How much did you pay for the high you’re on?
High? I’m not high!
There’s been a growing heaviness on my heart to talk about a certain substance use…abuse…that is rampant in our culture. It is so prevalent that it’s normalcy keeps it under the radar. It isn’t illegal and isn’t ingested.
It is adrenaline.
Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone naturally produced by both our adrenal glands and specific brain nerve cells. It is a chemical messenger that plays a key part in regulating body functions that are automatic. Breathing, heart rate, blood sugar and eye dilation are all examples of body functions that occur without conscious thought and respond to this hormone.
Adrenaline plays a vital role in the fight-flight-freeze response (also called the acute stress response). This reaction to perceived life-threatening circumstances is a means to survival.
Adrenaline is a good thing.
Without adrenaline, we’d have to reason our way out of emergency situations. Can you imagine?
“On my current trajectory, I will collide with that tree. Should I stop? Should I turn? Should I….”
Adrenaline is a lifeline when emergency strikes because it begins a chain of events necessary for survival of a potentially fatal event. Quick movement requires increased blood flow. Increased blood flow requires a higher heart rate. A higher heart rate requires more oxygen. All these things are set in motion, in part, by adrenaline.
What triggers adrenaline to do its job?
Emotional changes like fear, anger and…actually, pleasure.
Most maturing individuals have probably had this science lesson already. But what we may not be taught in fifth grade biology is our learning to leverage our adrenaline…to use it…in ways and at times that have nothing to do with survival.
But still have everything to do with how we feel.
Did you procrastinate on studying for a test? Fear of failing begins. Adrenaline is released, the mind sharpens, a textbook opens, an all-nighter cram-session ensues, and the reward is success, creating feelings of pride and pleasure.
What if we use own personal stash of hormones for sport? A little extra blood flow might get that win! A win would feel great!
Ever felt a rush when telling a lie? Stealing? Spilling gossip? Sex?
What is sought, after all the hype, is the feel good.
There’s a friend of mine who comes to mind when I think of adrenaline addiction. I’ll refer to him as Owen.
Owen is competitive and likes to be center stage. He has a history of playing sports, musical performance and being “the guy.” He is married with kids and has been very successful in business. But he leans to being emotionally volatile. He is super fun to spend time with yet barks harshly at those who are disagreeable to him.
Now Owen is not dangerous. He is not prone to violence nor has he ever been arrested. Neither is he diagnosed with mental illness.
Owen is a regular Joe. A normal guy looking for excitement. What’s wrong with that?
Owen creates drama. When there’s peace, Owen squirms. He goes digging for things to upset himself. Politics? He’s debating. Religion? Judging. Owen has a pattern of making mountains from molehills, catastrophizing when there’s no danger.
Owen creates stress to get an adrenaline rush.
I love Owen. He has a really blessed life and is a pleasure to spend time with. I am concerned for his health and well-being. Excess stress, and its repetitive cascade of physical biological reactions, is harmful over time.
Like other outside source of highs, our bodies require more and more hormone to obtain the same physical response. So, without the stimulus, life is boring or even depressing and continuing to “use” creates new health concerns.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website on Stress Management it states:
“The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of many health problems, including: Anxiety, Depression, Digestive Problems, Headaches, Heart Disease, Sleep Problems, Weight gain, Memory and concentration impairment.”
(Here is the link to that article)
Beyond being concerned for Owen’s health, I am concerned that fear, and the adrenaline it produces, is as contagious as a coronavirus. We fall into panic like dominoes when we hear the storm is coming. And when we panic we become part of the storm…part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
So you see, my friend Owen has become a storm creator. His need for an adrenaline high means he is an unsafe individual to me. Our friendship stays at arms length because I know that he is uncomfortable in times of peace and will seek to end it. And I like peace.
Substance use, even in this form, is self-harm. We do not live in a bubble, therefore self-harm equates to hurting others. How I behave affects my family, friends, neighbors, and community. If I am living in a storm (don’t we all know people who live in perpetual storms?), I am creating fear and anxiety in others. Thus, the storm grows. If the people I hurt are wise, they will set boundaries in place for protection, like a self-imposed quarantine intended to stop the run of contagion.
The state of world affairs is one giant storm. This is a time of legitimate physical and financial crisis. Our people are sick. Our people are dying. Our people are losing work and closing businesses.
This is excessive stress!
Why add more fuel to the fire? The opportunity to “shoot up” with media, social media or community gossip should be limited to one package per family!
Are we high on hype?
Yes, I think we are. But it’s not new to these times. Like changing fashion, we’ve been buying into the trends of our culture.
Why is Adrenaline addiction on my heart now? I’m saddened by the state of my community, country and planet. I’m tired of the drama stirred up politically and set afire by the media. I’m sickened by finger pointing and “sharing” of fictional articles and posts that hurt my fellow man.
Can you relate?
Maybe you never thought about your hormones in this way before. Maybe this is new information to you. Maybe you’ve struggled to identify why you feel bored, irritable or weary.
There is good news. Many of us are currently rich in a new resource. We’ve been given an abundance of time. Why not spend some of this wealth on personal introspection? What is stopping you from looking at your part in creating or building up the storms of life? What about practicing the skill of boundary setting? There’s never been a better time.
Today is known as Good Friday. For Believers it is a day to commemorate the day Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind.
Might I suggest that Jesus Christ put down one major boundary that day? Can I go so far as to suggest that God said to Evil, “Enough! This is where it ends!”
When Christ died, everyone believed that Death won. But, on Sunday, the one we celebrate as Easter, Life was restored! We are invited to join in the death and resurrection with our lives. But something must die that something new might come to life.
As a Believer, I want to be, even if in very small ways, like Christ. I want today to be the day I say, “Enough” to fear. I want to establish and keep boundaries in healthy places both with my own actions and in relation to others. I want to live untethered to drama and the pandemic side effects of adrenaline abuse.
Why not create feelings of pleasure with doing good? Why not circumvent the hype?
Good Friday can be the day we use our bodies…our hormones…in a good way. A smile can be seen from six feet away. A “hello” can be heard from across the street. Words can be written and sent around the world. This too is contagious.
Let us seek change. Let’s use time for our good. Let’s leverage the label of a day…Good. It really is good enough.