Addiction and early childhood experiences are connected. Developmental psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld says that 75% of our emotional mapping happens in early childhood. What if we didn’t talk about feelings in our family, didn’t get warm hugs and the words “I love you?” Or a parent was rigid and over corrective? How does that play out in our lives?
We don’t get through this lifetime without wounds, but what did we learn about attachment? These experiences set up the wiring of our emotional brains. We learn about attachment/ closeness in our families. This means unconditional acceptance and to be known in our relationships. When we have some of these emotional roots broken, we see the consequences of our early childhood experiences. By the time kids become adolescents and have some freedom, they ordinarily will try to feel better and hence initiate what we call high risk behaviors. This includes being connected to other high risk peers, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, food, sex, internet porn etc. We medicate with these escapes to avoid fear, anxiety, depression and anger.
I believe that when someone is struggling with addictions, they are also struggling with how to form emotional bonds and to connect with other people. They also need to develop a stronger sense of self that connects them to their own feelings and intuition. Life is an emotional experience yet sometimes people have learned in early childhood that loving someone means that I will get hurt, I won’t feel valuable or my needs don’t count. All these beliefs and ways of thinking get in the way of creating intimacy and closeness. When we come to counselling, we learn about relationships/ fears, we are accepted without judgement and we can explore new ways to show up in our lives that honour our true values. Sometimes life will try to teach us these lessons through trial and error; we need to start listening and opening up to a deeper understanding of ourselves and the relationships that we develop on this path called life.