Process Addictions include any activity, thought, feeling or relationship one might use to alleviate the personal pain one experiences as intolerable reality. When thinking about addictions, drugs and alcohol are often at the top of the list. These substances can be highly addictive, but behaviors can become addictive also. Process addiction includes any addiction that doesn’t include addictive chemicals. Any process that alters the brain chemistry and enables an individual to feel a release of chemicals into the brain, (usually the feeling of a high or a rush) can potentially be addictive. These can include work, shopping, gambling, sex, as well as a myriad of other behaviors. When any behavior becomes compulsive, addiction can be on board.
Many of our clients suffer from an addiction to not one process, but generally multiple. As our clients learn in our program, all of these activities, thoughts, feelings, or relationships are simply “symptoms” of the deeper pain they feel in their adult lives. It can be best described as so:
The pain we feel in our adult lives can be compared to the trunk of a tree. Above the trunk, are the branches of that tree, which are “symptoms” as described above (i.e. substance addictions, sex, love & relationships, workaholism, control, caretaking, perfectionism, etc). Generally, we attempt to cut away at those branches, through individual therapy, primary treatment programs, group therapy, life coaching, etc. However, what we find is that those branches (or those “symptoms”) keep coming back; sometimes they come back as the same symptom, other times they come back as a new symptom. This is why our clients often find themselves jumping from one negative behavior to another (i.e. someone who is sober for 5 years, but now a workaholic and control addict, etc). At The Bridge, we are not going to just address those individual branches – we are going to work on getting to the “roots” of the pain, which have been damaged by some sort of trauma or pain-causing incident. By working to heal the roots of the tree, we no longer feel the need to reach out for those “symptoms” or negative behaviors.