The Addiction Train

Photo by Brian Suman on Unsplash

Addiction is much like a train. Many different things can be addiction and these are the cars of the train. Traveling on tracks in a one direction kind of way. And the cars can be added to and even stacked one on top of the other much like multiple addictions can be. A loaded and very large train can be extremely hard to stop and if it crashes it is a catastrophic mess. Just like addictions.

Anything can be an addiction. Absolutely anything. If there is something that we have to do, feel compelled to do, feel sick, sad, angry or a multitude of other emotions if we do not do it and it is required repeatedly to make us “feel” better, it is an addiction. If there is anything that we can NOT do, it is an addiction.

Some addictions are very harmful and others maybe not as much, but they are both addictions nevertheless. Most addictions are done to avoid things we find emotionally painful. All addictions release chemicals into the brain that can make us think we “feel” better. They can be very good at covering up painful things. For a while. Then as time goes on more and more of the addictive material is needed to gain the same feel good feelings. And when that does not work any longer, we must find a substitute addiction that works better.

Coffee is an addiction for many including myself. I have it every day. If I go without it for a day I get debilitating headaches from caffeine withdrawal. I like the taste of coffee a lot. I am pretty much immune now to the caffeine as in coffee will not keep me awake. But my body is very much addicted to the caffeine.

Addiction can be anything. Electronics are the addiction of choice for many now. Computers, phones, tablets, television, video games and more are fast becoming an addiction for many. People can spend hours every day watching funny cat videos on YouTube or TikTok. Spending and buying can be an addiction. Retail therapy is a very real thing. We feel better when we get something we want. Eating can be an addiction. Food can be very comforting in times of pain. Sex can be an addiction. Cutting or self-harm can be an addiction. The release of pain while cutting releases the feel good chemicals into our brains. To get more and more of this feeling we must cut more and more. Substances can be an addiction including cannabis. While cannabis does not have the same chemical/physical addictive properties of alcohol or other drugs, it is very psychologically addictive. Gambling can be an addiction.

Anything can be an addiction.

Addiction can be very hard to stop. First, we have to want to stop. This can be very difficult because our bodies and brains are addicted to the chemicals that are released when we participate in our addiction. It can also be difficult because we know to stop the addiction we have to acknowledge the pain of whatever we are trying not to face by continuing the addiction. If we have been addicted for a long time, it is not an easy road to stopping. It takes time. There will be relapses. And it is an ongoing process of addressing the reasons we sought the addictive thing in the first place and making daily decisions to avoid going back to it when things get difficult in the processing.

Working with an addiction counselor can be a good place to start if you are ready to change. Participating in groups or having someone to whom you are accountable can help along with apps that can also help you track your successes and support your progress such as Calm Harm for cutting, Pear reSet for substance use, rTribe for porn/drug/food addictions. There are many others that are also available for download for a huge variety of addictions.

Quitting an addiction is not an easy task and the road can be long and difficult. The first step is wanting to change and being willing to start the journey. Take an inventory of your life right now, is there something (or more than one) that you feel you are addicted to and can NOT stop doing and feel compelled to do in order to feel better or avoid trauma and pain. Be honest with yourself. And if you feel you cannot objectively look at your life ask someone who you trust and know will be absolutely honest with you.

Then it is up to you to make the decision to start on the path to recovery and change.

Until next time be well,

Deborah

How To Identify An Addiction

photo of woman looking upwards

Whenever most people hear the word addiction, their first thought is drugs or alcohol. While drugs and alcohol can lead to addiction, they are by no means the only things people can be addicted to.

An addiction is anything in our lives that we cannot stop doing and that we feel compelled to continue doing and if we attempt to stop doing it we suffer negative reactions.

We can be addicted to almost anything. Food, exercise, shopping or spending, gambling, phones or tablets, video games, self-harm such as cutting, soda, hoarding, cleaning, and anything else we are not able to stop doing and that if we try to stop causes us negative reactions.

Addictions are built up over time of repetition and reinforcement. Similar to forming habits, but the difference in addictions is that our brain becomes convinced that we need the thing we are addicted to and that we cannot live without doing it. We are compelled to do it by what becomes a chemical need for it. The addiction releases dopamine into our brains (reward chemicals) that make us want to have that reward or in some cases release more and more.

If we try to stop these addictive behaviors, we suffer withdrawals just the same as we do if we are addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, the withdrawals can be exactly the same. Nervousness, shaking, feeling depressed, being irritable can all be present. I have seen many clients who are addicted to electronic devices and/or video games who stop doing them or are prevented from accessing them by parents, who then display these withdrawal symptoms.

Most all addictions have a negative effect on our lives. We may tell ourselves that our addiction doesn’t affect us negatively so that we can continue doing it, but a truthful examination will show that is not true. Addictions cost us money, time, relationship issues, health issues, emotional issues, and much more. What is your addiction costing you, honestly?

Many people with addictions do not want to give them up. Convinced that they are making their lives better or that the addictions make them feel better emotionally (which dopamine can do that) but it is a false sense of feeling better. It is avoidance of dealing with the emotions that are driving the addiction. Many times, I have clients say, I play video games all day because I enjoy it. Only minimally true, it is more likely because they are avoiding a negative emotion or situation. Constant dopamine release can make one feel that way.

So, if you have an addiction, how do you break it? One step at a time. One choice at a time. One moment at a time. And working to gain understanding of what the addiction is helping you to avoid? Emotions, trauma, relationships? It can take quite some time to break an addiction and there will be negative responses by both your body and brain during this time. This is why many people start trying to break an addiction and when the negative responses come they find it too hard and give up or relapse.

Even if that happens, we can always start again and again and again. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to begin again. We do not fail because we do not succeed on the first attempt or the 50th, we fail because we do not try again.

One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One second at a time. One choice at a time. Repeat as often as necessary. Fail. Try again. And then keep trying.

To Tell The Truth

truth

The truth is one of the simplest things to understand and yet one of the hardest things to do. Especially when it comes to telling yourself the truth.

So much of our time is spent in cultivating lies that are not true that we convince our minds are true. The things that we learn from others since young childhood and beyond. The things we internalize and turn into truths by our acceptance of them. The things we tell ourselves about our own choices to make them acceptable. None of these are the actual truth. It can get to the point where we don’t even know that the lies are not the truth.

The things we learn from others – you are stupid, you are ugly, you aren’t valued, your feelings don’t matter, your needs aren’t important, and more are the things that others tell us by their words and actions or by what they do not say or do. These are the things taught to us that we take in and repeat to yourself until your brain believes they are the truth. They become your truth.

The irrational fears we repeat over and over until our brains believe them. The worst possible thing is going to happen. Reading other people’s minds and knowing how they think and feel about us – she thinks I am weird. The I can’t habit – I can’t get a job. Seeing the future – I am never going to be happy, I will always be alone. These are completely unproven, unknown thoughts that we turn into beliefs or truths.

The other side of the truth coin is the lies we tell ourselves for our own choices. If we drink every day, and we drink to get drunk every day, and we drink and have a hangover the next day and drink to manage the hangover, but we still work, we still manage our bills in some fashion, we still interact with others. We are not alcoholics we tell ourselves. We do not have a drinking problem we tell ourselves. We do not have an issue with alcohol we tell ourselves. It is a lie, but we have convinced ourselves that it is the truth.

The truth is hard many times. The truth that one is an alcoholic is a hard thing to come to terms with. It makes us feel embarrassed, ashamed, powerless, and sad. But it is a powerful step towards freedom, towards a healthier self, towards recovery. The truth of the things we have learned from others can change our lives – if we go from you are not valued to you have so much worth, if we go from your needs aren’t important to what you need matters and it’s okay for you to take care of those needs – we can begin to love ourselves, respect ourselves, believe in ourselves. If we change our irrational fear truths into just the thoughts that they are without proof – we can be set free from crippling fear and anxiety.

Is any of this truth telling easy? No. It is very difficult and a process that can take a long time, even years. But if you never start the journey, everything remains the same and nothing changes. However, these “truths” are affecting your life they will continue to do so without taking the first step towards changing them, replacing them.

One thought at a time, one fear at a time, one choice at a time.

Until next time,
Deborah