October 12 - Addiction Calling

Everywhere I have turned the last few days, I have been confronted with stories about addiction. From my clients to neighbors to eClubSoda to Oprah, from Dr. Phil and Larry King and Montel Williams, I hear it, see it and read about it everywhere. My emails relate tales of many people who want or need help. Parents are worried; young people are afraid; and unfortunately many, many do not even understand why their families or employers are concerned about them.

The substances to which they are addicted range from alcohol, work, busyness, gambling, drugs, sadness, anger, shoplifting, exercise, food, sugar, you name it, and our world can become addicted to it. If the propensity for addiction is present in your life, be on high alert…always. If your primary addiction is alcohol and you have “handled” that one, another may easily beckon, which if you succumb to it, can lead you right back to your primary addiction.

The last word about addiction has certainly not been written yet, but we have an opportunity to learn something new every single day. I am encouraged that we are breaking the silence about this dis-ease. Someone told me today that she had seen a definition of addiction that suggested it provides short-term benefits and long-term disruptive effects. How sad, and yet how true.

When we hurt, as all human beings must do from time to time, and if we happen to find a substance or activity at the same time that eases our pain for a while, we have a tendency to return to it when we experience a similar pain once again. However, because it was an artificial or accidental relief in the first place, the subsequent attempts to find relief will be unsuccessful… at least long term. So within a relatively short period of time the cycle of addiction begins. And the beat goes on…and on…and on…until one day we are fortunate enough to hurt more from the addictive behaviors than we did from being human. It is then we have the best chance to do things differently.

What can we do to begin to establish new behaviors and move away from the addictive ones? First, we must recognize the presence and the prevalence of the old behaviors. Without the recognition, we won’t have any idea of when we are in the addictive pattern.

Next, it is important to determine the desire to change. It takes an effort to establish a new habit, so the desire to change is very important. So we must acknowledge what is not working so we can fully remember the consequences of our old behaviors.

It is also extremely important to design the behavior we want to incorporate into our lives. Without a destination in mind, we usually find ourselves running in circles ending up right where we began. When the old habit beckons, it is paramount to have the new one at hand to practice.

Along with accomplishing these three steps, it is necessary I believe to have set up a support system consisting of people who will support you in your mission. No wimpy people-pleasers here…you want partners who will be willing to remind you of the commitment you have made…even if it triggers your anger when they do!

Talking about your mission will not only help you but others as well. We must break the silence of addiction. This disease should carry no bigger threat to anyone’s job or family than the common cold would. If we need medical attention, then we ought to be able to inquire about help without losing our jobs. If we need support, we ought to be able to attend twelve-step groups without being afraid our neighbors would see us. We ought to be taught about it in school so that we can talk candidly with our children about addiction and choices.

Expect that you are going to be drawn to the old behavior and do the new behavior anyway! This is part of the journey…it is a tug-of-war at first…it takes a while…but when you cross that winner’s line, you will be exhilarated, I promise.

The change in our energy when we leave addiction behind is incredible. Life and health return a rosy glow to our skin. We feel authentically connected to others and to ourselves. We start to share our lives and make a difference in the world. We begin to see the purpose in life and celebrate it genuinely. Suddenly it all makes sense.

Do you have any addictive behaviors? If your answer is “no,” would you look again to make certain? Are you attached to a view that no longer serves you well? Do you repeatedly go after the short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term satisfaction? Are you familiar with the sound of addiction calling?

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