“Of all the mammals, we humans have the least mature brain at birth. Early in their infancy other new born animals perform tasks far beyond the capabilities of human babies. A horse, for example, can run on its first day of life. Not for a year and a half or more can most humans muster the muscle strength, visual acuity and neurological control skills – perception, balance, orientation in space, coordination – to perform that activity. In other words, the horses’ brain development is at least a year and half ahead of our own – probably even more, in horse years. Our evolutionary predecessors were permitted to walk upright, which freed limbs to evolve into arms and hands, capable of many delicate and complicate activities. Those advances in manual versatility and dexterity required a tremendous enlargement of the brain especially of its frontal areas. Our frontal lobes, which coordinate the movement of our hands, are larger than those of our closest relative, the chimpanzee. These lobes, particularly their prefrontal areas, are also responsible for the problem solving, social and language skills that have allowed humankind to thrive. There are times in the first year of life when, every second, multiple millions of nerve connections or synapses. are established. Three quarters of our brain growth takes place outside the womb, most of it in the early years. By three years of age, the brain has reached 90% of adult size, whereas the body is only 18% of adult size. This explosion in growth outside the womb gives us a far higher potential for learning and adaptability than is granted to other mammals. – Dr. Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts)
There’s lots to glean from the above paragraph, whatever your beliefs about creation / evolution are. What I find most profound, is the immense amount of growth our brains have right after birth until about age 5. This growth slows down, but still continues at immense speed right up until our early teens. Unfortunately, most health-care systems treat addictions as an acute disorder. The cause of addiction is not basically substance dependent, it’s “experience-dependent”. This doesn’t completely rule out the addictive factors of substances or genetic factors that contribute to addiction, but primarily, the root, lies within the experiences we faced in childhood.
Our understanding becomes so much more clear and succinct when we start with, “this began in childhood.” I often have clients tell me that they don’t want to blame their parents or family members for their problems. That is NOT the purpose of going back to the beginning and uncovering what went wrong. But discovering more about complex trauma and the “why” helps us to know better. And when we know better, we do better.
Please as always feel free to reach out – you are not alone! We have staff and supports who are ready to help. I wish you all the best as you continue on your healing journey.