A lot of us don’t have to look very far to find someone we know that is an addict. For some of us we don’t even have to look beyond ourselves. Addiction is a very prevalent part of our world. Addiction doesn’t have to be a bad thing, although it usually is. If someone were addicted to serving others or addicted to following their religion or addicted to bringing about world peace addiction might be a good thing for all of us. However, addiction is best understood when someone is dependent on something in order to survive.
I have rarely met a person, whether it’s a client or friend, who did not have a root to their addiction. A root would be a trauma, a wound or a disappointment that caused enough emotional pain that the person chose an external behavior to help them cope with it. An example would be if someone was sexually abused and for multiple reasons was unable to process their pain and heal. In response to the immense amount of emotional pain, the victim began “cutting” themselves because it was a controllable way to physically alleviate their emotional pain. (I am not suggesting that self-harm is an effective way to deal with emotional pain. Nor am I suggesting that everyone that harms themselves has been abused.) Eventually, this person could become addicted to cutting because the emotional pain was not resolved and they desperately wanted to feel better. The root would be the sexual abuse and the addiction would be the cutting.
Addictions are all around us: eating, working, material consumption, drug use, pornography and just about anything else that one becomes dependent on in order to survive. Even healthy things like exercise, sex and work can become addictive behaviors. The deciding factor of whether something is healthy or unhealthy is if the activity has become destructive. A good question to ask is whether or not the addictive activity is causing problems in other areas of your life. If you are concerned at all find a support group for addiction. There are support groups in just about every town for just about any type of addiction.
Having worked with hundreds of people engaged in an addictive lifestyle, I believe it is important to stop the addictive patterns in one’s life, but more important to understand the root of the addiction. If we are unable to face and resolve life’s disappointments without addictive external responses our problems will continue. Learn how to face your disappointments and forgive instead of taking on new activities that distract you from your pain. Imagine if we could do the work short term to resolve the original wound and not have to put so much time, energy and money into prolonging or fighting our addictions. I believe addictions are an extreme example of procrastination. Instead of dealing with our disappointments now we choose to numb ourselves and put it off for another day. Then, instead of addressing the original wound we have to also battle the addiction that we’ve become dependent on. Stop the madness – find the root and resolve it!!
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