Benefits of Addiction - Margôt Tesch, Writer
July 13, 2016

Benefits of Addiction

Addiction makes us stronger

So you think I'm crazy, using a headline like that? Maybe, but I've been reading a couple of great books and they got me thinking ... there are benefits to addiction. These benefits are only attainable if you become addicted and then get over it (as I'm told most people actually do).

Equivalent Advantage

In Napoleon Hill's classic novel Think and Grow Rich, he repeatedly says: "Every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage". You've no doubt heard of the well-used adage that a failure or mistake should be considered a 'learning experience'? Well Napoleon takes that idea to a whole new level. He tells the compelling story of his own son, born without any ears.  How do you perceive having a disability, such as having no ears, as bringing an 'equivalent advantage'? Napoleon's son managed to do just that. It was seriously one of the highlights of the book, a jaw-dropping and thought-provoking case study.

While most people who face adversity might say they would rather that it had not happened, they also often say, they have become a better person as a result of the adversity. I'm sure you know what I mean ... that you've heard people say this too? Well, I understand now that they have been able to perceive 'the equivalent advantage' in the crisis they faced. They not only survived but went on to live fulfilled lives.

Learned patterns of Addiction​

How does 'finding equivalent advantage' relate to addiction? Well, reading Biology of Desire by Marc Lewis gave me a brilliant idea. Marc, a recovered addict himself, is a professor of developmental psychology as well as a neuroscientist. He argues that addiction is a learned behaviour rather than a disease ... which is what I have always believed. By way of five compelling case studies, Marc demonstrates that the brain changes due to addiction are more normal than abnormal. 

The addiction process strengthens those parts of the brain that support the addiction cycle - manifestation of the desire, impulses seeking fulfillment and then brief relief achieved by indulging. Then the neural patterns begin again.

But there is more ...

Benefits of Addiction

Addiction improves the brain

Strengthens the brain

The recovery process, however, strengthens the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls our judgement and enables us to override impulses and desires for our greater good. There is now documented evidence that recovered addicts, despite the damage temporarily caused by their addiction, greatly enhance their brains in this area! The grey matter that develops as a result of overcoming their addiction puts them in a better position, neurologically speaking than before they ever became addicted!

Wouldn't you call this an 'equivalent advantage'?

Not that I'm advocating you go out and get addicted so that you can develop a super-human prefrontal cortex (judgement capability)! But recovering/recovered addicts can move forward with confidence, converting their difficulties into an 'equivalent advantage'. The whole experience will empower them in all areas of their life. They are/will be stronger, better human beings.

That's an idea worth spreading! Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Natalie says:

    Great post, I love how science is gradually revealing which of our old “truths” actually have substance – eg “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” etc. Perhaps this topic is really the Benefits of Overcoming Addiction?

    • Margot says:

      Yes, semantically you are correct about the headline. I found out German philosopher Nietzsche wrote that quote. He was renowned for making philosophy accessible to all. It is apt for this post.

  • Marc Lewis says:

    I’m really glad you’re talking about this, Margot. I hear from hundreds of recovered addicts on my blog (website linked above) who say exactly that. Of course they don’t have access to the synaptic configurations of their own brains. But they do find a depth of self-knowledge and self-acceptance that expands their horizons — well beyond their limited self-awareness from before their addictions.

    • Margot says:

      Hi Marc
      Sorry the link to your blog didn’t display. (Must check the settings).
      http://www.memoirsofanaddictedbrain.com/blog/

      I guess part of recovery is looking inside yourself and confronting the aspects of your life that drew you into the addiction in the first place. So in reality the benefits of the recovery process can be far-reaching.

      I think also this blog is about the choices we make when faced with adversity. Some people, inspiringly, find the significant advantage. I’m determined this will be me, no matter what life throws at me.

      Thanks for your comment.

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