It is easy to identify the obvious physical addictions; drugs, alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar, etc. In addition to being the easiest to identify, these physical addictions are also the easiest to kick. If you think that kicking the heroin habit is tough, try kicking your addiction to one of your core beliefs. You’ll scream. You’ll fight. You’ll rant and rave. You’ll suffer delirium tremors.
In addition to any physical addictions you may admit to having, you also have many emotional, mental and spiritual addictions that may not be so obvious.
Physical addictions are often obvious, but is not always so easy to identify the emotional addictions you may have. Nevertheless, we all have them. You can see them if you look closely at your relationships with other people, at the recurring cycles of circumstances that show up in your life, at the things you gather around yourself to provide comfort and pleasure. People who manage to escape one abusive relationship usually end up in another one. They are addicted. People who suffer through one emotional or financial crisis after another are not unlucky; they are addicted to the emotional drama.
It is even harder to identify the mental addictions you may have. Parents worry about pushers hanging around schoolyards, hoping to entice the innocent into some drug addiction. Yet, within the classrooms, well meaning teachers are busy impressing young minds with ideas and ways of thinking about life. (Read this excellent article written by a “teacher of the year”.) Parents do it too. They infect their children with their ways of thinking, with their attitudes, passing on their own addictions, their own behavioral programming.
Most people who have been programmed do not recognize their programming. Not one person who has been successfully brainwashed will readily admit to being brainwashed. And yet, we have all been, from birth, trained/programmed/brainwashed to think a certain way, to have certain perspectives, to hold a certain reality picture. And we have become addicted to those habitual thought processes, those perspectives, that take on reality. They provide us with pleasure, comfort and security just as much as any needle full of dope does.
It is harder still to identify the spiritual addictions you may have. Oh sure, it can be fairly easy to point the finger at those who are involved in cults; but, we are all addicted to belief systems. Each of us has become dependent on holding certain beliefs in order to have the courage to face the great unknown and the various other fears that arise from that. Resorting to a belief sold by a church in order to face your fears is not much different than resorting to a shot of courage made in a distillery and sold in a saloon.
It is easy to be in denial about these emotional, mental and spiritual addictions. Being in denial about them does not mean they do not exist. In fact, the denial that one’s habits are, in fact, an addiction is one of the primary ways to identify an addiction. Everyone who works in addiction therapy has heard a junkie say, “I am not really addicted. I can quit anytime.” To which the therapist will reply, “Yeah, sure, go ahead, prove it. Quit right now.”
It is not just a heroin habit that is hard to kick; all habits are hard to quit and some are a lot harder than heroin. Whenever I encounter someone who insists that they are not addicted to some belief or some way of thinking, I always say, “Yeah, sure, go ahead, prove it. Quit right now. Stop believing that or stop thinking that way for thirty days.” If you can do that, I may believe that you are not an addict.
Before I go any further into this, let me say that not all addictions are necessarily bad. It may serve you to be addicted to a mid afternoon cup of coffee. That shot of caffeine boosts your mental acuity and improves your productivity. It may serve you to be addicted to the endorphin high you get from your morning run. It provides the motivation to stay physically healthy. It may serve you to be addicted to your belief that you shall be redeemed in the afterlife. It may serve you to be addicted to the belief that you deserve success.
But just because an addiction may serve you or just because the benefits outweigh the negatives does not mean that you should be in denial about your addiction. So long as you are in denial, so long shall you be in bondage. In order to be free, you must first admit to your addictions.
Every person who watches television that I have ever accused of being addicted has told me that,even though they cannot go very long without getting their fix, they were not addicted, they just do it habitually because they like it. Uh huh. Listen up: Television is more addictive and more dangerous than heroin. Of course, if you are a regular user of TV, you are likely going to be in denial about the whole idea that TV can be addictive, let alone admit that you are actually an addict, or acknowledge that your addiction is at least as dangerous as that of a heroin junkie. Read this to get enlightened.
So, perhaps you will admit that you are an addict. How do you free yourself from your addictions?
Freedom from addiction is not determined by the successful avoidance of the thing you were addicted to in the first place; freedom from addiction is determined by your ability to use something (or not) without any dependency. Dependency is the true measure of addiction. Most people who claim to be freed from some addiction have only substituted one habit for another. The dependency is still there; only the way in which the dependency is being fulfilled has been changed.
The true cure of an addiction is not in the cessation of some habit or the substitution of one habit for another; it is in becoming free of the original dependency, not in substituting the way in which the dependency is satisfied.
A person who is cured of the addiction to alcohol is not the person who has managed to quit drinking. The real measure of being free of the addiction to alcohol is to be free of the need to have a drink in order to fill some hole in one’s self. Most ex-alcoholics are still alcoholics. They are just alcoholics who don’t drink. They are dry alcoholics. If you cannot risk drinking a cold beer on a hot summer’s day, lest you become a daily drunk again, you are not free from your addiction. It is still there. A person who is free of the addiction to alcohol can have a drink when and if they want to; they are just no longer habituated to using it to fulfill some dependency. They have a choice and are capable of making it consciously. They are free from both the habit and the dependency– the need that screams for fulfillment, one way or another.
Putting it another way, the cessation of some habit does not free you from the original dependency. You are still in bondage. Substituting methadone for heroin does not remove the dependency. Substituting weekly 12 step meetings and a supportive peer group for the daily happy hour at your local bar does not remove the dependency. Only the identification and removal of the root emotional, mental or spiritual dependency can set you free.
This is a tough job. For some of us, it may even be a lifetime of work. I can give you some simple suggestions, but only you can set yourself free. The other side of the coin of freedom is responsibility. Only when you are willing to accept total responsibility for the events and circumstances of your life will you achieve any measure of real freedom. So long as you assess blame to anything, you are imprisoned by that same thing.
To achieve freedom from emotional addictions, raise your level of self-esteem. Teach yourself to see yourself as being sacred. Get to know that you are divine. Learn to love yourself without reservation. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship of any kind, it is not the fault of your abuser, it is because you do not love yourself enough. I am not talking about the one of a kind abuses, like a random mugging; I am speaking of abuses that occur repetitively over time, that are habits. The relationships you have are the relationships that you feel worthy of having. If you desire to have better relationships (with people, with money, with success), then improve your opinion about your self-worth.
To achieve freedom from mental addictions, stop allowing your culture to be your cult and stop using your five physical senses and your previous programming to determine your reality picture. Start asking why at all times. Start bringing intentionality to everything. Continuously ask yourself… Why do I think that? What is my intention in thinking that way? Does it serve me to think that way? Is there a better way to think? A more productive way? In other words, start paying attention to how and why you think. Start thinking about your thinking. If you want to call yourself a Homo Sapiens, start bringing some Sapiens to bear upon your Homo Habilus.
To achieve freedom from spiritual addictions, you must come to recognize and accept that while it MAY be true that some Omnipotent Creator created you, it is CERTAINLY true that any god you choose to believe in and to revere is a god of your own creation. In other words, you must teach yourself to see yourself as being not just a creature, but as being a creator. The world you exist within is at least as much your own creation as it may be that of some supernatural creative force.
Set yourself free. Know that even your most profoundly held belief is only your opinion. You are certainly entitled to your opinions, but you don’t need to be imprisoned within them by pretending that they are anything more than what you are habituated to using to fill a hole in your self, to fulfill some dependency.
Finally, let me say this: I don’t believe it is possible to be entirely free of addiction. I do believe that it is possible to be free enough to be capable of consciously choosing what addictions I have. I’d much rather be addicted to happiness than to sadness, to pleasure than to pain, to enjoyment than to suffering. I’d much rather be addicted to success than to failure. I’d much rather be addicted to love than to fear. I’d much rather be addicted to those things that exalt me than to those things that denigrate me.
My name is Leslie. I am an addict.