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Pleasure and Effort

Seems counter-intuitive.

Pleasure or “fun” is part of happiness. To be clear, it is not the main part of happiness and pleasure alone can not bring happiness.

But it is necessary. All work and no play can become a problem.

Hedonic vs Eudaimonic

What can you do for fun? Some people have a hedonic orientation. Pursuing fun and pleasure at all costs.

Especially at younger ages.

Others have a eudaimonic orientation. Focusing on achievement, goal attainment, and altruism.

Fun Changes Over Time

Most have a “mix” but “lean” one way or the other. This is not a static state and it can change over time.

What qualifies as “fun” also changes over time.

As you get older and social circles change your orientation toward “fun” may change.

As age related social norms change you will be drawn toward new activities.

Or, at the very least, you will be driven away from “old” activities. It’s just not cool 45 years old and hanging out at the night club.

The Pleasure Dilemma

The pleasure dilemma is more pronounced with people in recovery.

Obviously, the substance provided pleasure and, at least early on, some level of “fun”.

For me, it provided a ton of fun early on. It was always central to the experience.

Pursuing pleasure and fun is something you may need to work on in recovery. It may not come natural.

Remember, we do better when we live intentionally and plan our days.

Manage life or it will manage you.

Reward Deficiency Syndrome

Throw in the issue of reward deficiency syndrome (RDS) and finding ways to “enjoy yourself/have fun” can be quite frustrating.

RDS is somewhat controversial.

I believe it is a true phenomenon. However, like many other issues related to addiction, it is over emphasized.

It is likely NOT the case for many people with an substance use disorder.

Severity and individual factors must be taken into consideration. There is great variety among people with substance use disorders.

RDS-theory (Dr. Kenneth Blum). Born with low D2 (dopamine):

The Thrill Is Gone

Some people have fewer D2 receptors than the general population, up to 40% fewer in some brain areas like the nucleus accumbens.

These people are not as excited about reaching their goals.

Their whole “reward system” is relatively flat.

Life is not as much of a buzz for them as it is for most people.

The thrill is gone. In fact, maybe it was never there at all.

The wrong allele of the DRD2 gene, and fewer D2 receptors = RDS.

How are you going to get the thrills those around you seem to get?

Hyper-Excite, What?

Drugs, gambling, and other super-fun stuff might be the most effective way.

These “rewards” are hyper-exciting for most people.

For you, who are chronically under-excited, they might be the only way to feel really engaged with life.

Addiction, then, is just an unfortunate side-effect.

Reward deficiency leads you to seek out the biggest bang for your buck. Which makes sense, because everyone wants to feel the thrills and pleasures of life.

Crossing The Line!

Chronic substance use exacerbates and produces more severe RDS-like condition.

Even if the person “started” at a normal baseline they can advance to RDS via chronic substance use.

The theory proceeds as follows: as the person progresses with substance misuse (regardless of RDS or chronic exposure) they “cross the line” into a permanent neurobiological change. Where the altered system is “more sensitive”.

Re-Activation

The cascade can be “re-activated” very easily. “One is too many”. “Complete abstinence”.

“The first one…” Again, everyone is different and we don’t need to walk around in fear that RDS will somehow “take us out”.

Keep in mind: stress, trauma (chronic exposure) can influence D2 and RDS. Very complex.

Thrill seeking does not automatically equal RDS RDS can manifest itself in all kinds of addictions. Negative and positive.

Some people with a substance use disorder and/or in recovery have RDS but it is not universal.

Manage Dopamine

There are many reasons that substance use disorders develop. Complex and individualized.

There is no one explanation and there is no one solution. I believe I fall into the RDS category.

In recovery the brain will eventually return to pre-addiction baseline levels (in regards to dopamine). However, this pre-addiction baseline will still fall below normal range.

This makes the pleasure issue more challenging.

We need to manage our dopamine.

Distracting

There are ways to do that. More to come on how to manage this deficiency.

I’ve struggled with pleasure and fun and risk using work as a distraction from this reality.

I’ve just started a 60 day fix. My own invention.

I will let you know how it goes. – Thanks, Rich

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