Addiction – I’m An Addict

I’m an addict. I can’t sweep it under the carpet any longer. It sorta crept-up on me. I thought addiction was only about booze and drugs. How wrong I was.

I’ll let you into what I’ve found, though. It turns out that I’m not Robinson Crusoe. I’ve found that humans are addictive by nature. Apparently, according to some of the experts in the field (Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water is well worth a read), the word ‘addiction’ is a modern name for what the biblical tradition called ‘sin’ and what was referred to in medieval times as ‘passion’ or ‘attachments’. My search for answers has resulted in finding that addiction is one of the biggest challenges facing all areas of society.

So, what’s my addiction?

Back when I thought I was bulletproof, I used to think that addictions came in 2 types-positive and negative. (I think I even read a book called Positive Addiction.) I now know that I was half-right. As it turns out, there are 2 types of addiction-behavioural and substance. And they’re similar in two main ways. They’re engaged in because they provide good feeling and they help in coping with the world-everyday life and all of it’s hassles, challenges, issues, etc.

Behavioural addictions are of the non-chemical type, and usually includes a compulsion to repeatedly engage in an action until it causes serious negative consequences to the person’s physical, mental, social and financial well-being. Gambling, sex, food, viewing of pornography, using computers, playing video games, work, exercise, mobile and smartphone usage, cutting, are just a few examples that fit this type. I suppose you can include, here the ‘soft’ addictions such as mood swings and moodiness, avoidance, unreliability, and associated behaviours that we’d like to write-off as ‘bad habits’.

Shopping addiction (omniomania) is an often-sited example of behavioural addiction. Dating back to the early 19th Century, it is generally thought that shopping addiction occurs when shopping becomes the person’s main way of coping with stress, to the point where he/she continues to shop excessively (more than an occasional splurge) even when it is clearly having a negative effect on other areas of life. Pretty soon, finances and relationships are damaged, yet the shopping addict feels unable to stop or even control spending.

Substance addiction comes in 2 types-legal and illegal. The main legal ones are familiar ones of caffeine (coffee, tea, sports drinks), nicotine (cigars, cigarettes, nicotine patches), alcohol (wine, beer, liquor), and inhalants (paint thinners, hair spray, gases). Some legal substances are available by prescription only-amphetamines (stimulants), sedatives/depressants (Valium), opioids (heroin, morphine, codeine). Familiar, illegal substances include cannabis (marijuana, grass, pot), cocaine (coke, crack), hallucinogens (LSD, ecstasy) and phencyclidine (angel dust).

When stacked-up against these, my addiction seems pretty soft. I’m not a shopaholic. Alcohol and drugs are not my scene. My addiction is to my habitual ways of doing things, my own patterned way of thinking, and the way I tend to process things. In the past, I probably attributed my addiction to my upbringing-parents, teachers, and other people I used to associate with. But what gets in the way of dealing with my addiction, however, is that it always seems to be ‘hidden’ and disguised as something else. Damn it!

It’s only now that I realise that the challenge for me is to change the way I operate. I’ve found that contemplative practices such as meditation and prayer helps to break down this unhelpful either-or-thinking, dualist thinking but these practices seem to deal with what seems like being the tip of the iceberg.

I’m working at overcoming my addiction in 3 ways.

  1. I’m hoping that a crisis in my thoughts and actions will provide the jolt or feeling of discomfort necessary to change my ways, hopefully for the better.
  2. I’m focussing on having a purpose that will ensure I continue to have something to look forward to.
  3. I’m trying to desensitize myself to the stimuli that the addiction provides.

The secret’s out… My addiction is not causing hardening of the arteries (Arteriosclerosis), a common condition associated with ageing, but Psychosclerosis (hardening of the attitude) that, if left unchecked, could lead to paradigm paralysis. Wish me luck!