Addictive Cycles 101: The Basics Part 1

Part 1:  Understanding Addictive/Destructive Behaviors as Cyclical:  When you think of your own or a loved one’s  addictive/destructive behavior it is helpful to imagine a circle.  A circle is a continuous line with no beginning or end, flowing into itself.  There is no defined point of entry, no easily identified trigger that sets the whole process in motion.  Instead, at any point you engage in the circle of behavior, you will eventually experience the entire cycle.  This seemingly pointless, disorganized string of destruction leaves those involved confused, angry, and hopeless.  They are unable to answer the question of “why” effectively.  In other words, does John act-out because he feels great shame or does John feel great shame leading to his acting-out destructively as a means of medicating himself.

Below is a diagram of a basic addictive cycle.  Not every addictive cycle is the same, so this example is not meant to be definitive.  However, it is a solid guide to understanding some of the basics of destructive cycles.  Let’s look at the components that make up the cycle:

Addiction CyclePre-Occupation:  The individual enters a time of rumination or internal obsessing on acting-out.  This can also occur in the form of obsessing on not acting-out.  It is important the individual acknowledge obsessive thought patterns are a part of addictive/destructive behaviors.  Rather than hiding this pre-occupation, they should be actively processing it with their counselor and support groups.

Impaired Thinking:  At the heart of destructive cycles, are faulty belief systems, which work to perpetuate problems.  Both addicted individuals and those with other destructive behaviors live according to these beliefs.  Some examples include-

  • I do not need others.
  • If others really knew me, they would reject me.
  • It’s not okay to show my emotions.
  • I don’t deserve love.

Ritual Behaviors:  Leading up to the actual acting-out, are a series of preparatory behaviors.  Often, when individuals have not fostered self-awareness via counseling and support groups, they are oblivious to their own ritual behaviors.  These can include, but are not limited to- isolating themselves from loved ones, looking for possible times or ways of acting-out, engaging in risky/”all most” acting-out behaviors.

Addictive Acting-Out:  The identified event of behaving in a addictive, or, otherwise, destructive behavior.  It is the “identified problem”, the piece of the cycle the addict and others point to as needing change.  However, it is only one of a set of steps.

Shame & Despair:  Inevitably, the individual experiences the impact of their destructive behavior.  If they have not been caught, this is the point at which they convince themselves they will never do “it” again.  The chief objective here is secrecy, and in the event they have been discovered, it shifts to minimizing the damage they have done.  In other words, the individual will attempt to convince themselves and others that what has happened is not “a big deal.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with addictive/destructive behaviors, there is help.  At MyCounselor.Online, our counselors are Biblically & Clinically competent to help.  

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