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The Breeding Ground of Addiction

10.7.12 Journal Blog post about my experience counseling in the inner city (For more context- please refer to Corporate Girl in an Inner City World)


Ever since I started my time in my doctorate program, I have been learning
more about what drives addiction.

What causes a liquid (alcohol) to have the debilitating power to literally ruin a person’s life? What causes pictures (pornography) to control someone and destroy their marriage and family?

I have learned a lot about the chemical reaction and the brain that interacts with addiction and how the body can start to work against oneself (More on this in my blog article, “When you keep doing what you hate“) but what really fascinates me is the concept of emotions and emotional regulation.

The concept of emotional regulation is this: when different emotions arise (particularly negative emotions), do you have the ability to properly handle and process those emotions in a healthy way? 
What’s so important about feelings?

In my article, “Learning to Feel Again,” I wrote about the importance of feelings:

“Coming from a Christian background, I grew up thinking feelings and emotions had no place of value at all. Why, we’re people who “walk in the Spirit” not in the “Flesh”!

Yes, you really shouldn’t let your feelings and emotions rule your life. They shouldn’t be the final say in big decisions you make. And yes, there’s times where they can impact your ability to obey God or live victoriously…if you’re ruled by your feelings. (Because you aren’t always going to feel like doing what God is telling you to do!)

However, what are feelings?

Feelings are the ability to perceive a physical or mental sensation.

Let’s take this example– if you touched a hot stove, what would happen if you never could feel the sheer heat of it?

You would burn your hand off!

But because…you can feel the heat of it, you retract and you are saved from harm.

Similarly, feelings act as an indicator light, warning you of harm or discomfort.

God made us with feelings for a reason!

There is an element of validity to feelings. If a friend betrayed you and you never felt the pain of it, it would basically mean that you don’t matter. Yes, that’s right…feelings show that you matter. You’re valuable and yes, it hurt. Don’t discount that.

If you were in a relationship where the other person crossed bounderies and began using you…and you never felt something was wrong, you’d end up being abused. If your parents divorced and you never felt the pain of it, then it’s as if it didn’t matter. You don’t matter.

No, we shouldn’t be ruled by our feelings but God made us with feelings for a reason. They validate our existence and value and they help us know when harm is near.”


Unprocessed emotions is the breeding ground for addiction

The cycle and pattern I see time and time again in people with addiction is such:

  1. Something happens and it triggers a bad emotion such as anxiety or fear or shame
  2. To regulate and deal/survive this bad feeling, instead of processing these emotions in a healthy way such as journaling, talking to a
    friend, going to a counselor, running/getting cardio exercise to release the tension, etc…..
  3. People with addictions turn to addictions to produce that “high” – to cover, stuff, or deal with that negative emotion. Instead of accepting the discomfort of that emotion, they resolve to run away from feeling because they are afraid to feel….

There’s this concept in psychology (in ACT- Acceptance Commitment Therapy) called “creative hopelessness.” In this intervention, the therapist shows the client how their current ways of coping, the ‘strategy’ they have devised to deal with their wounds…isn’t working.

And it’s true.

This way of dealing with emotions –not properly processing it or feeling it– can really lead someone down a very destructive path.


Feeling is dealing

In Learning How to Feel Again, I detail what it’s like to process these emotions properly and to seek comfort, the right way. (check out for more information)

Beyond learning to articulate your feeling, there are plenty of healthy ways to deal with emotions that are not self destructive but edifying and lifegiving!

Examples include:  Getting counseling, exercising, talking to a friend, journaling, breathing exercises, self-care such as treating yourself to a nap or walk in the park, prayer…

These concepts are true– “feeling is dealing” (with the root issue) and “feeling is healing.”

Sometimes people are so afraid to feel that they always have to be hiding behind the “high” or something or someone to self-medicate and numb themselves.

This is something I challenge my clients to do–write down somewhere prominent in their house, “I choose to feel.”

I know alcoholics and drug addicts in my work that are choosing this very thing….addictions, big and small, can be broken through feeling and proper processing!

All in all, the true and ultimate comforter in all of this is God and having a true relationship with Him. All other ‘coping mechanisms’ are just that…coping….but knowing Jesus is what will set you free permanently! (For more, I invite you to read my blog article–Spiritual Health Check )


Heart Check

1) What addictive substances or addictive behavior is currently negatively impacting your life, body, spirit, and relationships?

2)What do you do with your emotions? What about your process of emotions is healthy or unhealthy?

3)If your process is currently unhealthy, what is one thing you can do to shift to a healthier way of processing your emotions?




  • So good!!!


    October 15, 2012

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