Coping with Addictions

Firstly the question is - What qualifies an Addict?

An addict in effect is actually a slave and this comes from the Roman times and therefore a Latin word.  When Roman generals had succeeded in taking over a neighboring territory, the conquered soldiers and citizens were brought before him for sentencing. The general pronounced his new subjects to be slaves.  That sentencing was called an "addictum": the addicts" were bound and forced into slavery.

Addicts' minds have a strong tendency to return to the destructive, addictive behavior again and again. There is a yearning followed by a rationalization leading to action.  They tend to be powerlessness over certain thoughts leading to behaviors that making their lives unmanageable.

A person can have addictive relationships with a variety of substances, activities or even people. There are many forms of addiction and some activities that would actually be normally considered healthy and socially acceptable. Such as social drinking and going down to the local bar. In small doses for an occasional night out this is acceptable. However these two activities can turn into an addictive behavior pattern.

There is even such a thing as a relationship addict. It is one thing to make foolish choices in one's love life, but it is another to keep jumping from relationship to relationship without reasonable breaks of time between them.  What would be considered reasonable breaks? Well, it certainly is not a few days or weeks.

There is such a thing as a gym junkie. Normally going to gym and getting exercise would be considered a good thing. However, there is not the case if the activity is interfering with a person having normal relationships with others, or holding down a job. This now is getting into the range of an addictive behavior. Also in the case of the gum junkie, there is the additional danger of physical injuries due to overuse of the muscles and perhaps damaged tendons.

When an Olympic athlete has a particular goal and pursues it in an obsessive manner, other areas of his or her life may be subordinated or even damaged in the pursuit of the "gold".  If in the pursuit of this goal, the athlete's well being is enhanced, we would say he is doing something healthy.

On the other hand, if the workouts, training schedule and the lifestyle is making the athlete's life a mess and not enhancing their well being, but he continues it anyway, we would say that it has become an addiction.

One of the problems with people attempting to cope with addictions is that they often switch them from time to time. A woman who has an addiction to food may temporarily give up chocolate chip cookies, but coincidentally find her obsession with men intensifying. Or she finds that her craving for chocolate is "miraculously removed" when she is in a relationship only to return to chocolate once the relationship has ended.

Like compulsive eaters, we need to deal with our addictions in a sane and balanced way what we once done obsessively. Recovering is not a black or white question but one of degree and one step at a time and at one day at a time.

Similarly, alcoholics quit drinking only to transfer their addiction to tobacco, coffee or perhaps even shopping. This can turn out to be another expensive experience.  Most shopping addict are purchasing goods on credit cards and get themselves a very large financial debt.

Perhaps the answer may lies in a suggestion that Dr. Phil's makes. That you cannot just stop doing anything.  You need to replace one behavior with another behavior.  Hopefully a constructive one.

One thing that has been observed over the years by studies has shown that a person who has had a parent who was an addict, then that child had a higher risk factor of becoming an addict themselves.

Researchers at Yale University have looked at the endorphin levels of young children of alcoholics after the children were given a small dose of alcohol intravenously.  As a comparison, the researchers also gave the same amount of alcohol to children of the Good Housekeeping group. The researchers found that the children of alcoholics after being exposed to a small amount of alcohol, produced about three to four times as many endorphins as the Good housekeeping group.

This chemical, which is associated with pleasure and is basically activated for the purpose of reinforcing sex and relieving stress, was released in enormous supply to the children of the first group.

That is one reason on why some people get caught up into addictions. For the person who suffers some type of addiction, when they do their compulsive activity or use their substance, their endorphin levels raises in their systems.

However, there is another possible reason on why some person get hook into some type of addictive behavior and that is one of a lack of self-love and in fact perhaps even self hate.

Addictions and other self-destructive tendencies grow in an atmosphere of self-hate.  Negativity is the essential nutrient that these behavior patterns thrive upon.

In the past, well-meaning people taught us that it was unhealthy to be proud of ourselves. They told us to be modest, be humble and never take credit. That is all well and good for those who have a health sense of self.

On the positive side of being modest and all those other behaviors is that they grease the wheels of interpersonal relationships with family, friend and colleagues.  It is important to be on the team.

However, there is a distinction between interpersonal relationships and the relationship with yourself.  In the relationship with yourself, you need to give yourself credit - and most importantly unconditional self-love.

Be kind to yourself once in a while instead of beating yourself up all the time.  You know - that constant negative chatter in your head.

Try the following:
  • Listen to yourself and begin noticing what you are saying to yourself.  Examine your thoughts while in bed late at night or first thing in the morning.  Pay attention and if you are beating yourself up yet again, ask yourself, what evidence do you have to support what you are currently saying to yourself.  O.K. if you have made a mistake, which all humans do - get your permission to make mistakes and learn from them instead of making it the worse case scenario.
  • Be Gentle With Yourself.  You are likely to discover during examining your thought pattern that you can be extremely harsh with yourself.
  • Do Not Constantly Criticize Your Critical Self.  You don't deserve condemnation just because you have a self-critical nature.  Just notice the fact that you have been critical of yourself.  NOW - Knock It Off.    It is okay to criticize your behavior if you happen to be habitually late for appointments.  Just take note of that and do something to remind yourself to start being earlier so you can change this behavior that you are not happy about.
  • Distract Yourself.  Sometimes you may fall into a negative rut, particularly after you have just screwed up a project or caused pain to someone.  Instead of berating yourself endlessly, an effective strategy to seek relief through a number of distractions.  What hobby or activity that is positive - NO NEGATIVE PLEASE.  We have had enough of those.

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