When we refer to addiction, we often think of drugs and/or alcohol, but when I talk about addiction at work with my patients and when I lead a YogaFit for Addiction and Recovery training, we talk about addictive behaviors in a much broader scope.
In his book Recovery 2.0, Tommy Rosen defines addiction as “Any behavior that you continue to engage in despite the negative consequences that the behavior leaves in its wake.” Maybe it isn’t so much of an ‘us’ and ‘them’ scenario…
The “Big 6” addictions are drugs, alcohol, food, people, money, and technology. In this way of thinking, we all most likely have an addiction or know someone who does. Drugs, alcohol, and food we typically understand right away- they change the brain’s chemistry upon ingestion. People can be an addiction in the form of sex addiction or co-dependence. Money addiction can display itself as a gambling addiction, shopaholic behaviors, or the society supported and ever-praised ‘workaholic’. Finally, I am seeing more and more addiction to technology in the forms of video games, smart phones, tablets, etc. that take away from productivity, connection, and engagement in life.
And most of the time, with these addictions comes compulsion, and with some, obsession.
A compulsion is an irresistible urge and presents as a ritual- an urgent need to relieve inner turmoil. It can look like compulsive cleaning, hand washing, counting, checking and rechecking something, or any number of behaviors believed to bring relief. Compulsions are continued even when they have negative consequences such as raw, chapped, or bleeding hands due to excessive hand washing. An obsession is an uncontrollable idea, image, or thought that you can’t get out of your head- it takes over all of your thinking. Many times, this takes the form of worry and is a form of loss of control.
Compulsions and obsessions can also be experienced without addictive behaviors, but they in themselves become relied upon for relief and can provide some comfort of some sort. So, they feel needed.
According to Rosen, if we are not entangled in one of the Big 6 Addictions, we most likely are suffering from at least one of the 4 Aggravations: negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination, and resentment. These thinking patterns become habitual and they keep us stuck and unhappy. These 4 Aggravations also many times can lead to lapse or relapse of an addiction as well.
In my experience, we have ALL had to deal with the 4 aggravations and for some, they become obsessive thinking patterns and lead us to develop compulsive behaviors to alleviate the turmoil they stir up.
So, how do we change all of this? There are many modes of help- of course, counseling and yoga are two that I would recommend. But, if nothing else, we must start with some self-compassion. Many times, we get stuck in patterns of beating ourselves up mentally and emotionally and we, for some reason, think that this will motivate us into changing our behaviors. But usually, it just makes us feel bad about ourselves, which is uncomfortable, and so to feel better, we turn to our compulsions and addictions.
We have to practice acceptance in every moment for what is happening and where we are. When we resist, we only make things worse. (Refer back to the previous post “Stop Fighting Already”) Typically when a friend is experiencing a challenge in life, we are there for them and we express things like “yes, this is really hard” to acknowledge what they are going through and “I am here if you need me” to offer support. But, for ourselves, we skip over this step. We experience a challenge and instead of being our own friend and recognizing that it is hard and it is OK to feel what we feel, we skip right from acknowledging that things are challenging to “how do I fix this”. We judge ourselves for not being able to handle things on our own or ‘perfectly’, we beat ourselves up for needing help or for not knowing what to do, and we make ourselves feel worse for going through a challenging period in our lives even though everyone experiences challenging periods in their lives.
Beating ourselves up is not making us stronger or smarter or better. It is making us miserable. And then, because we feel miserable, we turn to the very patterns and behaviors that we hope will make us feel better- and they DO, but only temporarily- and then this cycle continues.
So, try being your own friend. Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is hard or uncomfortable or confusing. Ask for help; talk to a friend- connection is hugely healing. Journal. Breathe. DO YOGA! Try to see that feeling the good and the bad is part of authentically living this life rather than just numbing out and coasting through. Remember that you are not the only one who has felt this way and that unless you ask for support, no one knows you need it. And remind yourself that you are making it. Even if it is minute by minute by minute, you are making it and you have everything you need right now in this moment to make it.
Thanks for stopping by and checking in. As Dr. Gabor Mate’ says, “If you can feel it, you can heal it.”
We are in this together.