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Investigating the Problem

Inexplicable logic is normal fare in addict land. Friends and family are baffled by the behaviors, antics, and thinking of the addicted one. Their patience, tolerance, and love are depleted quickly. Eventually their empathy and compassion exhausted, they say the inevitable, “He will just have to hit bottom,” as they shake their heads and walk away.

Stark_ReclaimingLostBrain_CoverGraphicjpgThe tool of self-destruction so effectively wielded by the addict is his own mind. The addict takes a perfectly good brain and, by relying on thinking errors, rationalization, justification, and every form of denial known to man, creates what might rightly be called the “Monkey Brain” of addiction. Perfect for conducting the work of addiction, it relentlessly delivers the self-inflicted wounds that are the addict’s stock in trade that, unchecked, lead to his/her demise.
No disrespect to our distant cousins, the monkey, intended. There is a reason they have Monkey Brains—they are monkeys after all. Monkey Brains in humans is a different matter. This defective mind is created by convolutions in thinking and life processing. The reality for the addicted brain is, “Your best thinking got you here, and your current best thinking will not get your out!”

Our use of the term “Monkey Brain” is based on the Buddhist term “Mind Monkey,” xinyuan in Chinese, meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable.”

We use Monkey Brain to mean the combination of faulty thinking, lack of good judgment, flawed boundaries, and loss of contact with one’s personal truth. It means the sufferer is disconnected from reality. The addict creates a reality that only they understand, with rules that make sense only to them. To put it another way, the Monkey Brain is convinced up is down, down is up, left is right, and right is left.
With a Monkey Brain in place, addicts don’t think like normal folks. That is part of the bafflement for friends and family members; they are not privy to the addict’s reality. It makes no sense to them; it is just not the world they are living in.

When friends say, “You’re going to lose your job,” a fact obvious to all except the addict, the addict’s Monkey Brain is not penetrated by the truth of it. Too many justifications and rationalizations protect the addict’s reasoning from believing or embracing any such talk.

The Monkey Brain starts puking out justifications and defenses:

“Yeah, I probably drink a little too much. But heavens, I’m not a heroin addict for crying out loud.”

“Oh things got messy a while back, but I have really cut down, I know my limits now.”

“I’ll only drink on the weekends” or “I’ll give up the hard stuff and stick to beer.”

“I’ve battled this for 40 years and haven’t won. No need to think I can now.”

“It’s those guys I work with. They always drag me along, and they make fun of me if I don’t keep up with them.”

“Maybe I do drink too much, but hell, it’s my life and I will live it how I want.”

These are Monkey-Brain deductions. All have one result: they make recovery impossible and keep the addiction in the addict’s life.

These Are Self-Inflicted Wounds

If autopsies were conducted on addicts, the most prevalent contributing cause listed would be: “Death by addiction due to self-inflicted wounds.” These self-inflicted wounds occur when the Monkey Brain is running the show. One addict starts, “I got all up in my head,” when explaining his acting out and the latest relapse damage report. What addict doesn’t relish a world-class pity party on his way to enjoying his addiction? These are self-inflicted wounds.

Many deal with issues not of their own making like unrequested trauma and genetic or cultural issues not of their choosing. These maladies require their own special therapeutic solutions, but the self-inflicted wounds fall within personal accountability and there are options. There are skills that can mitigate these.

Recovery might even be described as the process of learning or gaining the skills to stop the carnage. Addicts have the power to stop shooting themselves in the foot . . . or head, as the case may be.

A good place to start is by turning off the Monkey Brain and putting it into storage. Skills like self-awareness, the quieting of self, accountability, and living in this particular moment help accomplish that. The hopeful truth of Recovery is that “with repeated and direct attention towards a desired change we all have the ability to rewire our brains.” (Alta Mira Recovery)

Quite interestingly, in the depths of addiction, addicts are absolutely convinced self-inflicted wounds are administered by the hands of others. “People don’t listen to me; I’m always getting screwed over.” In short order the addict is offended; in the fertile soils of the Monkey Brain, gargantuan resentments are grown (perennials that never stop blooming). Nothing remotely close to personal accountability ever enters the addict’s garden or penetrates the Monkey Brain.

The Monkey Brain spawns the wounds. Insecurity, fear, jealousy, anger, self-righteousness, and their many close cousins father the daggers that cut one’s emotional flesh. Their toxic, infectious nature chokes out serenity, integrity, duty, honor, compassion, humility, and healing and leaves festering wounds with condemnation to repeated addictive behaviors.

And guess whose fingerprints are all over the daggers?