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Section 2
Behavior of the Addict

CEU Question 2 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
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On the last track, we talked about the physical effects of alcohol on a body.

On this track we will discuss addiction as a process. The track is broken up into two parts. In the first part, we will discuss common behaviors of addicts, and second part, we will talk about aspects of the relationship an addict will form with the object of his or her addiction.

As you well know, addiction is a process. In life, people will cycle through periods of happiness and periods of sadness. It is a natural cycle that we cannot control. People become addicts, however, when they attempt to control that uncontrollable cycle. For an addict, forming a relationship with an object becomes an addiction and produces a mood change that keeps them from participating in that natural cycle of highs and lows.

Jeremy, age 24 and recently unemployed, started using marijuana while still in high school but had recently turned to a "harder drug," cocaine. He stated: "I use cocaine when I am feeling depressed because it helps me feel better. There is nothing else that makes me feel as good."

Jeremy has developed a relationship with cocaine, his drug. His addiction started, like many addictions, with the emotional illusion that a relationship can be created with an object.

Regardless of type of addiction, I have noticed that there are two common behaviors that apply to nearly all addicts.

Two Common Behaviors of Addicts

Behavior # 1 - Act Out
First, addicts act out. As you know, an addict is acting out when he or she engages in addictive behaviors or addictive mental obsessions. For Jeremy, acting out is when he takes a trip to purchase cocaine. It creates feelings in Jeremy that cause an emotional shift within him. Addicts typically act out because it because it helps them learn to create feelings of being relaxed, excited, or in control.

Behavior #2 - Nurturing Through Avoidance
The second common behavior for addicts is nurturing through avoidance. As you know addiction is a lifestyle in which the addict loses control and becomes locked in an emotional pattern of evading life. Addicts will delay life issues as a way of nurturing themselves. I noticed that, for Jeremy, cocaine created a mood change that allowed him to believe he was feeling nurtured, but it was an illusion. In reality, the cocaine was simply allowing him to avoid the reality and responsibility of finding a job.

How does your addicted client treat themselves and others? I have noticed, like you, that the addict will generally believe that his or her primary relationship is with the object that they are addicted to and, as a result, will not treat others in an appropriate manner. The addict will begin to see people as objects as well and treat them as such. People become something that the addict can manipulate. This only increases their distance and isolation from others and their dependency on the relationship they have formed with the object of their addiction.

Three Key Aspects of Relationships of Addicts & their Addiction

There are three key aspects to the relationship an addict forms with the object of their addiction. These three key aspects are: objects are predictable, the addict’s priorities are misplaced, and intensity is mistaken for intimacy. As you listen to these three explained further, think of how your client with an addiction may be perceiving his or her relationship with the object of his or her addiction.

Aspect #1 - Objects are Predictable
The first of the three key aspects is that objects are predictable. As you know, addicts trust the addiction because it consistently supplies the mood change they seek. They seek this dependability from the object of their addiction because they see people as unreliable. Jeremy explained that his definition of trustable is "a person or thing I can rely on." I could see that in Jeremy an addiction was formed when he decided that cocaine was more reliable than any person he knew. For addicts, the object of their addiction is more dependable than people.

Aspect #2 - Addict's Misplaces Priorities
The second of the three key aspects is the addict’s misplaced priorities. I have noticed that practicing addicts expect to come first in a relationship. Because objects have no wants or needs, the addict can always come first in the relationship with the object of their addiction. Again, think about Jeremy.

He consistently turned to cocaine because in his perceived relationship with the drug, he was always first. Although it is a destructive relationship, it is a committed one; Jeremy believes all of his needs are being met. Can you see how an addict’s priorities might influence them to remain in a relationship with their addiction?

Aspect #3 - Confusion of Intensity for Intimacy
The third and final of the key aspects is the addict’s confusion of intensity for intimacy. When addicts act out, it is an intense experience. As they act out, addicts’ emotions are magnified and thus intensified. Because these moments are so intense, addicts believe they are having a moment of intimacy. They do not understand that intimacy does not occur in a single moment.

Rather, intimacy builds over a period of time through many moments linked together. An easy comparison would be to an adolescent. Adolescents also have a tendency to confuse intensity for intimacy. They live for the moment. Practicing addicts, too, live for the moment and believe that the intense emotions they feel while acting out are intimate moments.

2-Step "Peiser's Calculating the Cost" Technique
I asked Jeremy to do an exercise and stated, "You mentioned that you are worrying about paying your bills this month." He stated, "I usually have just enough to get by, but since I was recently fired, this month it will be hard." "Would you like to do an exercise to look at how this might have been avoided?" He stated, "Sure."

With Jeremy, I decided to use Peiser’s Calculating the Cost technique. I handed Jeremy a small notebook to do what I call the Calculating the Costs exercise.

"What does it now cost you per day, week, month, year? What could you save in other benefits: social, financial, sexual, security?

--Step 1: Write out how much your habit actually costs you per year, both in dollars and in hours of time wasted.
--Step 2: Now write out – including dollars and hours – other activities and uses to which you could apply this money and time.
If you were thinking sanely, you would use your time and money to enhance or create benefits. It is only when you deny the effects of wasting your time and/or your money on your addiction, whatever it may be, that you squander your resources in a self-destructive way."

"Wow," Jeremy said. "I’m in shock at how much I spend on this habit. I wouldn’t be worrying about bills right now if I hadn’t spent the money on cocaine for the last few weeks."

Do you have a client who, like Jeremy, believes that his addiction is the only way he can feel good? Does he find the object of his addiction more reliable than other people? Would he benefit from trying the Calculating the Costs exercise?

On this track we talked about addiction as a process, the two common behaviors of addicts, acting out and nurturing through avoidance, as well as the three aspects to an addict’s relationship with his or her drug, which are an object’s predictability, misplaced priorities, and confusion of intensity for intimacy, and the Calculating the Costs exercise.

On the next track, we will discuss the internal struggle addicts face as well as some techniques to get their rational adult voice and feeling child voice to compromise.

- Hanninen, V., & Koski-Jannes, A. (1999). Narratives of Recovery From Addictive Behaviours. Addiction, 94(12), 1837-1848. doi:10.1046/j.1360-0443.1999.941218379

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Gearhardt, A. N., & Corbin, W. R. (2009). Body mass index and alcohol consumption: Family history of alcoholism as a moderator. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23(2), 216–225. 

Glenn, S. W., Parsons, O. A., & Stevens, L. (1989). Effects of alcohol abuse and familial alcoholism on physical health in men and women. Health Psychology, 8(3), 325–341.

Kang, D., Fairbairn, C. E., & Ariss, T. A. (2019). A meta-analysis of the effect of substance use interventions on emotion outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 87(12), 1106–1123. 

Piper, M. E., Baker, T. B., Mermelstein, R., Benowitz, N., & Jorenby, D. E. (2020). Relations among cigarette dependence, e-cigarette dependence, and key dependence criteria among dual users of combustible and e-cigarettes. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. 

Ricardo, M. M., & Henderson, C. E. (2021). The effect of the brain disease model of addiction on juror perceptions of culpability. Translational Issues in Psychological Science, 7(2), 177–185.

Witkiewitz, K., McCallion, E., Vowles, K. E., Kirouac, M., Frohe, T., Maisto, S. A., Hodgson, R., & Heather, N. (2015). Association between physical pain and alcohol treatment outcomes: The mediating role of negative affect. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(6), 1044–1057. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 2
What are the three key aspects of an addict’s relationship with the object of his or her addiction? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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