Addictions touch almost every one of us. Some of you have had (or do have) addiction issues yourself, others have grown up in homes where addictions caused a lot of unpleasant memories, some of you may have friends or family in your lives now that struggle with any host of addictions.
The actual addiction matters very little. Whether it is drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, eating, self harm, or any other addiction you can think of, I believe they are all triggered by one “simple” cause. You’ll have to keep reading if you want to know what it is. 😉
When I was still deeply affected by my own addictions, I never really understood why I was addicted. I knew that I didn’t want to be. I knew it wasn’t good for me. I knew that I was avoiding good and healthy relationships in favour of people who had the same addictions because I knew they wouldn’t get on my case about it. Professionals would remind me of how damaging my addictions were, how they would affect my family, my future and my health. Many people looked down on me as though this was all just a choice that I was making and I should just snap out of it. If only it was that easy…
In my opinion, that is 100% the wrong way to approach addiction.
I am going to go out on a limb here and tell you what I think the real issue is and how to fix it. I am not saying it will be easy but I do believe one common thread ties all addictions and addicts together.
People who are truly happy with themselves do not feel much of a need to escape from their lives. If you have a good self-esteem, you won’t need alcohol or a drug to calm you down or make you feel more comfortable. When your life is going well for you and you feel as though you are really in control, you won’t turn to excessive shopping, gambling, or eating too much in order to gain control.
So what do we do with those who are addicted?
I think we need to start with a simple question.
Why are you sad? What is hurting you? What pain are you trying to smother or shove down?
They may not even know the answer to that question. They might have no clue. If you are dealing with an addiction right now, you might not even be able to pinpoint the reason WHY but I would be willing to bet that under all that negative behaviour is pain or sadness, perhaps a loss that you never dealt with fully.
Trauma or abuse in childhood?
Being excessively bullied (by peers or parents)?
A loss? Death, love, your home, an unrealized dream, a squashed talent?
Being ignored or made to feel unimportant?
Having no support system?
I could go on for ages but any true pain that is left unexplored or not dealt will fully can be the trigger that shoots an addiction in to high gear.
The real problem here is that while I believe the beginning is always based in sadness, the answers are not always simple to address. In my case, years of therapy was needed before I finally begun finding a place of peace and that is when I started watching the grips of addiction loosen. Even years after giving up alcohol (Feb. 17th, 1998), I still get cravings when my life begins to feel out of control or I am hurt in some way.
There is help though… addiction recovery programs whether they be in-patient or in the basement of a church, those good ol’ 12 step programs that can be found for almost any addiction these days. Narcotics, alcohol, food, sex, gambling…
There is a lot out there and I would promote them to anyone looking for help but they all tend to focus on the addiction itself and ways to avoid/stop doing it. That takes care of one very important side of addiction but that core sadness is still there unless you find a way to deal with it.
How do we as a society, as a friend, as a spouse, or as a professional really help?
Find a way to uncover that sadness. Try to put aside the addictive behaviours just for a little while and try to look as far in to that addicts life as they will let you. Try to steer them towards help that can assist them in finding out what it is that started their addiction and keeps them addicted.
It is a compassionate way to offer your help and in my opinion? It will be far more successful than pointing out why the person shouldn’t be doing it. They know. Chances are, they just can’t stop it because they are still needing it as a way to “drown their sorrows”. If you can’t help? Get a professional involved. There are many therapists that deal solely with addictions these days.
And if you are the addict? I am so sorry for your pain. I am sorry for whatever happened to you or is still happening to you even if only in your memories. You deserve a better life and you can have one. It will not be easy and it won’t be quick but you can do it when you are willing to uncover why you are in need of a soothing agent. When you can find the courage to start healing your pain and find out what emotions you are trying to force down, your addiction will begin to loosen its grip on you and fighting it will become easier. Not “easy” but easier.
You are far more than your addiction. That is only a part of who you are. Try to stop defining yourself in that negative light and begin to uncover what is good about you. Perhaps you have a hidden talent, an ability to create, a useful skill, knowledge that you have come by honestly while trying to live this life.
Reach out. Get help. ACCEPT help. You can do this.
I found another blog that relates to this one but offers some other skills that one coudl use and may find helpful. Thank you Patty for allowing me to share it here.
I Want To Learn This (found on pattyspathtohealing)