Addiction, Part 1: Recovery starts now
June 1, 2009
Addiction is vastly complicated. There are many, many ways to explore and address this issue.
One way to look at addiction is to recognize its power to give us an escape from the experience of life being “too much” and “not enough.” Too much stress, too much pressure, too much pain. Not enough excitement, not enough love, not enough money, not enough time. And, escape from the feeling that we ourselves are too much ” too needy, too sensitive, too demanding, or not enough ” not good enough, not successful enough.
The cigarette, the shot of whiskey, the box of cookies, the random sexual encounter, the compulsive search for the “right” romantic relationship, obsessive working, over-exercising, the trip to the casino, the new ski jacket, the bump of coke.
If we are depending on any of these things, it is because they work for us. We get relief.
Often, even thinking about and planning on eating the box of cookies, or going drinking or shopping, gives us relief.
It allows us to keep going amidst the “too much” and “not enough” of work, kids, relationships, financial woes, family problems and fears about our selves.
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At some point, we begin to feel the ill effects of our habits. Our dependence on drugs, exercise, etc. starts to interfere with our relationships, our jobs, our physical health, our finances. We find ourselves having to use more and more to get relief, or realize we are no longer getting relief at all.
We might then think we have a problem. We focus on the “problem” and tell ourselves we need to stop or cut down on our use. We get angry at our selves and use that anger to lay down the law with our behavior ” “You can’t do this anymore,” we tell ourselves. “You must cut down or stop.” We make plans of how we will change our habits ” cut down slowly, avoid going to the bar, go out for a walk instead of eating. We will change. We believe it. We feel better knowing that we are going to change.
Perhaps we change our habits temporarily.
But often we find ourselves returning to using food, drugs, alcohol, shopping to find relief. Our “will power” has not worked. Our plans to change have fallen apart. We feel hopeless.
We have fallen into the trap of addiction ” by focusing on our plans to change, we are simply continuing to escape. Our plans to change ” much like our use of alcohol, food, etc. or our thoughts about going out drinking at the end of the day, are another way we are escaping from the “too much” and “not enough.”
Plans for changing an addictive pattern are important, but they are only effective if they are based on the goal of facing and learning to survive the “too much” and “not enough” of life.
What will really help you to get out of the too much not enough/need escape cycle is becoming aware of the too much/not enough you feel now, in this moment ” “I am tired, my neck hurts, my child is sick, my father is disappointed in me, my boyfriend hasn’t called me, I can’t pay my gas bill, the news is depressing and I have to go to work” ” and learning that you can get through it without escaping with drugs, alcohol, food, exercise, shopping, etc.
This is so difficult. It involves feeling scared, powerless and confused. It means giving up on the idea that our plans to change our selves or our lives can protect us from feeling the too much or not enough. It means facing the reality all humans feel the too much/not enough. It means giving up on what has been getting us through life before we feel confident there is another way to get through. It means feeling like you are falling off a cliff into space with no parachute.
When we begin practicing facing the too much/not enough of each present moment, we need a lot of support. Otherwise, the practice is not safe. We can become so overwhelmed by our pain and fear and physical withdrawal we become increasingly self-destructive and more dependent on our addiction.
There are many ” from teachers, to gurus, to counselors, to friends, to doctors, who might offer this support and guidance for your practice.
There is hope for recovery.
Ultimately, each person must find his or her unique path.
“Danielle B. Klotzkin, licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, provides psychotherapy for clients who are looking for a way to move forward through relationship issues, problems with alcohol, drugs, or managing money, eating and body issues, trauma, grief and loss, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety. You can contact her at (530) 470-2233.