Olli Niemi’s existential analysis of addiction


Further Reading

Dear Dr. Peele:

My question (or discovery): addicts sleep, right? What happens when they sleep? Why they don’t stay awake if the addiction (to whatever substance) is so strong? How can they sleep?

Is it possible to compare this with “natural needs”? Example: when I sleep, I rarely urge to go bathroom to, for example, urinate. If the urge to urinate is so strong that my bladder is going to “burst,” (e.g. when I begin to sleep when I think I should have gone to bathroom before I went to bed) I’ve noticed my sleep is in those cases somewhat shorter. I’ve seen people who wake up and go to bathroom to urinate — like sleepwalkers!

So my question is: do you know anybody who wakes up because he/she has to take a new dose? Or is the need to take a new dose somewhat milder than the need to urinate so that they do not experience the need to wake up? Is there difference between the “more physical” feel to urinate and the “more psychological” need to take a drug? (And please discount other reasons to wake up (e.g. the results of law enforcement and/or side effects of drug use)).

Dear Olli:

Wow! Are you studying for a degree? You are doing one of the most thorough existential explorations I have ever observed. Why and when you eat/take drugs, have different reactions to both, overdo both, withdraw from both. As you point out, even overeaters, smokers, drinkers et al. don’t wake up to do those things (although they may rush to do them once they have awakened), unlike those who must urinate badly, who do wake up. There seem to be different levels of physical need involved in these things. This is a fascinating way of looking at these things; very original I think.


Are my questions tough? 🙂

I want to tell you I’ve some experience in compulsive eating. I’ve not been too fat but once I’ve had over 20 kilos of extra weight. I think this was a result of “bullying.” I was not able to concentrate on my studies (because of the “bullying”). I used to concentrate on some other tasks to get my thoughts out of schoolwork (to not do them and all so that I could not be “bullied” because I did them wrong or inadequately).

I tend to eat too much and too fast when I was concentrating (or desperately trying to do that) on other things. I think I ate too “violently,” because when I did that, my sense of taste did not even feel the taste of the food: so I was forced to eat more and more to feel the taste because I was not able to delay the “intake” of two consecutive “bites” (or whatever). When I ate more, more feelings of inferiority came to my mind.

I also used to drink too much caffeine beverages when I thought I should do something but was too depressed to do anything. Of course I did things – a lot of things – computer programming and such; but I was too “introverted” to do what other people wished I should do. I had really bad self-confidence. (I have to say this; I’m also a perfectionist – naturally or because of conditions – I don’t know, but it seems natural to me.)

I also noticed the changed pleasure behavior became the more frequent the more I blamed it and the longer I kept it (the behavior) on. It was not a matter schoolwork anymore. It was connected to depression; when I did not get enough pleasure of other things, I promptly started to eat (and later maybe drink “adequate doses” (thus excessive amounts) of caffeine beverages).

I’ve got rid of that behavior by now. Today I have the same weight, am healthy, don’t use any medication, and my weight it’s stable and I can’t get much fatter even if I try it. But at times I’ve seen – when I’m depressed – that I tend to continue that behavior: I tend to concentrate on other things and “replace my pleasure behavior” with other things.

When these relapses occurred, I tend to blame myself. “I should not continue this self-deception” or similar. When I blamed, I tend to get more tense and that made my case even worse. Then I noticed something about substance use: some people use them as “additionals,” some use them as “substitutes”; some people tend to get additional pleasure from substance use, and some tend to replace their pleasure behavior.

Today I’m a gourmet (not as profession). I’ve tried to continue hard things (that were hard for me and caused me to “escape” to eating) and at the same time eat the food I sometimes ate when I ate too much. I’ve seen the same “dosage” has very different effect and I’ve started to enjoy the things I sometimes hated; I also tend to eat and do work at the same time; I eat a lot less and it tastes better because the frequency is so long between two consecutive “bites” (or whatever). The pleasure effect of eating is not a “substitute” so often for me and when I eat, I’ve seen I do it merely to get the work done more effectively (to enjoy more doing it). Much the same thing is true for my caffeine use today. So I “cheated” my pleasure behavior – consciously.

Olli Niemi

Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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