Addiction and Abuse Cycles

Sometimes it is fun to try to connect together two things that appear a bit similar, I was thinking about two cycles:   Addiction Cycle and Abuse Cycle. I don’t know whether the connection makes sense, but I find it useful to think about at least.

The following is the classic Addiction Cycle.  A person feels emotional pain and has a choice between dealing with the pain and its causes, OR choosing a  substitute that numbs the pain. That substitute can be behavioral or substance-related. Choosing the substitute, the person has a numbing of pain, and possibly a sense of euphoria. Afterwards, however, these effects begin to wear off, and there is the retain of emotional pain. In fact, this cycle is often more of a spiral and the deleterious effects of the substitute behavior, the guilt/shame, and the habituation begin to take their tolls.

addiction cycle

The Abuse Cycle can also be shown in four similar steps— especially in terms of intimate relationships. There is a building of tension, followed by an abusive act. After that, the abuser typically feels remorse and acts to soothe the abused, bargaining a restoration of peace. Successfully arranging this leads to a “honeymoon” period. However, there is eventually a return of tension, and eventually abuse.

However, if one seeks to line up these two cycles, there are a couple of ways this can be done.  One is to establish the choice (dealing with the problem versus finding a substitute) with the growing of tension. It would then look like this:

Abuse Cycle Alt 2

This would make sense. The Abusive action would be equivalent to the Substituting behavior. As tension grows in the relationship, the abuser can deal with the problem or go to abuse.

Another way to address it would be for choice to be after the abuse.  At that point, one can deal with the problem or go towards remorse.

Abuse Cycle

There is actually reason to line it up this way. First of all, the Honeymoon period lines up better with the numbing of pain or euphoria associated with the Addiction Cycle. Likewise, the growing of tension in the Abuse Cycle lines up well with the wearing off of the numbing effect in the Addiction Cycle.

I actually like this second one better. Lining it up with the Addiction Cycle connects the Remorse action with the Addictive behavior. After all the activity of Remorse is actually part of the attempt to avoid the normal consequences of the abuse, much like acting out in addiction is the attempt to avoid the normal consequences of emotional pain. Instead of dealing with the abuse and the underlying problems that drive the abuse, the abuser bargains and expresses sorrow, and promises that things will change. However, since things have not changed, the problem will return.

If this makes sense, then one who is seeking to work with an abusive relationship should not be seeking remorse and promises. These are the “drug of choice” of many abusers to avoid dealing with the underlying problems.

Anyway…. this is just a thought. Love to hear other thoughts.