Dependence...It's More Than Just "The Shakes"

dependence substance use Mar 16, 2023

A misconception within the context of addiction is that addiction is a product of having an "addictive personality". The research shows that there is no such thing as an addictive personality –however certain personality traits (I.e risk taking, impulsivity) may impact on the initiating behaviour, but it doesn’t maintain it.  

Addictions are understood as learned and repeated behaviours (essentially unhelpful habits) that once established, become difficult to terminate even with the risk of drastic negative consequences.

  • The core dimensions of addiction are:
    • The development of a well-established, unhelpful pattern of a pleasurable and positively reinforcing behaviour, (such as using a mood-altering substance or engaging in a mood altering behaviour)
    • The presence of physiological and psychological components of the behaviour pattern that create dependence, and
    • The amalgamation of these components in one's life that make the behaviour prominent, prioritised and resistant to change
      • This is why it doesn’t work to say to someone “Isn’t your baby/wife/job/health more important than using/acting out/drinking?”
      • While yes, on paper these things are important, the way the brain perceives the substance or behaviour is with life saving energy – not many things are more important to us than staying alive.. plus it adds extra shame and guilt which takes you back to pre-contemplation! 


So then what is dependence?

  • The term dependence indicates that there is a reinforced reliance on a particular behaviour (or its effects) and that the pattern of this behaviour involves poor self-regulation and continues despite negative consequences. Poor self-regulation means great difficulty in self-soothing or managing big feelings and this typical occurs when people practice using or acting out as a way to manage their emotions.
  • Negative feedback or consequences as a result of the addiction includes breakdowns in a relationship, productivity problems as well as health or safety risks. Quite often are aware of these concerns yet still feel out of control or like a puppet on the strings. 


Now what do we do?

  • Most rehabilitation programs say you need to stop.
  • The TARA Clinic encourages you to CHANGE


It is through the implementation and practice of the tools and strategies in Empowered Recovery and through the core framework taught in Recovery Essentials, that you can truly change.

  • Change is outside our comfort zone so by definition it will feel uncomfortable.
    • Remember the brain’s threat response perceives discomfort to equal death…
    • Early recovery is learning to become comfortable with the discomfort of being well.


Dependence and addiction isn’t a lifelong sentence. Just as recovery isn’t a lifelong battle. When you know the way and course correct as needed, you will find the freedom you truly crave.