Addiction: What’s it Really Mean Anyway?

Those who know me know that a big part of my personal drama is on again/off again relationships. Funny at first, these quickly escalate into high highs and low lows so consuming that everything else becomes meaningless. This has not been a one time phenomenon: I’ve had 3 on again off again relationships in my life ranging from 3 to 10 years in length. I’ve always thought I could ‘fix it’ or ‘be better’, and to not ‘try harder’ was to ‘give up’ . In my most recent go around a close friend said to me ‘I think you may be addicted to him. To this.’ What?

This wasn’t the first time my friend – who happens to have a degree from Brown in experimental psychology – had sufficiently diagnosed me. I’ve heard it, but I’ve not listened, laughing it off as ‘how can anyone be addicted to a person?’. Actually seeking a finality to this tumultuous relationship, I began to research addiction, codependency and how we as individuals seek happiness outside of ourselves. Everything seems to be written with me in mind.

Love/Relationship addiction is actually a very real thing. So is Alcoholism or Shopping Addiction. But in filling my brain with all that I can of the topic, the bottom line is: the ‘thing’ you are addicted to isn’t the issue. It’s the ‘thing’ inside you that you are unconscious or consciously compensating for that truly is the root of the problem. Until that is sorted, you will continue to fill the gap within yourself with addiction after addiction. A new relationship. A narcotic. Excessive shopping. Worrying about money. Working too much. Exercising too hard. Future planning. I’m sure many of us know exactly what I’m talking about.

Part of this is out of our control. Genetics seem to play a role in addictive behavior, especially if you have alcoholism in your family. Add to this family and parenting styles and childhood trauma or abuse and addictive behavior may be out of your control unless you get in front of it.

In today’s fast paced society, do we have a real problem being happy with where we are, right this second? Is the problem that we are too afraid of being labeled if we openly choose to invest in our personal, aka mental/emotional, understanding and development? Does the internet and the access to information and great tools make this far more difficult? Does taking steps to know yourself better always have to come off as ‘spiritual enlightenment’ or religious zealotry?

I’ve found myself as I distance from my ex going directly back to old addictive behaviors: overthinking my nutrition, plotting bouts of overexercising, planning where to buy a home, obsessing about my weight, working too much, focusing too much on starting a family, etc., etc., etc. The thought of being still and present, as simple and hokey as it sounds, ends up being terrifying when you finally grasp that in doing so you’ll have to look at and work on yourself – the very thing you’ve been putting off by filling your head with needless drama. What do I like to do? What am I good at? What are my hobbies, my dreams, my thoughts on x-y-z? Without the drama of the addiction, where are you left?

Basically, you’re left where you started before the addictions crept up. You need to move forward into the space you left when you became preoccupied with something or someone else. The more I read and learn, the more sense it seems to make and I’m hopeful that happiness truly can be found within. You just have to do the work to get there.


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