Addictions are based on emotional addictions. There’s an emotion someone is running from or running towards. People want to feel good and when they don’t know how to make themselves feel good, they can sometimes fall into the trap of using addictions to make themselves feel better temporarily. It’s rooted in the emotion of feeling good now, but then feeling guilty later. A very common addiction rarely discussed is that of co-dependent behavior. Those who are co-dependent on other people to constantly uplift them (because they don’t know how to do it for themselves) usually don’t see this addiction as a problem and it is socially acceptable to be co-dependent.
Yes, humans are designed to be connected, but if you start every day feeling bad and depend on others to uplift you, then you have an emotional addiction. Every single person is capable of self-regulation and creating positive emotions for themselves without any external influence. However, when someone lacks this awareness, they can easily become emotionally addicted (co-dependent) on others. People constantly seeking attention from potential romantic partners have a co-dependent addiction. They need to feel desired in order to feel good.
Infidelity is an emotional addiction and co-dependent behavior. It is ok to want to be desired by your partner and to speak up about that need. However, when someone is offering this and you still need to seek it from other people, that is an emotional addiction. If it comes at the expense of hurting others, it is an addiction. If you need constant validation and attention from others, it is a very clear sign that you are not giving it to yourself. You are seeking an external feeling that you can be giving internally to yourself. Co-dependency is just one example of an emotional addiction.
Another example is a gambling addiction. This addiction is based on running towards hope and freedom. Financial resources mean freedom. The get-rich-quick feeling keeps people coming back for more. If people invested the amount of time, money, and energy on a small business as they do lottery tickets; they would no longer need to buy lottery tickets and could invest in themselves instead. Do you know how many small businesses you can start for less than $1000? Yet, how many people have already spent that amount or more on lottery tickets or other gambling this year?
So why don’t more people create small businesses instead of gambling? Because somewhere along the way, they became convinced that they couldn’t do it. Either from a lack of education, financial support, or other reasons, they never start those small businesses they talk about. If you have a gambling addiction, I urge you to choose to invest in yourself instead. You are absolutely worth it and you can do it. There’s many resources available to you and people less qualified than you who are already running small businesses. Give yourself the hope and freedom you deserve by investing in yourself.
Smoking addictions are based on a feeling of relaxation through slowed breathing. Pulling a drag on a cigarette forces one to slow their breath into deep, long breaths. This is essentially what works for everyone when they are stressed, upset, or in a fight-or-flight response. It’s the slowed breathing that calms the nervous system that they are after, the cigarette is just the means to achieve that. This is why electronic cigarettes are so popular, they have the same result: slowed breathing. You can train yourself to do slowed breathing and you wouldn’t need the cigarette or its unhealthy side effects.
Now, substance abuse addictions are typically an avoidance behavior. It’s an attempt to escape from an emotion or reality altogether. Without any sense of emotional regulation, people think that avoiding themselves will turn it off. However, when the high wears off, they go right back to the same thinking patterns that led them to the emotions they are trying to avoid. No pill, drug, or drink is EVER going to teach you how to focus your thoughts. You always have the power to focus your thoughts, which lead to your emotions, which lead to your internal environment. Self-regulation and emotional processing can curtail the need to avoid oneself. You don’t need to avoid yourself, you need to get to know yourself. Nobody can do this work for you. Get to know your triggers, know your coping mechanisms, know how to regulate yourself, know how to uplift yourself. Fall in love with learning about, improving, and getting to know yourself.
Now if you believe the ‘addiction is a disease’ philosophy then you might find yourself stuck in a victimhood mentality that you will always have this ‘disease’ which is not true. Addictions are not a disease; they are a coping mechanism to a lack of emotional regulation. Yes, calling it a disease might relieve you or loved ones of some of the guilt around this person’s choices; but they are, in fact, choices. Not everyone chooses to escape their emotional environment through the use of substances, that is a choice that has nothing to do with biology, it is an individual choice.
The definition of a biological disease is: a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors. There is nothing diseased about your body or mind when it comes to addictions. Addictions are a coping mechanism. Children don’t have substance abuse addictions because it is a learned behavior. Diseases impact all people of all ages. Substance abuse addictions impact teenagers and adults only. Addictions can be cured and it happens daily. Sometimes it’s spontaneous and some of them take time and practice. If you learned this behavior, then you can also unlearn this behavior.
I, like many others, partied throughout my twenties and thirties, but when I felt like it was time to stop, I just stopped. It didn’t require countless doctors visits, it wasn’t a huge ordeal, it was simply a choice. I didn’t like the feeling of a hangover so I stopped drinking. I also realized that I didn’t need to feel an alcohol buzz in order to relax or have fun. I didn’t discuss my choice with anyone nor seek any approval, I simply stopped. It was as simple as making the choice to stop consuming cow’s milk. It is a choice.
Your journey may not look like mine, but if you want to stop an addiction, the first step is awareness. It’s breaking a habit. Every time you have an urge, ask yourself, “Is this choice going to make me feel good or make me feel worse later?” I once coached a very successful businessman who replaced his nightly drinking habit by returning to jogging. His love of running was a much better feeling than the guilt he felt after drinking. This is about choosing yourself and what feels best to you. You know what makes you happy and you know what makes you feel bad.
If you don’t want to consume something, nobody is forcing you to. Nobody can make you smoke, drink, pop pills, etc. anymore than they can force you to drink cow’s milk. When we start using words like ‘disease’ we take away one’s power to choose. Consuming any substance is a choice. Humans only need food, water, and oxygen to survive. Substance abuse addictions are not diseases, they are choices. We can discuss the various reasons why people consume harmful substances, but at the end of the day, it is a choice. It is not a ‘disease of the mind’ the way schizophrenia is either. The entire ‘disease’ philosophy is to relieve the feelings of guilt and/or to make you believe you can never recover from this particular coping mechanism. It robs of you of the ability to heal yourself which you absolutely can. There are countless stories of people overcoming addictions daily, don’t buy into the belief that it’s something you can’t achieve. Getting sober is like losing weight, it’s a series of choices, and there are many different pathways to achieve the goal. You have to find what works best for you.
If you cannot stop an addiction on your own, there are many resources available to you. There are therapists, coaches, and detox centers everywhere. My personal recommendation is to find a program that includes cognitive training. As I said earlier, no drink/drug/pill will ever teach you how to focus your thoughts. Your emotional environment is based on your thoughts. Cognitive training teaches you how to train your focus. Reliving old/past events repeatedly is only going to keep you looped into old vibrations that led to the avoidance behavior (substance abuse) in the first place. It’s ok to process old emotions/old stories in order to move through them, but sobriety is about moving forward, not reliving the past. This is about creating the best version of you. Training your mind will train your body how to relax naturally.
We are all creators and we create our own emotional environments regardless of our outer circumstances. When you realize you are the creator of your reality, then you don’t need to escape your reality. Alignment curbs addiction. Instead of using a substance to forget your emotions; find your alignment and move yourself up the Emotional Guidance Scale. Distracting yourself with something that causes guilt will never bring the same feelings as doing the things that you love. It is not about forgetting; it is about remembering.
I pray that you choose yourself today and every day. If you or anyone you know is struggling with an addiction, know that eliminating the addiction is possible. Resources are available and when you are ready, the Universe will guide you to the professionals, books, videos, etc. to help you. You can heal yourself. I am rooting for you, you got this.
All is well and you are loved,