The Addiction series has been a long journey we’ve gone through together. Before saying goodbye to addiction and moving on to codependency, it seems right to mark this moment with a few words.
The road of addiction and recovery is long, and we all have things we struggle with. There’s no shame in identifying those struggles and being willing to do something to move forward.
A critical piece I want to impart to you, dear reader, is that you don’t need to be completely healed in order to start moving forward. In fact, the only way to heal is to begin the process of moving forward - no matter how slowly. Your ideal state may be many things, it may be years away, but one thing is for sure, you will not get there without moving in that direction.
As we review addiction below, it would be helpful for you to take out any notes you’ve taken of things you’ve written and reflected on during our time together.
Things to focus on:
Have you started your journey through addiction?
What was the hardest part about getting started on your journey through addiction?
If you haven’t started, what’s stopping you?
Are there areas you once resisted that you no longer feel resistance to?
What addictions have you identified in yourself?
What action plans have you put into place to cope with them?
What is your go-to emotion when coping with pain, addiction, or avoidance?
How have you grown through this process?
Where in your life do you see this growth? How is it manifesting?
Blog 1: Reframing Addiction
Addiction is more than just alcoholism and narcotics. Addiction can be anything we abuse in order to escape our feelings, whether it be drink, drug, work, or recreation. There can be many drugs of choice: alcohol, numbing, cannabis, gambling, sex, approval, Netflix? The list goes on and on. We all numb from time to time, and this is fine. However, it’s when numbing becomes habitual and compulsive that the numbing behavior forms an addiction.
Addiction is vastly complex, difficult, and powerful. For many, it’s hard to escape.
Whether abused as a tool, such as a social lubricant, addictions are usually driven by poor self image or a lack of confidence. What do you feel: unloved, unworthy, or perhaps a combination? Dig deep into what fuels your addiction.
Some addictions - such as codependency, being a workaholic, or an overachiever - are seen as socially acceptable and even encouraged by family and others around us. Be far more aware of these and the ‘rewards’ they offer.
Questions to Consider:
What is your vice of choice?
Do you have more than one?
Does addiction run in your family?
What types of addiction?
What is considered ‘normal’ in your family that perhaps you have realized is not normal?
Why have you adopted certain addictions?
What have these addictions given you?
How have they helped you?
Where have these addictions hurt you?
What addiction do you want to focus on and change?
Blog 2: Katie’s Addiction Story
This one is for the functional addicts like myself, and where I shared my story in relation to addiction. I suffered from numerous health conditions, elevated stress, and was addicted to working myself into functional numbness. I stacked addictions: smoking cigarettes and cannabis, work, prescription drugs, cocaine, alcohol, praise, validation and reckless behavior.
Start to notice your own patterns, becoming awake and alert to ready to focus on creating your own change. Congratulations!
Addictions don’t have to be forever. The habit patterns can be overridden and replaced.
Time helps to heal the wounds that caused the addictions and it’s only by dealing with these issues that you will be better able to escape the addictions that have taken route as a means of escaping from the past.
Questions to Consider:
Can you identify with any of the addictions I suffered from?
What fuels your addictions?
What is your why?
Why are you numbing?
What are you running from?
What motivates you to continue the behavior?
What trauma does this Why bring up within you?
Who are the people you have around you?
Do these people encourage your addictions?
Do you feel close to people who encourage your vices or discourage them?
Where and when did your addictions and vices start?
Blog 3: Numbing Pain
Escapism is the established theme in my story of addiction. I define numbing as using something at a level sufficient enough to escape from your feelings, with conscious, unconscious, or subconscious intent. The key in escaping escapism and numbing is through identifying what we feel to override those feelings. Numbing is addictive in and of itself, so overcoming it is challenging and involves a variety of steps.
Start by loving yourself, accepting yourself, and knowing your worth.
Get real with yourself and face what is holding you in a place of numbing, escapism, avoidance, or pain.
Identifying what numbing means for us, how we numb, and why we numb helps us to progress into the healing journey and attempt to overcome the addictions from which we suffer from, live with, and carry around with us like a backpack full of rocks.
In the Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg quotes the MIT researchers in Chapter One who discovered the simple neurological loop at the core of every habit, a loop that consists of three parts:
Questions to Consider:
How do you define numbing?
How do I numb?
What do you love about yourself?
What makes you feel loved?
What is your favorite part about yourself?
When it comes to your addictions, what part of the habit loop does your habit manifest in?
How can you overcome that habit loop to stop the addictive behavior?
What triggers your addiction?
What are the habits around my addictions?
How do these things make you feel when the habit appears? How do you feel after?
How would changing your environment help reduce your addictive tendencies?
What’s one thing you can change in your environment that will make tomorrow better?
How can you show love for yourself?
What are some of the patterns you’ve noticed within your habits? Is there a cue that prompts multiple habits?
Blog 4: Social Disconnection
A universal truth of life is that we are all doing the best we can. Phones are created and programmed to be addictive and many companies pay millions of dollars for that attention. Cell phones propose a paradox of virtual connection, yet create a dilemma that fuels disconnection.
Our phones are addictive and negatively affect our posture. Poor posture leads to other issues in your health. Your phone is programmed to hook you, addict you, and keep your attention for as long as possible.
Change is a personal decision.
Track your phone time. The reality may surprise you. The first step to making lasting change is to become aware of your habits.
How many hours per day are you on your phone? You don’t have to guess, most phones will tell you if you have the courage to look.
How much of that time is productive?
Do you want to spend your time doing other things?
What are you using your phone for?
What is it distracting you from?
The Social Dilemma on Netflix is incredibly eye opening.
Questions to Consider:
Where do you put your phone when you sleep?
Can you recall a time when you were physically with others, but emotionally and mentally in your phone?
What do you remember from this situation?
How do you feel about the situation when looking back at it?
How much have you missed because you were not present?
Have you ever been out with friends and all you talk about are things that happened on the internet?
When was the last time you did something without your phone?
Have you ever had a conversation happen around you, perhaps even centered on you, and your complete detachment, scrolling on your phone?
Blog 5: Pain
Addiction in this blog expands the definition to explain how I had laced my identity with chronic pain. Pain can become an integrated part of our identity. Chronic physical pain is defeating, terrifying, overwhelming, and exhausting.
In order to let go of addiction to pain, you have to want to heal. No one can do the work for you.
When in chronic pain, the question we often ask ourselves is HOW. Tell me HOW to stop the pain.
Bringing awareness to an addiction is not enough to let go of the pattern.
Gratitude can help you heal.
Embrace pain as a teacher.
Questions to Consider:
I asked ‘Who am I without pain?’, so ask yourself: Who are you without your addiction?
For those of you who have experienced chronic pain:
What chronic pain do you consistently experience?
Is your pain constant?
Do you remember times when the pain ended?
What did you do to combat the pain?
What does my pain give me?
Why and how did I incorporate pain into my identity?
What reward or incentive, positive or negative, did I give myself for being in pain for so long?
Why did I constantly return to this reward or incentive?
What pain do you want to heal?
What pain do you consistently inflict on yourself? (Overwork? Overeating? Pressure to perform at work? Perfectionism? Decision paralysis?)
Do you suffer from chronic pain?
Blog 6: Woe is Me
There are three possibilities you could fall into: a victim, a former victim in active recovery, and someone who has encountered someone with a victim-mindset in someone you love. When someone attacks you or hurts you, it can be healthy to see yourself as the victim.
All people want to feel seen, heard, and valued. This desire can drive some of us to bathe in the negative aspects of all of these traits, resulting in an addiction to victimhood.
Going through life in a passive state is easier than actively making change
Healing is hard.
Questions to Consider:
Can you recall a time when things felt like they were out of your control and happening to you?
Are you going through a time like that right now?
Can you recall a time when your actions had an impact on the outcome of a situation?
What is an area that is still raw and real for you?
Do you feel like a victim often?
When was the last time you felt like a victim? What happened? Describe the event.
Who made you feel that way?
What did you allow to happen?
Where do your addictive tendencies surface?
This was a difficult blog post for me. Even I am not fully healed from my addiction to victimhood. I plan to come back to this topic in a future blog post. Healing is a journey, and you don’t have to be perfect and have all the answers to start your journey.
This time, I ask you to review the questions above, especially if you’ve written about them before. If you haven’t written any thoughts about these, I encourage you to do that now.
Each time you reflect, I want you to remember to be the observer and not the judge. The purpose of this is not to sentence yourself for life. The purpose is to notice your actions and change your relationship to those actions without judgment.
Don’t keep reading: I mean it. Reflect on and answer the questions above. If you find yourself reluctant to answer, ask yourself why.
We will wrap up the addiction series and introduce the healing modality. This wrap up will include how I hold myself accountable with my own addictions. We will discuss how you can make progress even before you completely fully heal your addictions.