Millions are addicted to something. Take your pick: work, food, talking, gossip, attention, news, prescription medication, alcohol, recreational drugs, exercise, organizing, gambling, shopping, high risk experiences, emotional pain, or physical pain. All of us experience one form of addiction or another in our lifetimes – some of us more than others.
Most of us use our addictions as a way NOT to feel what is going on inside. What is happening on the inside can be enormously painful, and for many of us, we will avoid that pain at all costs. Our pain can show up in any of our ‘bodies’ - physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The addiction is there as a strategy to help us ESCAPE the pain. For example, I may escape the mental pressure to succeed with something that helps me to relax and let go of thinking such as excessive sleep or alcohol. I may escape the emotional chaos of my family by over-organizing or relentlessly de-cluttering my space. I may avoid my feelings of failure by the excitement I generate when gambling. I may avoid the feelings of loneliness by over-scheduling, over-exercising, or over-shopping.
On the flip side, some of us use our addiction to stay connected to what is familiar – even if it doesn’t feel good. If my family had cocktail hour every evening as the place and time we gathered together, letting go of alchohol is going to feel very disconcerting – especially when it was tied to being together as a family. Our addiction may be tied to a positive reward or other positive feelings which can make it hard to let go of. Even when we don’t like how we feel and want to stop, unconsciously, our addiction can have us feel safer than not knowing what is going to happen. This is how many generational addictions get passed down through our families and communities.
At the heart of it, we are looking to feel better and don’t realize that facing and releasing the feelings we are avoiding is the key to the well-being we seek. Many of our addictions give us a sense of feeling better or a sense of relief when we indulge in them – even though it is a temporary experience. That is why we keep going back to them over and over. So, what are we to do?
First, we can decide that we no longer want to use the old addiction to feel relief, even though we don’t know how to let go of it. Just being willing to let it go, begins to shake it loose and shifts the energy around it. Next, we find ways to recognize and express the feelings we are avoiding in ways that are kind and loving to us. This works best with someone or something that can be fully present with us without judgement. Often our journal, an animal or tree are our best options. Stay clear of other humans that want to ‘fix’ you.
If you are not sure WHAT you are feeling, this emotions color-wheel can help you begin to refine and express what you are experiencing.
A tool you can use to release the energy of the emotions behind the addiction is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or tapping. I like Brad Yates who has 8-minute tapping videos on YouTube to release a variety of different emotions.. Once the emotional energy has moved through, we can make new inner connections. We can connect the old addictive behavior with the old pain, instead of connecting it to the relief we used to get from it. Then, we can connect the relief we feel with the new behavior and it becomes easy to let go of the addiction that no longer does its job for us – give us relief.
Which addictions will you free yourself from today?
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