Addictive Behavior: Where it comes from and how to beat it
Addictive Behavior: Where it comes from and how to beat it
By Eva Angvert Harren, BEAM LiFE Coaching
Do you feel that you cannot stop doing “it”?
Do you have such a craving, you cannot stop thinking about “it” – until you satisfy “it”?
Whatever “it” is, it seems to have snuck into your body-mind consciousness and is slowly altering your feelings, your thoughts…even your behavior. Maybe you’ve even noticed that “it” is slowly taking over your life.
Or…perhaps you didn’t notice how “it” had been taking over your life, and now you’re stuck…imprisoned in that mental and emotional straight jacket of pain and fear that compels you to continue doing “it”.
Continue what, exactly?
What is an addiction and where does it come from?
What is it that you’re doing? Would you like “it” to end? Has “it” become an addiction?
Three theories compete for attention in the medical community about what addiction is: A choice, a disease, self-medication…and medical experts are still arguing about the most appropriate label.
Meanwhile, is it possible that a fourth category exists? I would like to invite you to view addiction from another perspective.
Imagine that your addictive habit is nothing more than a learned behavior.
What if this behavior was a way of avoiding pain or seeking pleasure or both? Either way, it seems to work, right?
What if, at a young age when we were vulnerable, scared, and overwhelmed, we learned our own way of coping, our own method of avoiding pain…our own path to relief.
And it worked!
When we did “it”, we didn’t feel our pain, our fear, or our anxiety. For that brief moment, we felt better! And who doesn’t want to feel better…now?
Any repetitive behavior can result in a habit, consciously or unconsciously developed. Just as with learning to drive a car, a habit eventually becomes something we do without thinking about how to do it; we just do “it”.
“It” can be just about anything that we become acclimated to in order to relieve anxiety or chase away pain: Drinking, watching porn, surfing the net, smoking, eating, gambling…and the list goes on. Our motivation and desires have become so overpowered by this urge within us, it seems as though we can no longer resist “it”.
But we can!
How we can take control of our behavior
It’s possible to take back control of “it” if…and this is a big if!…
…you are willing to take ownership of your behaviors that lead to “doing it again”.
You can, you know…if you want to!
That’s the trick! Do you truly want to?
The moment you take ownership of your behaviors, you’re free! Free to live your life the way you want to.
However, here is the dilemma. Are you owning that you are the one who is exhibiting these behaviors?
You are the one who has developed these habits. You are the one who can end the vicious cycle. You and only you can end your doom loop.
My work with clients in recovery and my own experience have taught me that if you want to stay free from your addictive behaviors more than you want to engage with them, you can succeed!
Addictive behaviors often start with an innocent attempt to distract ourselves from feeling discomfort or pain in our body. We learn how to avoid these feelings by bringing our attention to something that feels more comfortable to us than the pain we are experiencing in the moment.
In the beginning, the avoidance behavior can even add value. We could be reading, doing sports, using the internet for research on interesting topics, having a little ice cream, maybe sipping a glass of wine during dinner. Perhaps it’s not avoidance at all…in the beginning.
Depending on our level of discomfort, we might just stop there and still have a decent life. And maybe we do not even think of our behaviors as avoidance. “I like sports,” “I enjoy reading,” “I like a glass of wine,” and “What’s wrong with researching the web for my interests?”
However, if we have experienced abuse, neglect, or the trauma that comes from being exposed to situations that were too overwhelming for us to process at the time, we tend to store the un-processed feeling in our body, which results in discomfort. And the body has a long memory!
Now, we do run the risk of spending an inordinate amount of time on our “interests”. And then our interests become deeply ingrained habits.
Our biology and nervous system automatically avoid pain and seek pleasure, avoid threats and seek safety. We move away from anything that feels uncomfortable, and our focus goes toward anything that feels like ease and comfort.
The glass of wine might turn into a bottle; our web research takes hours away from our family. Whatever the obsession, it deprives us of sleep, keeps us away from our social life, and consumes all our time. We have nothing left for family, friends, or ourselves.
We may even add a habit, smoking a joint, visiting a porn site, gambling…maybe another drink.
You may ask, “What’s wrong with that? It’s my life.”
Exactly! And there will be no change until you want it.
Our addictive behaviors, our learned responses to dealing with our pain, consciously or not, will go on as long as we find reasons that justify them.
Even when our behaviors are now clearly and negatively affecting our relationships with our loved ones and our work, we can still rationalize our lives…all the way to the gutter.
“I didn’t want that job anyway.”
“My kids are busy with their lives; I don’t need to be there for them.”
“I could have stayed married if my partner was just more understanding.”
“I didn’t need that house anyway.”
“My family just doesn’t understand me.”
And so on.
This bizarre grip on you is almost an “outside experience” – as if you were watching your Self do “it”, against your will…and still, you go back and do “it” again, and again, and again.
You ask, “Eva, how did you stop?”
When I stopped, I stopped cold turkey. I am not saying that’s the way to go. I am saying that that’s the way I did it, not knowing about any other solution.
I walked into the 12-step program on a Monday, January 15, 1990, and I have not had a mood-altering substance in my body since then.
That was the solution that was presented to me at the time…like being thrown into a hot tub – a hot hot tub – without warning.
And I struggled for more than 16 years – clean and sober – before that tub started to cool down.
I have learned through my research and personal encounters with addicted clients that a “tapering off” process can be a more pleasant and successful way of ending an addictive behavior.
You don’t have to go “cold turkey”. Depending on your situation, on your addiction of choice, and where on your way to the gutter you are, you can decide, now, and end your painful doom loop.
It is up to you. You have the power to shift your course. The question is….do you want to?
Your thinking, your excuses, your explanations may feel “right” and believable to you.
All I’m saying is that you can change your life to anything you can see for your Self. There is a life out there waiting for the moment you step out of your cave of false beliefs and rationalizations.
Imagine your Self free from “it”
Imagine doing what you want to do…without having to partake in your “habit” first.
Imagine waking up…without pain, without shame, without your brain running on without direction, trying to figure out how not to do “it” again.
Imagine having a clear head and the ability to focus on what you want, feeling confident in how you live your day and having the courage to be…You!
Imagine a day without chasing the dragon.
Imagine a day of feeling okay…just the way you are.
Imagine you liking you.
It’s all possible! When you want it.
If the captain of the Titanic had changed the ship’s course one degree, a mile before the iceberg, the ship could still be sailing today.
You do not have to shift your life 180 degrees. All you must do is shift habits one degree, settle and adjust, then another degree, settle and adjust, and still another degree, settle and adjust, until you are liking your Self and your life.
The only variable is that you do not know how close you are to the iceberg of your life. Consequently, it’s better to get going now!
Remember…Freedom is only a breath away!
Inhale, make your decision, and shift your course.
Exhale, connect with your true You, and stay on your healing path.
I’ll meet you on your journey.
If you want to know more about the BEAM LiFE process and how it can help you discover your own path out of addiction, visit www.EvaAngvert.com or call me at 510.825.7574