When we think of addiction the images that spring most readily to mind in popular culture are perhaps the alcoholic downandout, the heroin addict in a foetal position, or the lazy stoner.
When addiction involves a substance then it is usually quite obvious, difficult to conceal. However, other addictions are harder to identify especially when the addiction is related to behaviour rather than substances. One of the favourites is addiction to work or the compulsive need to fill every waking moment with activity, even when this way of living is clearly causing anxiety, unhappiness, damaging relationships. These types of addiction are sometimes more difficult to identify, as the person may simply be inspired and driven with enthusiasm for a particular project. However, if the idea of simply being with yourself, taking time off to be with loved ones/family makes you nervous, irritated or even frightened, then maybe you should look at your behaviour. What is it you are trying to avoid?
However, addiction can be subtler; it depends from which way you look at it:
– Addiction is to continue a behaviour, in spite of the damage it is doing and often against your rational judgement.
Another way of looking at it would be to say that:
– It is the thing you do instead of doing the thing you need to do.
However, there is another possible way of looking at it:
– A rational response to an unbearable situation.
Our shallow, egocentric, money-worshipping, consumerist society is toxic for the wellbeing of human beings (and practically all other species). The desire to escape, the desire to auto-anaesthetise (in the form of drugs or behaviour) is understandably great. Consequently, addiction is rife. Society’s or medicine’s response is to focus more on treatments than cures: “A pill for every ill!” The answer to every problem seems to be “take something” or “buy something”. Meanwhile, the underlying problems remain the same and are largely untreated.
Drugs, escape, anaesthesia might be considered a rational and understandable response to an unbearable situation.
In the Vietnam war up to 20% of soldiers became addicted to heroin. This can be seen as an understandable response to an unbearable situation. Perhaps, most interesting is that 95% simply stopped using heroin when they returned home and stayed clean. This simple fact destroys in one fell swoop the propaganda that addiction is an incurable disease or is genetic -models of addiction that benefit everyone except the person with the addiction.
The internet offers almost limitless opportunities for addiction: from gaming, to porn, to interactive sex, to virtual reality, to social networks, to gambling. These addictions are harder to detect as they are mostly carried out alone and/or in secret. Often, the first indication that something is wrong is a hole in the family finances (all the money went on the addiction). I have spoken with men who have lost their house and gone deep into debt trying to maintain an online virtual sex/company-for-money relationship; mothers who have spent the month’s household budget on gambling and have no idea how they will make ends meet; others who have lost tens of thousands on cocaine and prostitutes. What all had in common was a need to escape from something: a difficult marriage, abusive parents, bullying, unprocessed trauma, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, stress of work or life in general. This, combined with a lack of training, can create a sense of helplessness and desperation. Like you, none of them had received any training in school or university as to how to manage their thoughts, recognise and manage their emotions. Their main training was in the force-feeding and regurgitation of facts.
This is why, once a person frees themselves of their addiction (without a sense of sacrifice, and without believing the baseless fallacy that they are diseased…very important), they should commit to a life and process of continuous growth: learning how to manage their emotions and feelings; learning how to stop thinking so much – essentially learning to be kinder to themselves, to care of themselves, accept and respect themselves…
To find peace in their hearts, and experience greater happiness
These are all things I have learnt and now teach others here in Cantabria.