I don’t consider myself to have an addictive personality. I tried earnestly to take up smoking when I was a teenager (longer ago than I care to admit) all my friends were doing it and I wanted to fit in. It never did anything for me, it made me feel pretty sick.
I also haven’t drank alcohol, aside from the very odd glass, in probably a decade or more and I was never interested in drugs.
However, in the name of research I am reading Russell Brands book, Recovery, about his journey with addiction and 12 step programs and I have, in part, changed my mind. There is stuff in there that I can relate to, patterns of behaviour that I see in myself, all be it at the thinner end of the wedge.
Addictions are basically habitual behaviours that we use to solve a problem. Usually to block an emotion that we are not prepared to face or can’t quite grasp. We choose some kind of self-medication to make us feel better. It works well, or we wouldn’t carry on doing it, until the solution starts being the problem.
I think if we’re honest with ourselves we all have these tendencies sometimes. We watch TV for hours and scroll through Facebook during ad breaks so that we don’t have to hear our own thoughts. We eat chocolate until we feel sick, even though we know it will make us feel sick, same as last time. But for a short time, while we’re enjoying the sugar rush, we feel good, or at least different to whatever it is we’re hiding from. (For we I suppose I mean me, but even a cursory glance around me suggests I’m not alone.)
None of these actions are harmful in of themselves. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a boxset, checking out what’s going on with your friends and family or having a Twix. They only become harmful when you are repeatedly using them to avoid “difficult” thoughts or feelings and they begin to have a detrimental impact on your life, health and/or relationships.
An awareness of the pattern is a good first step, but in my experience not enough to actually resolve the problem. I have a whole load of different tools in my belt that I could use to face into and work through my emotions when I’d rather not acknowledge that I feel “bad”, but it didn’t stop me eating a muller corner with a two finger KitKat as a spoon to “make myself feel better” the other night. (Spoiler alert – it didn’t work. I still had to work through what I was feeling as well as the mild self-loathing that the yoghurt/KitKat debacle induced. I’ve worked through it a bit, hence being able to share this with you with only feelings of mild embarrassment and amusement rather than outright shame.)
I’ll keep bringing these things into my own awareness though, and hope to make a better choice next time.
I hope that having read this, you will allow yourself to become aware of your small addictions and start questioning what you are using them to avoid. If it’s too big for you to deal with on your own, please get some support.