WoW 104: On the Wounded Cycle, Recovery, part 12 [Words of Wisdom]

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WoW 104: On the Wounded Cycle, Recovery, part 12


It's helpful to see the fundamental elements of things and how those elements interact. Today we take a deeper dive into the addict's past and what fuels addiction in what I call the Wounded Cycle. This episode is part 12 in a series on addiction and recovery. To see the entire Recovery series, go ​here​.

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Last week we discussed the ​core chaos cycle​ and how it contributes to addictive behavior. But there is more going on here. Much more. Where do addictions come from? What feeds them? How are they sustained over time?

Deeply understanding addiction is complex. I am 17 years into my own recovery journey. In that time I've personally seen more than 10 counselors, recovery coaches, or spiritual directors. I've been a part of multiple recovery groups, and completed an 18 month intensive outpatient treatment. I have a masters degree in psychology and an addiction studies certificate. I've worked at an inpatient treatment center and was privileged to be able to work at the same intensive outpatient program I was formerly a client, and much of my private practice is helping people struggling with addiction. Yet, how much do I understand addiction? In some ways it seems I am only just beginning to understand addiction. But I do want to share some of what I've learned along the way about what causes addiction.

First, I should acknowledge there are certainly genetic factors that contribute to addiction. There are also physiological elements, or ways that the brain and body gets triggered, becomes dependent, and develops tolerance towards a substance or experience.

But today I want to explore the deeper elements that are part of the life experiences and internal thought processes, those ways an addict makes meaning of the external world and their own life.

It turns out, that understanding these elements can be helpful for anyone, addict or not, who wants to move from chaos and pain and grow towards a life of flourishing. Because the brain is plastic, it can heal and grow. Where you are today does not mean you are trapped. You are capable of astonishing growth, healing, and transformation.

Just as the addictive behavior cannot be understood in isolation, the cycle of addiction must be understood in the context of what I call the Wounded Cycle. The Wounded Cycle is a combination of the following 5 elements:

First, their connection wounds, or attachment wounds.

Second, any specific trauma they have experienced, especially childhood trauma.

Third, as a result, a person's wounded stories

Fourth, and closely related, their false beliefs

Fifth, their shame which is essentially their false beliefs about themselves.

All of these elements feed each other and also fee into the Chaos Cycle, which we introduced last week.

A person can stop a specific addictive behavior, but if they do not heal the underlying wounds and the chaos cycle, they will likely only switch to another way of coping with their pain, shame, and trauma.

So the Wounded Cycle feeds the ​core chaos cycle​.

If healing and flourishing is to be experienced, all of these elements must be not only addressed, but transformed. This massive transformative experience is the strength and hope of the spiritual awakening and the deep work that we call recovery.


"Sometimes, when you're in a dark place, you think you've been buried, but actually you've been planted."

From the book ​Uninvited​ by Lysa TerKeurst

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."

From the book ​I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings​ by Maya Angelou


  1. How do you relate to the concept of the Wounded Cycle in your own life?
  2. What false beliefs do you hold about yourself? How do these beliefs impact your actions and decision-making?
  3. How do you experience shame in your life? If shame had a voice, what would it say about you? How does it affect your self-perception and relationships with others?
  4. In what ways do you currently cope with pain, shame, and trauma? Are there healthier ways you can approach these challenges?

(Use these questions as a journal prompt and prayers this week)


To understand addiction, you must take a long look back at your life, and you must look deeply inward.

Live wisely,


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