I may not know what you’re addicted to, but I know you’re an addict. Yep – a regular junkie. There’s the woman prostituting her body to fund her drug habit, the father who gets wasted every night, the investor constantly high on cocaine, the teenager getting stoned every day, and then there’s you. And you’re all the same.
Each one of you are compulsively doing something that makes you feel better (compared to the second just before you weren’t), and, you can’t actually stop yourself from doing it on a regular basis.
Not convinced? Very few addicts are. It’s classic: “I can stop if I want to”… There’s just always a reason not to, even if that reason is “I just don’t want to”, followed by a shrug.
So, what is it? Do you need a drink to relax (or to make things a little less boring)? Do you find yourself drawn to betting? Do you need that hit to make life a little more bright? Perhaps. Those addictions are the most common. But there are others that stay in hiding, insidiously gnawing away at your free will. That’s the thing with addictions: you probably don’t know it’s controlling your life.
Do you find it impossible not to do someone favours? Do you always feel like you’re not good enough? Do you find that you’ve lied to someone, when you didn’t even mean to? Do you find that you have the biggest relationship issues, just after you get in a great place with your partner? Do you need to cut someone down when they boast about their accomplishments? Do you need to be alone to recharge? Do you need to “get back to nature”? To feel respected? To be stress-free? To do something meaningful with your life?
I don’t care if what you need is functional (saving), healthy (exercise) or positive (charity work). I don’t care if you need it once a year or once an hour: if there are times where you just can’t go without it, you’re an addict.
Being an addict has many consequences, but there are two important ones that come to mind: 1) you’re no better than the junkie on the corner – you’re just lucky your addiction doesn’t also have a physical component and costs money; 2) when you cringe thinking about addicts or look down your nose at them, or feel sorry for them, these are more related to your own issues than anybody else.
So, the next time you think that there’s something wrong with people with obvious addictions or addictions to illegal substances, remember that you’re no different to them. The underlying mechanism – the need to do something in order to make yourself feel better – is there in all of us.
The good news is that the basis for recovery is the same for all of us. Of course, if your addiction also involves a physical component, that needs to be addressed as well, but the psychological basis is the same.
Practice holding that stress/frustration/craving, instead of relieving it.
There is a moment just before you engage the thing that makes you feel better. A moment where you feel a longing/frustration/craving/tension. Maybe you also feel uncomfortable or sad or angry or bored, but there is a craving to do something to change your mood. Just wait. Stop. Don’t. Bear that feeling. Don’t open the beer. Don’t relax. Don’t post on FB. Frustrate your frustration, if only for a second, and see how you feel.
It’s not easy and if you’re not used to recognising your own feelings, what I’m saying might even seem like gibberish. That’s okay, start with discovering how you feel once you do the thing that makes you feel better. How do you feel? Work back if you can.
If you have difficulty doing this or even believing that this can possibly help, then you’ve also gained some understanding of how “stereotypical” addicts feel. Like you, some can’t see/find/discover/recognise that they’re addicts. Some don’t want help. And that’s perfectly normal – after all – what you’re addicted to is there because it makes you feel better in some way. It’s functional and you’re doing it because it’s become the way you’ve learned to take away certain feelings that are hard to deal with whether you’re aware those feelings are there, or not.
Every time you reflect on why you need to do that thing that makes you feel better, you take away a little of its power over you. Every second you can bear the frustration of not feeling better, you build up a resistance to it. Who knows what that might reveal for you…