Adrenaline Addiction


It’s Narcissist Friday!   


Okay, you have left the narcissist. Now life is boring. You are thinking about going back. Or you have met someone new and the same characteristics are obvious. What are the chances that you are stepping into another narcissistic relationship?

Or you find that your life just goes from one drama to the next. You were raised by a narcissist and you long for some sense of peace. But that peace never seems to come. The stress might come from friends, from the kids, from the extended family, or whatever, but it never seems to stop. One crisis after another.

You say that you would love to have a dull moment, that maybe you would take an hour or two away from the craziness to let your head clear. But you never do it. The truth is that you get bored very easily these days. You find it hard to concentrate. At work, you fuss about home. At home, you fuss about work. Even if you had a vacation, you would probably spend it fussing about something.

When the body encounters times of stress, it produces adrenaline, a chemical that intensifies your ability to run or fight or deal with what it considers a threat. Your heart rate increases. You have more energy and stamina. Your attention is more focused. You feel stronger.

Some people report that they work best under pressure. What that usually means is that they use the stress of the pressure to access the adrenaline needed to focus and think quickly. Most of the time we don’t do our best work under pressure, but we can get things done.

Few people understand the stress of living in a narcissistic relationship. If the source of stress isn’t active, the anticipation provides the adrenaline. Maybe the narcissist isn’t even home from work yet, but you can feel the tension rising. All day you sat in a funk, but now you fly around getting things done to try to prevent the stress. Where does that energy come from?

Adrenaline addiction is a recognized struggle for many in our culture. All you have to do to see the reality of it is to watch a 1970’s drama or action television show. Ever notice how slowly they move? Young people often comment on how slow things are on those shows. They are boring, they say. But those shows made the 1950’s shows seem slow. Today, many people can’t watch fiction television at all. They want “reality.” They want to feel the relationship and competition stresses. Those of us who are older are often amazed at the stresses young people make for themselves.

The primary problem with adrenaline is that you don’t have to buy it, and you can’t just shut off your supply. Your body produces it naturally. Yet, some professionals believe it is as addicting as morphine. If you add to the situation by using a lot of sugar or foods with additives or other addictive substances, you may intensify the feelings of stress.

And one of the primary problems with any addiction is that the substance eventually creates the very thing it helped at the beginning. In other words, adrenaline helped you to cope at the beginning of the relationship. But now, when the relationship is over, the adrenaline makes you feel depressed and lonely and bored. Instead of longing for peace and rest, you really find yourself anticipating and even desiring the next crisis.

I am convinced that we are a culture addicted to adrenaline. I have believed this ever since I first read Dr. Archibald Hart’s book, Adrenaline and Stress, back in the 80’s. I am almost as convinced that the reason some people fail to overcome narcissistic relationships is because they have been hooked by the adrenaline.

So what do you do? Well, the answer is not easy. You must find a way to health. Exercise is a common prescription for adrenaline addiction. Focusing the energy in other ways: hobbies, volunteering, writing, etc. If you can find a good counselor, he or she might have some ways to cope with the let-down of separation from the narcissist.

But one important thing is to recognize the lie. The lie says that you are in danger, that you should be ready to run or hide or fight. In the relationship that seemed to be true, but ask yourself if it is still true. Give yourself permission to rest. Choose to trust people who support you. Let yourself laugh and do regular things. Remember, when you feel like others are boring, that it may be the adrenaline telling you that you are moving too slowly. Walk just a little slower. Smell the flowers.

You see, the drama can be addicting, but it isn’t good for you. You don’t really work best under pressure. Life doesn’t always have to be crazy. You can pamper yourself with a walk or a good book or a bath or a nap or a precious time of just watching the birds and squirrels play. These are the things rich and contented people can do—and they are things you can do. The more you trust the Lord and the more you trust yourself, the more you will relax. Let it happen. Push through the excuses and worry and nerves. Tell yourself that you are worth a time of peace and rest.


Filed under Narcissism

21 responses to “Adrenaline Addiction

  1. sandra

    Thank you, Pastor Dave, for this lovely article!

  2. Tammy

    This makes sense to me for sure. I also have ADD so this type of thing is amplified for me.

    During the height of the conflict with my ex-N, work also provided adrenaline due to the fast paced nature of the industry and my position. After we split up, promotions came and I was grateful for a faster pace at work and more adrenaline!

    I was a wreck for a while (I was OK after a year; all good after 2)… And determined to persevere. But because I ended it with only a few calm words (suddenly cutting off his N-supply), he became even more hostile and cruel. So I can see where the need for adrenaline can keep someone unwittingly going back for more.

    I am very happy to say that while my life isn’t perfect, it is peaceful. Jesus hasn’t ceased to amaze me after all these years. He is the ultimate replacement for any addiction. The Living Water that will quench your most desperate thirst.

  3. Carol

    A finalized divorce paper does not communicate to the nervous system. It is put in an intellectual file for some time. The subconscious continues to work, to protect as in the previous days. Something triggers a past experience, a sound refreshes past sounds, too much relaxation signals that it is time to move back to high alert. We traverse the well worn path over and over. What once began as a foot path, gradually wore down to a deep trench where we are walking, looking only at walls on either side. We must ‘will’ to slowly climb out. As we begin to see the sunlight, at first it is too bright, but our vision becomes clearer and we are able to cut a new path.

    The friendship between adrenaline and self preservation is far too complicated for me. I do understand that it will take as many years to repattern our ways of relating in life as we spent in a N relationship. For some of us, it will be ongoing for the rest of our lives. I’ve begun at the basic of learning to “breath”. To breath in slow rhythmic patterns, like it was in the womb.

    • Pam

      Wow, Carol, I relate.

    • Alice

      Wonderful comment, I felt exactly the same way – especially regarding the difficulty to simply “breathe”. Yoga practice helped me a lot.

      The foot path that became a deep trench… those walls so high that we can barely see any light…. but the light is still there, only that we can’t see it through the lies, manipulation, gaslighting, triangulation the N served us – and the way we let him cross and then trample over our boundaries (if we ever had any). The way he pulled or pushed or triggered us towards the trench… of our childhood wounds… and the over the edge, back down into the deep trench.

      But the light was and is always there, just as the sun always shines. It’s just that we can’t see it sometimes, or have forgotten how to lift our eyes from our feet up to the sky.

  4. Pam

    I am truly in awe of the timing of my receipt of these blogs! As my marriage with the N is ending, I find myself facing a feeling of void. Adrenaline addiction makes perfect sense- I am very thankful to receive this email at this exact time. I want to learn to live in peace, God’s peace. I have lived for (at least) 30 of my 52 years in that state, so I know this will also be a journey. Thank you, thank you for writing this.

  5. Thanks once again, Pastor Dave. I’ve been taking some classes at church about spiritual warfare that include renouncing lies that the deceiver can sneak into our thinking and replacing them with God’s truth. Trusting that the Lord will provide my needs counters the lie that I am still in danger, and trusting and resting in His love and grace counters the lie that I still need to run and hide or fight.

    I lost my job after I left, and I still do not have the replacement that I need. Being single without a job is scary, but the Lord has provided and given me some space and time for healing.

    The divorce is not yet final and and all the loose ends of ending a fifty-year marriage are not completely tied up, so I am still in some contact with him. I also continue to maintain that if he repents and can show me, over time, that he has changed his walk and is now living in obedience to God, we can consider remarriage. That means that struggles are still there and things can still get triggered, but I am blessed with some key people who are supportive. And after all those years of telling myself that I don’t matter–which was the most practical tactic I found while married to him–I am learning that I am worth a time of peace and rest.

    • Carol

      Maryleemorgan, you are worth a lifetime of peace and rest. While it has silently been surrounding you for 50+ yrs! it has been rare that you could hear or feel it over the cacaphony of life with a N. Please don’t settle for less than the best that God has wrapped you in and wants you to become aware of. Dare to become aware of your presence and your surroundings. This week I am practicing the sentence, “I am a human”. How tragic that I need to practice that truth in my 6th decade. It has been a very slow process to realize that my N ex claimed me as an extension of him. I was not allowed to be an individual human.

      I would ask you to seriously consider closing the door and dead bolting it against the possibility of ever moving remotely close to your N soon to be ex ever again. God will take card to provide everything you need. Please let yourself live the rest of your years in freedom.

      One more thing. The sentence, “You don’t matter”, did not start with you. He started weaving that into every cell in your brain 50 yrs ago. Evil people are cunning. They repeat something, like a mantra to you long enough so that you will continue the mantra so that they don’t have to waste their time saying it. It is insidious. Fight for as much spousal support and financial assets as you can from the marriage before you sign final papers. A man without a conscience will feel comfortable robbing you of what is rightfully yours. It is a sickness called “entitlement”.

      I am thankful to know that you have friends surrounding you. The devastation of saying “no” to a narcissists is beyond what most pro pie can grasp.

      • Thanks, Carol. Nice to know someone else in that sixth decade!

        Yes, I am looking after my financial interests, and so far he is being cooperative. I am trusting the Lord in all of this, however, not him.

        It’s no secret that I have had a hard time letting go emotionally. I fought for a lifetime marriage for so long that entitlement, in his case, was that he could do whatever he pleased and I would never leave him. Well, he found out. Now he is posturing better behavior to get me back. I don’t trust it. I don’t see real repentance.

        Actually, I don’t think I am going to have to be the one to make the no contact decision. All of our lives, when things got tough, my N threatened to leave and “never be heard from again.” That would, of course, have left me without child support, so it was a real threat. I always believed that he would do it. Now, with the oncoming disposition of the house meaning that he has to move out of it before long, he is planning to do exactly that. He says he will throw a few things in the truck and just take off for New Mexico. He is coming up on 72 years old, he can’t walk unassisted, and he can’t feel his feet any more. He is having small accidents while driving, and should not be driving. But he’s going to drive to New Mexico and “live off the grid.” He has other options, but he doesn’t like them. I think he may come back in a box! But that is in the Lord’s hands, not mine. The way it looks right now, this N is going to take himself out of my life.

        I am grateful that I can trust my Father God in all of this.

  6. a prodigal daughter returns

    Reblogged this on A Redemption Story and commented:
    This is real wisdom. I see it in churches that expect some “sign and wonder” at every service and whip people into a frenzy forgetting the God of the still small voice.

  7. Sunflower

    I think that adrenaline addiction is a huge part of the N’s issue as well. Both my Ns seem to be a bit depressed and so getting angry and causing someone else to be upset gives them a temporary buzz and energizes them. Isn’t that what causes the ‘cycle of abuse’? When the adrenalin wears off, they need another fix. Science now tells us that any form of sex other than what’s normal, gives off adrenalin/addicting hormones instead of oxytocin and other soothing hormones, so that explains a few more things about N’s, especially the porn and self-gratifying. (a non-Christian scientist who hoped for a different outcome discovered this)

  8. Pam

    So I want to heaar that I can change and grow and maybe, have a normal relationship? Is this possible?

    • Some here can give personal testimonies, but Megan’s book would be a great read for you.

    • Absolutely, Pam!! Its a difficult and sometimes painful process but it is possible! But this time, YOU will be the one defining what a ‘normal’ relationship looks like and YOU will be the one not willing to settle for less than…ever again!!

      I wish I could give you a step-by-step program for recovery but, unfortunately, there isn’t one. Your recovery will be based on your personality and past experience. Everybody’s recovery looks different so don’t compare your recovery to the recovery of other people. Read, study and learn! Watch youtube videos, read books and blogs until you find your path out – a path that resonates with you and allows for the greatest amount of healing in the shortest amount of time.

      I have found that meditation helps. Just being still and ‘listening’ to myself allows me the opportunity to ‘be’ with myself to see what I’m up to. If you find meditation difficult, try something else. For me, getting to the place where I can ‘feel’ my feelings without attempting to deny or stuff them has been helpful – difficult sometimes, but once I feel my feelings, they begin to have less a hold on me and start to lose their painful grip. Remember, feelings are not ‘right or wrong’. They’re neutral and you have every right to have them!

      I wish you peace and love on your journey. Don’t ever give up…no matter how difficult your journey and how insurmountable your obstacles appear. Just take one day at a time and one step at a time. Be good to yourself! You’re all you’ve got so be sure to take care of you.

    • Recovering

      It is Pam, I am proof. I had was married for 22 years to a malignant narcissist who was sociopathic. I remarried a healthy godly man and my life is 100 fold different….it is peaceful, loving, healthy and joyful. You can find love again and it can be healthy.

      • Recovering

        Also, I was in a friendship with my now husband for quite some time before we got engaged. I think being best friends first is a good way to start. The NPD starts things with flashes of thunder, fire works and passion. That is the first clue it’s not healthy.

      • Pam

        Thank you for sharing this.

  9. Thanks for writing this. It gav med something to think about.
    My divorce is just finished from my narc. I’ve pressed my self hard, and have donera all juridical stuff on my own, because I don’t want years of fighting. Now everything is over but there is to much adrenaline in my blood and my brain and body are fighting against me.
    I’ve been so tired last to weeks that I couldn’t operate as I should at my work. I had a blackout. My brain wasn’t working at all. Now am I sick leve for a month, and I will get consultation by a psykolog for my stress.

    It can really be true that I’ve become a stressaddict. I feel so restless and can’t concentrate at all. But I will use this time to get off my stress. I will give this time to my self. It’s just me now.
    Thanks again

    • Recovering

      After my divorce I encountered Adrenal Fatigue in a severe way. Plan on taking really good care of yourself, rest a lot because the battles wears out our bodies too. You will adjust to a peaceful life but it will take time. I am on year 5 now.

  10. Recovering

    I know after remarrying a very healthy godly man, I sometimes felt this ridiculous almost “need” to start a fight. I could not wrap my head around it at all….I didn’t start fights but soon realized….it was a way of life with my ex husband for 22 years and I had no idea what living in sustained peace felt like. Life is good, Life is peaceful now. Still healing

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