the odds of a disease becoming a clinical reality. And conversely, as some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, but anyone can become an addict under the right set of circumstances.
Sheff, David, 2013, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy”, First Mariner Books (Chapter 3: Everybody Does It) https://www.davidsheff.com/clean
Number 3, October 24, 2021
Is it really possible to break the cycle?
We can’t change the fact that addiction is a disease that can be arrested but not cured. Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that can run in families, sometimes skipping generations. We can develop an addiction at any age. Those are the scientific facts.
But it is within our power to break OUR part of the cycle and be the catalyst for change and healing in our families. We can educate our children about their unwelcome inheritance and obstruct the path of this disease to the best of our ability. It is within us to influence our loved ones in a positive way by becoming an example, but we have to be healthy ourselves first.
Sometimes, families want to maintain unhealthy systems and it is not up to us to decide how other people should live their lives. Denial is largely when other people will not behave in the way we decide is in their best interest.
So, we really need to look at what OUR goals are, whose needs we are serving, and whether we are being honest.
Woititz, Lisa Sue and Dr. Janet G. Woititz, Unwelcome Inheritance, 2015, Hazelden Publishing, (Chapter 6 Breaking the Cycle), https://lisasuewoititz.com/
Number 2, October 17, 2021
Is it good to be selfish?
There is such a thing as negative or destructive selfishness, callously going after what we want and not caring how others feel or how it impacts them and generally being a jerk. But there is also healthy self-interest, where we take care of ourselves and put our needs first at times without feeling guilty for not doing enough for others.
Being self-sacrificing doesn’t make us good and altruistic, it actually diminishes energy over time, causes us pain, and thus hurts those close to us. If we are depleted and resentful, those we love receive less of us, even if we try to force ourselves to be nice.
Many of us grew up with a million and one messages that told us advocating for ourselves and not always putting others first is bad, selfish, and wrong. Breaking this cycle is about challenging those old ideas and programming.
On the other side of fear and judgment is a freer, expressed, happy, fulfilled and loving person who is able to contribute more to her family, friends, and community.
Gazipura, Dr. Aziz (2017) Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty. B.C. Allen Publishing & Tonic Books (Chapter 10: Be More Selfish) https://www.notnicebook.com/
Number 1, October 10, 2021
Breaking the cycle is mostly about changing beliefs. We are not born with preset beliefs.
Every belief is learned and conditioned through experience. The more we repeat a behavior, the more we reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. Our identity is literally our “repeated beingness”.
If someone goes to the gym every day, they have evidence they are a fitness buff. If someone goes to the bar every day, they have evidence they are a drinker. We have proof of our identity through our daily actions.
We don’t change our beliefs by snapping our fingers and deciding to be someone entirely new. It is a gradual process. We change bit by bit, day by day, habit by habit. Meaningful change does not require radical change, because small changes in habits can make a meaningful difference.
Our identity emerges out of our habits. Every action is a vote for the type of person we want to become. This is how the process starts for breaking the cycle of any pattern of dysfunction or unwanted behavior.
“Atomic Habits” by James Clear (Chapter 2: Your Habits Shape Your Identity) https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits