Addicted to Drama
Many recovering addicts’ new addiction to drama can be difficult for their family and friends to live with. What creates this need for attention and being center stage all the time? Why is every small event magnified and processed as if it were truly life and death? Is this something that just happens with recovering addicts, or do we all have a tendency to dramatize our lives?
How does this almost need for drama impact recovering addicts and why? It is known that the chemical receptors in the pleasure center of the brain are heavily influenced with most substances of abuse. As these chemicals are pumped into the brain, addictive patterns begin to form for the addict. As they become more and more dependent upon the substance, they also form patterns of habit in their brain synapses. This combination becomes habit after some time, and then becomes addiction. Depending on the substance, it can happen quite rapidly for many who begin to use and then abuse the substance.
Those who begin with abusing one substance may believe that the particular drug is the problem and often switch to another one and another one, switching drugs to end their dependency on any. This phenomenon may also be seen in recovery settings, where addiction to alcohol becomes an addiction to sugar, an equally damaging substance that may continue to damage the blood sugar system of the abuser. The brain is producing much the same effect from the sugar as it did with the alcohol, thus allowing the reward system to mimic the chemicals produced by drinking.
Other behaviors may stimulate the production of dopamine and give the recovering addict a “rush” that is not as strong, but is still addictive, without the use of drugs. These “fixes” can be numerous in range, from shopping to eating, from sex to tobacco. While they are all legal, their benefits in the reward center of the brain may bring the same sensations that using drugs did. A rush of adrenalin signals the idea of the behavior, perhaps the danger of being caught will fuel additional adrenalin. Whatever sets this off, the adrenalin itself becomes an addictive substance to the addict’s brain. It wants more and more.
Thus, as the addiction to the adrenaline begins to form, behaviors will escalate to further stimulate and flood the brain with the same “rush” that they remember from the beginning use of their chemical substance. Because there is a reward system activated when they receive attention within their peer group, they may begin to tell stories and find ways to receive larger and larger amounts of attention. This “rush” will become addictive, just as other behaviors do. An addict in recovery may form many new patterns of achieving the same effects of drugs and alcohol long after they are abstinent from the use of them. The hope is that they learn to acknowledge and recognize their addictive behaviors and balance them into recovery.
Kelly McClanahan has an MSW in clinical social work, with a specialization in substance abuse treatment. Having worked in this field for over 20 years, she is currently working on her certification as an addictions’ counselor.