June 24, 2011

Another Way to Look at Addictions

It's "Addictions Week" at Clear Life Solutions. Which doesn't surprise me; in the course of any few days, often I detect themes running through my clients' work as well as my own.

In the course of her work this morning, a client brilliantly observed that her mechanism of avoidance of situations that might trigger an uncomfortable claustrophobic or fight-or-flight response was an addiction...since avoidance is something that ultimately isn't good for her, but that she does repeatedly, in order not to experience pain.

Another client yesterday dealt with reasons for drinking more alcohol than she wants to at parties. For her, it has to do with not wanting to feel bored or inadequate in social situations...not with the desire for another taste sensation or a high.

Still another client is addicted to unsatisfying relationships; unable or unwilling to give herself the love, approval and appreciation she feels she desperately needs, she compulsively seeks it from others who don't, won't and can't ever provide her with enough of what she wants.

I recently re-read the "big book" of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to better understand tendencies—my own and those of the people with whom I work—towards addictive and compulsive behaviors. Interestingly none of the stories shared in the book are about loving alcohol; many even claimed to dislike the taste of it. Rather, the desire behind their addictions wasn't for the substance or behavior itself, but to avoid pain.

I have come to see that all addictions, in my experience, are about avoiding pain, and in the end, they don't work even in the moment because there is always a desire for more. If "apply chocolate/sex/alcohol/shopping/marijuana/video games/cigarettes liberally until self-realization occurs" worked, we'd all do that for a short time and then we'd be all better.

Clearly addictions are not the best medicine for us. That's why we call them addictions; not cures.

The only lasting "cure" I know is to investigate root cause; what thoughts make us hurt ourselves over and again? And how much longer do we want to let that take over? Once we meet addiction with understanding, what we are left with is a set of uncomfortable sensations that are never what we say they are. And then we are free to deal with them sanely.

©2011 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

No comments: