A Relational Approach to Addiction
Individuals often turn to substances in order to fulfill needs that have not been and are not being met. I refer to this as the coupling of deprivation and indulgence; an individual often indulges in response to deprivation. When an individual first begins using substances it is equivalent to the ‘honeymoon phase’ of a relationship… both the individual and the substances are on their best behavior. As the relationship progresses, the substances betray the individual, no longer offer what was promised, and ultimately begin to cause pain and suffering rather than joy and relief. The substance abuser becomes the victim of the substance’s abuse. For this reason, the process of ‘getting sober’ often entails a lengthy grieving process in which the individual must mourn the loss of the substance(s) that for a period of time fulfilled his or her needs. Ideally, at some point in a person’s addiction, he or she surrenders to the idea that the emotional pain the addiction was masking cannot possibly be worse than the emotional pain the addiction is now causing. In my experience, the moment of change for the individual struggling with substances is often the moment in which he or she comes to consider that perhaps the pain of using is far greater than the pain of being sober.