I can trade one addiction for another like I change my underwear. The longer I live the more I realize that it is not necessarily the substances that are problematic, it is my reaction to them. And not only do substances get me in trouble, behaviors fill in quite nicely when I take them away. I can obsess about sports, politics, and religion – any of the things that most people take or leave, and turn those abstract ideas into full blown obsessions.
People free from addictive tendencies chuckle at my inability to just let things go. They do not understand the crippling effect my inability to stop thinking about them has on my ability to pursue more pleasurable activities. It has taken me a lifetime to learn how to keep my addictive thoughts from interfering with the rest. It is exhausting at times. The effort needed to simply think straight takes a lot of the joy from living, and without organic joy the temptation to find an outside source can be overwhelming.
Addiction counseling and treatment did not change me, but it certainly changed the way I handle things when I feel the mayhem descend. There are strategies I automatically put into play when my mind starts spinning. Stopping the cycle of events that ultimately lead to poor choices before it gets going is second nature now, but it was not always that way. Without the tools I need to understand the warning signs, and take them seriously enough to slow down, breathe deeply, feel the tension release from my neck, my shoulders, arms, belly and legs I am doomed to find a quick release from the things that nearly led to my destruction.
Taking away the thing that is causing you problems is a great way to begin a road toward contented sobriety. But there are always “other things.” Some of those things appear healthy distractions from drinking excessively or drugging the night away, but those innocent things can and do cause problems. Something as benign as social media has the potential to overwhelm a person struggling with addiction. People recover differently. I have been told that no matter what I get myself into, if I didn’t drink, it was a good day. Well, I’ve had a lot of crummy days without drinking, and gotten myself addicted to some pretty ridiculous things.
I believe that the key to success is learning everything about yourself; what makes you happy, annoys you, scares you or angers you. Emotions are triggers to the addicted, and recognizing them, knowing them and understanding them helps keep those emotions from dictating actions. Riding the storm of emotion out is a strategy that seems so simple now that somebody taught it to me. Now, when things get a little iffy I know that “this too shall pass.”
Knowing that I am one of those people who get addicted to everything does not magically stop me from my addictive tendencies. What it does is allow me the luxury of understanding, and through work, therapy and consistent vigilance gives me the opportunity to live my life while keeping those addictions at bay. Maybe I’m addicted to not being addicted. If that is the case so be it, I can live with that!