sadnessSurvivors of childhood, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, as well as victims of traumatic events, and the abandoned children (by parents either absent emotionally or not present physically), often resort to medicating their pain through addiction. They find comfort from the emotional pain in their lives. It begins as a coping strategy, which through the conditioning process becomes compulsion and addiction.

There is something missing in their emotional development. Their emotional foundation was never completed and they struggle to function. We have great difficulty meeting our needs without that foundation. Maslowe suggested the foundation was built of knowing that we would survive the day and that we were safe in the world. These children never had that comfort of knowing they were safe. Without establishing it, our other needs become very, very difficult to meet and our emotional dysfunction gets in the way.

This is a simplified version of Maslowe’s view of our basic human needs:
1.  Survival–Having food and shelter to survive.
2.  Safety–Freedom from danger, safe and secure in the world.
3.  Loving and Being Loved
4.  Accomplishment–contributing in a meaningful way.
5.  Being the Best We Can Be (Maslowe, 1962)

When for example, safety is compromised by sexual abuse or trauma, the ability to meet the need to love and be loved, and all other needs above it are compromised. We struggle to love and be loved because we might suffer terrible jealousy or be so controlling (trying to be safe) that no one can stand to live with us. The emotional pain generated by such experience begs to be soothed. The self-nurturing relief of addiction seems to be the perfect solution in the beginning.

Andy suffered from abandonment issues as a result of his drug addicted mother. She was physically present, but unable to care for him, or be available for him emotionally when she was lost in her addiction. Andy’s aunt told him of a time when he was two, when she observed him dressed only in a messy diaper, crying and reaching up to his mother for her care and comfort. His mother pushed him aside because she was busy using and getting ready to shoot up with heroin. It was a symbolic moment of his childhood.

Andy is now 21 and very interested in having a girlfriend, but reports that his relationships never last more than a month or two. Andy is a heavy pot smoker. He is also decent looking and has a great sense of humor. He has some very dysfunctional relationship behaviors. He really wants to feel loved, but he comes off as very controlling. (He is still worrying about the possibility of more abandonment like he felt from his mother.) He feels a strong need to know everyone that his girlfriend has contact with. If they go to a party, Andy cannot allow his girlfriend to be in a separate room, because he is afraid she might meet and leave with someone else. After a few weeks, even though Andy has a lot going for him, his girlfriends break off the relationship because they feel smothered by him. Andy turns to his bong for comfort, but it is never enough.

Andy is desperately trying to love and be loved, but he has never been able to establish that it is safe in this world or that he is loved and wanted. No one was ever there to confirm that for him. Without establishing safety, he struggles at meeting his need to love and be loved. Now his addiction and neediness (his fear of further loss) get in the way, the controlling behavior drives away any potential girlfriends. The addiction certainly isn’t meeting his needs either, although he feels better when he is high. Hence, the sentence for practicing dysfunctional ways is that we are forever trying to meet our needs in ways that can never meet our needs. (The Waterfall Concept, A blueprint for addiction recovery, p 23.)

If you want to understand more about the reasons we turn to addiction, take a look at the book The Waterfall Concept, A blueprint for recovery addiction, click on “The Book” above.