The Physiology of
Problem gamblers get stuck. We can't walk away from the slot machine
or the table. Just one more time we say, but we stay there one more
hour. There is a center in our brain called the "Cingulate Gyrus."
This area has to do with attention. It is the "channel changer" in our
brain. When this works well, we are able to see options, have cognitive
flexibility and be able to shift our attention from one idea to the next.
When it doesn't work well, we get STUCK, not being able to get a
thought, worry or resentment out of our minds. People who an overactive "Cingulate
Gyrus" tend to hold on to resentments from the past, worry a lot,
and their brains gets into a lock-in mode. These people often come from
alcoholic homes. Addiction is appealing to them. It momentarily takes away
the obsession and resentment and numbs it with pleasant feelings. But the
obsession becomes switched to the obsession to gamble again. The
cingulate gyrus also is affected in cocaine, sexual addiction and compulsive
overeating. Dr. Daniel Amen, a
psychiatrist whose clinics have looked at more that 30,000 SPECT brain scans
has provided us with a lot of useful information regarding
addiction. His website,
brainplace.com is very helpful.
12 Step Programs
and other 12 step
programs have helped countless individuals who have struggled with
addiction. The steps are simple spiritual processes that when utilized help
people overcome what they could not do on their own. These principles, even
though they appear simplistic, are pretty profound and life changing once
they are explored, understood and practiced.
The Illusion of Control
gamblers often feel like they are in control. When things are spinning our
of control in their lives they go to the casino to help them feel like their
is something they can choose to do. Troubles with money and family
creates more stress, so we use more and more. The outcome is pretty
much the same. We lose more than we win. So we know the outcome,
unless we do win and then we feel a pseudo-sense of control about this also.
It is like have problems on my farm so I chase a tornado, get caught up in
the funnel and it takes me for a ride. I just think I am in control,
because I "choose" to be swirled around and around. I think it is
going to take me to the land of Oz and the Emerald City. But I end
broke and broken - emotionally, physically and relationally. I
then have to ignore the damage There is a way out.
The Four Paradoxes of Recovery
paradoxes become evident.
We surrender to win.
We give away to keep.
We suffer to get well.
We die in order to live.
We SURRENDER TO
WIN. We need to totally surrender unconditionally. We acknowledge that
we cannot win the battle against addiction and have totally made a mess of
our our life. We are better off if we stop running our life and let
God run it for us. We pray in Step 11, "asking only for God's will
and the power to carry it out." We are like a prisoner of war who
who surrenders with our hands up and we do whatever our higher power tells
us to do.
AWAY TO KEEP. This strange expression identifies our selfishness and
understanding that we can only be healed as "we give away what God has given
us." "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)
When we are hoarding, greedy and stingy we are likely to use our addiction
again as we have left a state of Grace.
We SUFFER TO GET WELL. There
is no way to escape pain or suffering in this life. It is a truth that
most alcoholics as well as most people try to ignore. The alcoholic,
drug addict and sex addict use their substance to avoid suffering.
This is why they use. Many people reserve the term alcoholic for those
that really suffer--shaking, needing another drink, getting sick from
drinking. But perhaps they are numbing themselves in minor ways and
are too out of touch with themselves to identify that they are drinking as a
form of self medication. To recover, we must go through the pain.
We must learn to be mature and to face reality. Thankfully, the 12
steps help us face reality with the Grace of God.
We DIE TO
LIVE. This beautiful paradox comes right out of the biblical idea of "losing
our life" (Matt. 10:39) and denying one's self and carrying one's cross.
(Matt. 16:24) The harder we hold on to our life, the more it slips through
our fingers without us realizing it. (We call this white knuckling it)
But when we empty ourselves of our ego, and die to our dreams, our will and
our ways, God will give us life. We must die daily. While we may
decide to surrender at a certain point of time, we must surrender every
moment, so as to acquire God's grace to keep us sober. This only comes
through death, his and ours.