The word addiction has such a strong stigma attached to it, that some might not be able to accept that they could be afflicted with an addiction of their own. A daily drinker will often state how he can stop at any point and find reasons why he doesn’t stop. This drinker has so much pride clouding his vision, that he couldn’t fathom the thought of himself being an addict. When he thinks of the word addiction, he pictures a bunch of losers sitting in a circle crying about how they’ve lost everything. He’s sure that has nothing to do with him. If his denial is this powerful for an addiction to alcohol, imagine how blind he must be to the other more subtle addictions in his life.
When we think about addiction, our minds tend to view the extremes. We associate addiction with the typical substances such as heroin, cocaine, alcohol, or tobacco. If you’re dependent on any of these substances, you will constantly have people in your ear trying to save you. Society knows how destructive these substances are for your body. There are other substances that are just as addictive, but society is more accepting of these. If you depend on a cup of coffee every morning to function throughout the day, then you’re a junkie. Your tolerance can even increase, and you’ll find you’ve moved on to energy drinks with twice the amount of caffeine.
Addiction is not only limited to substances, but it also includes behavior. It just needs to be compulsive and out of one’s control. Eating is clearly becoming an epidemic in this country. The urge to eat during a structured weight-loss diet can be just as powerful as the urge to buy a fresh pack of smokes while attempting to quit. Also, there are people that satisfy fixes in their interactions with other individuals. Some might be addicted to people-pleasing in order to feel a sense of acceptance and belonging. Some people are addicted to the validation they receive through the positive reactions of the opposite sex when dressing provocatively. Some might be addicted to preaching religious beliefs to others to affirm their own superiority. Even religion can be an addiction. One can compulsively read scripture and pray to constantly seek a temporary place of peace and escape. There are infinite examples of addictive behavior, but what’s most important is to be able to recognize the essential nature of addictive behavior.
All types of addiction operate in the same fashion on a deep level. Everybody is looking for peace and happiness within themselves. We all go through life with a baseline of some amount of angst and uneasiness. We are all trying to avoid this and seek pleasure where ever we can find it. When we find something outside of us that will give us some semblance of happiness, we go back to that repeatedly to give us the desired response. When we are apart from that outside stimulus, we return to that angst and frustration. Our minds have become so conditioned to chasing the stimulus, it almost becomes impossible to break. Sometimes we’ll replace one addiction with another. I could quit doing heroin, but then start drinking like a fish. It’s just another way to get high. It is definitely commendable for someone to stop shooting up heroin, even if they started smoking like a chimney after that. Their health will definitely improve, but the nature of addiction is still within their being. Another way of dealing with addiction is avoidance. You’ll always hear about a heroin addict who was doing so well in rehab. You know, the same guy who was sober for 90 days in an inpatient rehab program that lasted 90 days. Why did he relapse? He was doing so well! Of course he was doing well. He’s in a controlled environment that restricts where he can go and what he can do. He’s nothing more than an addict that’s trapped in a box. You could implement anti-drug laws and restrictions on purchase. It still doesn’t address the addiction itself. Avoiding the stimulus and replacing one with another is effective temporarily for someone in very rough place, but it’s not the endpoint. I’m not in the business of coping with weaknesses. I want a heroin addict to get to the point where he can hold a syringe loaded with the substance and not even desire it.
At some point in your life, and hopefully that’s now, you are going to have to break your impulses. You are going to have to recognize how powerless you are under your conditioning. Only when you can recognize you are powerless over all your addictions, something else will take over. You will be forced to face your own pain that has sent you running towards the external temporary gratification. Observe the urge and really get to know what happens in your mind as this goes on. You don’t have to act on all of your urges. Observe what it is your ego is seeking. You might have relapses every so often and that’s fine. You won’t become perfect overnight. Hold on to the intention of giving up your addictions.The more your own pain is dealt with, the more your urges will subside. Every other aspect of your life will improve as well as you gain more understanding of yourself. There is nothing more challenging to overcome in life than addiction. I believe that everyone is faced with addiction in some form or another. The more subtle forms will often be held on to for a lifetime. They remain addicts who are perpetually seeking and unsatisfied. If you have a severe addiction you can’t ignore, you are very close to an opportunity to get on a path of true strength.