By Esther: Firstly the question is – What qualifies an Addict?
An addict in effect is actually a slave and this comes from the Roman times and therefore a Latin word. When Roman generals had succeeded in taking over a neighboring territory, the conquered soldiers and citizens were brought before him for sentencing. The general pronounced his new subjects to be slaves. That sentencing was called an “addictum”: the addicts” were bound and forced into slavery.
Addicts’ minds have a strong tendency to return to the destructive, addictive behaviour again and again. There is a yearning followed by a rationalization leading to action. They tend to be powerlessness over certain thoughts leading to behaviours that making their lives unmanageable.
A person can have addictive relationships with a variety of substances, activities or even people. There are many forms of addiction and some activities that would actually be normally considered healthy and socially acceptable. Such as social drinking and going down to the local pokies. In small doses for an occasional night out this is acceptable. However these two activities can turn into an addictive behaviour pattern.
There is even such a thing as a relationship addict. It is one thing to make foolish choices in one’s love life, but it is another to keep jumping from relationship to relationship without reasonable breaks of time between them. What would be considered reasonable breaks? Well, it certainly is not a few days or weeks.
There is such a thing as a gym junkie. Normally going to gym and getting exercise would be considered a good thing. However, there is not the case if the activity is interfering with a person having normal relationships with others, or holding down a job. This now is getting into the range of an addictive behaviour. Also in the case of the gum junkie, there is the additional danger of physical injuries due to overuse of the muscles and perhaps damaged tendons.
When an Olympic athlete has a particular goal and pursues it in an obsessive manner, other areas of his or her life may be subordinated or even damaged in the pursuit of the “gold”. If in the pursuit of this goal, the athlete’s well being is enhanced, we would say he is doing something healthy.
On the other hand, if the workouts, training schedule and the lifestyle is making the athlete’s life a mess and not enhancing their well being, but he continues it anyway, we would say that it has become an addiction.
One of the problems with people attempting to cope with addictions is that they often switch them from time to time. A woman who has an addiction to food may temporarily give up chocolate chip cookies, but coincidentally find her obsession with men intensifying. Or she finds that her craving for chocolate is “miraculously removed” when she is in a relationship only to return to chocolate once the relationship has ended.
Like compulsive eaters, we need to deal with addictions in a sane and balanced way what we once done obsessively. Recovering is not a black or white question but one of degree and one step at a time and at one day at a time.
Similarly, alcoholics quit drinking only to transfer their addiction to tobacco, coffee or perhaps even shopping. This can turn out to be another expensive experience. Most shopping addict are purchasing goods on credit cards and get themselves a very large financial debt.
Perhaps the answer may lies in a suggestion that Dr. Phil’s makes. “You cannot just stop doing anything. You need to replace one behaviour with another behaviour.” Hopefully a constructive one.
One thing that has been observed over the years by studies has shown that a person who has had a parent who was an addict, then that child had a higher risk factor of becoming an addict themselves.
Researchers at Yale University have looked at the endorphin levels of young children of alcoholics after the children were given a small dose of alcohol intravenously. As a comparison, the researchers also gave the same amount of alcohol to children of the Good Housekeeping group. The researchers found that the children of alcoholics after being exposed to a small amount of alcohol, produced about three to four times as many endorphins as the Good housekeeping group.
This chemical, which is associated with pleasure and is basically activated for the purpose of reinforcing sex and relieving stress, was released in enormous supply to the children of the first group.
That is one reason on why some people get caught up into addictions. For the person who suffers some type of addiction, when they do their compulsive activity or use their substance, their endorphin levels raises in their systems.
However, there is another possible reason on why some person get hook into some type of addictive behaviour and that is one of a lack of self-love and in fact perhaps even self hate.
Addictions and other self-destructive tendencies grow in an atmosphere of self-hate. Negativity is the essential nutrient that these behaviour patterns thrive upon.
In the past, well-meaning people taught us that it was unhealthy to be proud of ourselves. They told us to be modest, be humble and never take credit. That is all well and good for those who have a healthily sense of self.
On the positive side of being modest and all those other behaviours is that they grease the wheels of interpersonal relationships with family, friend and colleagues. However, there is a distinction between interpersonal relationships and the relationship with yourself. In the relationship with yourself, you need to give yourself credit – and most importantly unconditional self-love.
In other words be kind to yourself once in a while instead of beating yourself up all the time. You know – that constant negative chatter in your head.
Try the following:
• Listen to yourself and begin noticing what you are saying to yourself. Examine your thoughts while in bed late at night or first thing in the morning. Pay attention and if you are beating yourself up yet again, ask yourself, what evidence do you have to support what you are currently saying to yourself. O.K. if you have made a mistake, which all humans do – get your permission to make mistakes and learn from them instead of making it the worst case scenario.
• Be Gentle With Yourself. You are likely to discover during examining your thought pattern that you can be extremely harsh with yourself.
Do Not Constantly Criticize Your Critical Self. You don’t deserve condemnation just because you have a self-critical nature. Just notice the fact that you have been critical of yourself. NOW – Knock It Off. It is okay to criticize your behaviour if you happen to be habitually late for appointments. Just take note of that and do something to remind yourself to start being earlier so you can change this behaviour that you are not happy about.
• Distract Yourself. Sometimes you may fall into a negative rut, particularly after you have just screwed up a project or caused pain to someone. Instead of berating yourself endlessly, an effective strategy to seek relief through a number of distractions. What hobby or activity that is positive – NO NEGATIVE PLEASE. We have had enough of those.
For those people who are in a relationship with someone with an addictive problem we first need to ask ourselves – Who Problem is it?
Your problem is not that you care for someone with a problem, but your feelings whist you watch your love one struggle with it. Unless you can let go of having to fix their problem for them, you may need to pull back for a while and not watch them struggle with it to relieve your stress levels. Just because you cannot cope with watching someone destroy their lives does not mean that you do not love that person.
Most of the insanity and despairing you experience comes directly from you trying to control or manage what you cannot – the other person and their problem. If you happen to be in this position or know of someone in it – think of all the attempts that have been made to control the person with their particular addiction – the endless speeches, pleading, threats to leave a relationship and bribes. Remember how either you or your loved one felt at each failed attempt to keep the addict to put their life in order. Your self-esteem or your friend’s slip a notch and either of you became more anxious, feeling more helpless and perhaps even more filled with anger.
When you stop taking care of the person’s life that suffers an addiction and take care of yourself instead, they are likely to turn around and accuse you of not caring for them anymore. This anger comes from their panic of having to become responsible for their own life. There is a saying may come in handy if they accuse you of not loving them, should you decided that you no longer wish to be in this particular relationship. There is a saying – “You love the person – not the behaviour.”
As long as he or she can fight, make promises to change or try to win you back into the picture, their struggle is on the outside with you and not within themselves. Give him or her back their own life along with their problem and take back your own life and become your own best friend and life’s manager. They need to be their own life’s manager no you. You did not sign on for the job of their life couch but you did sign on for your own on the day you were born into this world.
All the best,