The Cycle of Abuse with Addictive Behaviors
Do you abuse drugs, pornography, or emotions? Or do they abuse you? Addictive behaviors are also called abuse. However, if you look at addiction as a relationship between you and the substance or behavior, you can very easily see that it follows the cycle of violence common in abusive relationships. So, I invite everyone of us to look at our patterns of behaviors and emotions and see if we fall into the cycle of abuse.
Generally considered, there are four stages in the cycle of violence.
- Tension Building
The building – or rising – of tension is considered to be the first phase of the Cycle. This can also be experienced as anxiety. People do not use other effective forms of managing this anxiety, so it keeps growing.
- The Incident
The enactment of the abusive incident in question is considered to be the second phase of the Cycle of Violence. In addiction, we can call this enactment, “use”. At first it feels good, and we deny or minimize all concerns that this is a bad idea. But then we begin to get negative consequences such as hangovers, legal issues, problems in our relationships, etc. This leads to the 3rd phase, separation.
We decide that we need to stop or pull back. We may swear that we will never do it again! At first this feels good and we may get a sense of peace and calm, but it doesn’t last, because nothing has really changed. We have not learned any new relationship or conflict management skills, and we have not learned any new coping skills. So, after a while, euphoric recall sets in.
The enactment of reconciliation undertaken by both individuals within the abusive relationship is considered to be the third phase of the Cycle of Violence. This is also called the honeymoon phase. People start remembering all the good and forgetting the bad. In alcoholism, for example, this can be seen as romancing the drug. We call this euphoric recall. It’s as if Al (cohol) was talking to you and telling you all about the great times you and he had while drinking. The negative consequences get forgotten and minimized again, and there is reconciliation! As several women have told me, this is the best part. They find that makeup sex is the best there is. I was even informed of this once by a woman whose husband broke her pelvis. So, people then go back to addictive behaviors, and have “make-up” pornography, or “just one drink”. This may seem to work for a while, until anxiety starts building again…….and starts the whole ball rolling. Sound familiar???
Do you find that you have behavioral patterns that you fall into, that leave you feeling guilt, shame, and generally abused, over and over again? What is this pattern? What I like to do with my clients who see themselves following a circular pattern, is to take that circle, break it and move it into a straight line, stretching this line out to the end so that, for example, the line begins with anxiety and ends in hangover. My next question is, “What did you get out of that hangover?” Because it always ends in a hangover, shame, and guilt, etc., ask yourself what you get out of returning to this state over and over again. Your first answer may be “nothing”! So, why do you spend so much time, energy and money on nothing? “Misery” is many times the more accurate answer. This begs the question what we get out of misery. Or perhaps a better question to ask is, “What’s my relationship to misery?” “Why do I need to stay miserable?” These are important first questions if we wish to change our patterns of behavior.
This cycle is done with drugs, addictive behaviors, and even emotions. The next question then, is what is the relationship of our pattern of use to this cycle? This question is the first step in identifying the patterns that we fall into, and then learning to stop them. These patterns contain emotions, feelings and thought patterns that repeat themselves. Before we can do what, we call a “pattern interrupt”, we must first know what the pattern is. For help in pattern identification and stopping, call Jan Veselak now at 303-7