Happiness and Hepatitis

My daughter, Kelsey, and I have been reading a book by Simon Sinek called Start With Why. Ok, so we are too lazy to read, but we have watched every one of his Youtube videos, and his Ted Talk twice. We especially like the ones that talk about relationships, motivation, and “WHY”. Why do we follow certain people? Why do we do what we do with passion? Why do we get up in the morning? Or not?

Simon shares that there is a science behind the “why”. Every time we win, a little squirt of one or more of the 4 happiness chemicals: endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin gets dumped into our bloodstream and makes us feel all warm, fuzzy and looking for the next “hit”. Addicts get this through drugs or alcohol and gamblers when they win the pot. The problem with all of those vices is that they never last, nor do they help others. Bad habits are never sustainable and they are often completely selfish and destructive to family, faith, and community.

The Science Behind Addiction

I think it’s really important that we understand the science behind addiction. If surges of hormones make us continue to seek the drug, then we have to consider how to keep those feelings, affections, and hormones flowing with things that will last, are legal, and contribute to a bit of goodness in this mean ‘ol world.

Here are some of the happiness chemicals:

  • Endorphins: They help to diminish our perception of pain and keep us going during workouts. Think of that “runner’s high”.
  • Dopamine: This chemical motivates us to achieve incremental goals and can reward motivated behavior. This makes us feel good when we check things off our to-do lists or get achieve milestones.
  • Serotonin: This can provide feelings of significance, pride, and status. It drives us to seek the recognition of others. Simon Sinek calls this the leadership chemical and what creates a sense of allegiance and organizational cohesion.
  • Oxytocin: My personal favorite, often referred to as the cuddle hormone. Creates intimacy, and trust, the feeling that someone will protect you. Moms, babies, and lovers share this one. This is the hormone that causes a mothers milk to produce and ‘let down’ when her baby cries.

Fascinating that all of these chemicals can be produced through various forms of service to others. Seems science validates our idea that families and communities are important and do best when they work well together. It also confirms the suspicion that using punishment to try to treat addiction is futile since addiction is often at its root an effort to avoid the punishment and pain of living a sober life.

Replacing Negative Behavior with Positive Action

Why would we do that? It seems stupid and cruel to me to shame, punish, and humiliate people who are addicted. Isn’t that just going to make them want another drink, shot, or snort? Tactics that are aimed at making people hit rock bottom, face consequences, go to jail, face tough love…how can we possibly think this will work when suffering was what caused the addiction? So more suffering should help? Addicts are willing to persist despite negative consequences to get drugs. They lose their house, car, friends and everything else why would another punishment help?

Perhaps looking for ways to build community, get those natural happiness chemicals flowing, treating people with hepatitis C, connecting people to significant work, maybe those kinds of things are worth exploring when we have conversations about addiction and recovery.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The HepatitisC.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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