Do you smoke or drink because you have self-destructive tendencies?

I have self-destructive tendencies; that’s why I keep on drinking, smoking, taking drugs. That’s why it’s so hard for me to stop.” This is unhelpful psycho-babble.

It is to confuse consequences with motivation. Our intention or motivation can be one thing; the consequences another.

There is a poignant photograph of Franz Reichelt taken in 1912 a few moments before he threw himself off the Eifel tower in an attempt to demonstrate his flying machine. The effect of his action was self-destruction and death, but that was not his intention. His intentions were noble, but the consequences were self destructive.

So what is addiction? Briefly it is to keep on with a specific behaviour in spite of the damage it is causing in your life and usually against your rational judgement. There is no death-wish.

The emotion which drives addiction is fear: fear of stopping and fear of carrying on; fear of trauma; fear of never getting free; fear of the fear of some emotion or feeling. The effect of all this fear is to leave us paralysed, stuck in inaction.

When you light a cigarette or drink alcohol you are not thinking, “hahaha! soon I will be dead, or destroyed”. Most of the time you are not even aware of your actions. Even if you are aware of your actions, you fear that not to drink or smoke in that moment is going to make you feel uncomfortable, to create suffering. This in turn creates fear. You are not thinking, “I want to destroy myself. If I just smoke two packs a day, or drink three bottles of wine then I will soon be dead myself”.

If self-destruction is your objective, there are many cleaner, faster and more efficient ways of doing it. So clearly self-destruction is not your motivation.

Do not allow yourself to be seduced by empty psychobabble – simply excuses which mislead us and keep us stuck.

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