Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

(Martin Luther King)

I love this quote and fate had it that it was a lesson for me to learn. I was pointing the finger at a friend of mine who was getting drunk just about every night and was not showing up for her family’s needs. No matter how much I verbalized my concerns, she kept on drinking. In my search to help her with this addiction to alcohol, I came across this experiment and it really helped me understand how to approach this issue. Following is the experiment.

They put a rat with two bottles in a cage.

Bottle one was filled with heroin, while the other bottle was filled with clean water. After time passed, the rat felt isolated, depressed, and lonely. It only drank from the heroine bottle until it died.

Later, another experiment was done by Bruce K. Alexander. It was to see if rats would choose heroine if they had a purpose in their life and weren’t lonely, like the previous rat experiment.

He built a heavenly rat park to house a colony of about 200 rats. He gave them all their hearts’ desires like filling their cages with games, food, other social industrious rats, and they had plenty of sex.

He found that contrary to the first experiment, the rats thrived when interacting with the other rats and did not touch the heroine. They only drank the clean water.

Thus, the experiment proves that people who are lonely or living in confinement are more prone to addictions. Addictions are their escape from living a mundane existence. They choose to numb themselves because they might fall into misery.

When the rats in the rat park heaven had companionship and activities, they did not touch the drugs. This could be true for any type of addiction. So, why should you punish the rat that was lonely with no friends or activities if it consumed heroine?

There is a difference between the rat who was in rat heaven and the rat that was isolated. The first rat had a normal consumer reward. Like in rat heaven, when it was hungry, it ate, and it was sustained.

The other type of rat had an incentive reward. It was obsessed with a stimulant. It needed something to keep it satisfied. When the addicted rat in the experiment had no significance, it turned to the neurotransmitter dopamine, ignited by the heroin, and is a chemical in the body that makes you happy. This was its incentive reward.

However, dopamine can be good for you if it is generated by the right activities such as exercising, constructing things, and good eating habits - like eating more proteins, prebiotics, velvet beans, and less saturated fat etc.

Dopamine is also found in things like getting sleep, listening to music, praying, getting sunlight, and taking supplements. If used properly, it is beneficial for your well-being. Jolene Park claims people need to live a sensible lifestyle, like eating healthy, performing specific practices, and continuing to move, as this boosts the neurotransmitters. She claims that other positive benefits for dopamine and other neurotransmitters can be found in the acronym NOURISH. N–Notice Nature, O–Observe and Breathe, U–Unite with others, R–Replenish with Food, I–Initiate Movement, S–Sit in Stillness and H–Harness Your Creativity.

However, dopamine may also be a demon if it is stimulated by addictions like alcohol and drugs. The instant gratifications make you have no inhibitions, so you shame your loved ones, causing humiliation. Dopamine enslaves your moods, triggering you with high anxiety. It can destroy you.

Even if you use willpower and negotiations with your mind, giving up the negative craving for dopamine is hard work. All these techniques lead you back to dopamine. What helps to conquer the addiction of dopamine is a plan in place. Also, you must have a big enough reason to stop.

An example for me would be, if I were addicted to a substance, I would quit for my children’s sake. I believe I am their role model. I would stop an addiction that has a dopamine rush, so my children won’t be at risk of copying my behavior.

Make no mistake, conquering the fear of giving up dopamine is torment for the addict. They may be fighting a battle that no one understands. Because their drive in life is dopamine. We must be supportive and ask why the ritual of the negative patterns occur, instead of pointing the finger at them.

The addict could have been manipulated and had a miserable past. They see addictions as numbing their existence. Dopamine offers a false reality that makes them comfortable, so life is tolerable. But if they don’t conquer the addiction with a plan, they will always be enslaved to it.

So, keep to a plan and have a big enough reason why you want to live free from addictions! In retrospect, I tried to save her from the temptations, but I often ended up being her excuse not to change because I was so accommodating.

I certainly addressed my friends drinking issue with more knowledge. When she was ready, I introduced her to the organization AA. She became a valued member. I sometimes accompany her to meetings because it is a place that offers a lot of support and I love to see her thrive. She has been an active member there for over six years and rarely drinks.