Addiction numbs the mind to normal emotional experiences and disconnects the mind from feeling experiences as well. Mind altering substances take hold of the brain by stimulating the production of a brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine produces feelings of pleasure throughout the brain. The longer addiction lasts and the greater amount of substances are used in addiction, the more dependent upon the sensation of pleasure the brain becomes. Eventually, the sensation of pleasure becomes the most important sensation for the brain to experience and the most challenging. Addiction wears down the brain’s ability to produce dopamine at all. As a result, the brain becomes hypersensitive to any emotional experience which threatens the experience of pleasure. Everything becomes a threat. Addiction provides a solution to that threat: more drugs and more pleasure.
When men break the cycle by going to treatment, they cleanse their brain of the drugs, which reopens the channels for emotions and feelings. Emotional regulation is a primary focus of treatment and therapy. As a form of relapse prevention, as well as healing, emotional regulation helps men learn to accept and live with their emotions, no matter how difficult they can be. Having emotional experiences and having feelings is part of being alive and being human. Through recovery, men learn how to regulate their emotions with different practices, therapeutic applications, and lifestyle choices. Exercise, meditation, yoga, therapeutic writing, and many other techniques help men get in touch with their emotions and regulate their experiences with them.
To start, however, there is only one place for men to begin the process of emotional regulation: acceptance. Acceptance is a popular theme for men in recovery; for example, before a man can confess that he needs help with addiction he has to accept within himself that he has reached the point of needing help. Acceptance is a first and necessary move. In order to begin regulating his emotions, a man has to be in acceptance that he has emotions, otherwise he stays in denial. Overcoming denial of emotions is one of the purposes of emotional regulation. Denial recreates the patterns of addiction by trying to avoid any feelings which aren’t pleasurable. A lack of emotional regulation can lead to feeling overwhelmed by emotions, which inspire cravings, which can lead eventually to a relapse. By turning to acceptance, men are able to embrace their full scope of emotions, their humanity, and most importantly, their recovery.
At Tree House Recovery, men are finding freedom from addiction through our treatment programs. By showing men how to create sustainable changes, men build a sustainable recovery and transform their lives. Call us today for information: (503) 850-2474