First let me explain what addiction is. Addiction is frequently being compelled to indulge in a behaviour that offers short-term relief, but long term damage in any area of your life (heath, relationships, finance and work to name just a few areas). The important word here is compelled.
Addiction is a difficult challenge to overcome. Not because the addictive behaviour is hard to break once the addict realises they have an addiction, but because addiction is shrouded in denial, preventing the addict from seeing their behaviour with clarity.
Denial is created by the addict in a bid to protect them from the loss they perceive they will endure if they give up the addictive behaviour or substance. Perceive is a very important word here because the addict actually does not gain anything from their addiction at all. Their addiction gradually and systematically destroys every area of the addicts life until all that is left is the addiction. As each area of the addicts life is slowly destroyed, the addict clings more and more to the addiction because the addiction is perceived to be a pleasure. The key to breaking any addiction is to break the cycle of faulty thinking that keeps the addict enmeshed in this cycle. So the good news is, addiction can be overcome a lot easier than we all think possible.
First let us explore addiction itself. All addiction has exactly the same roots regardless of the substance or behaviour that makes up the addiction. So addiction could be to substances such as alcohol, drugs or food, or it could be to behaviours such as gambling or shopping. All addictions are there to serve the same purpose, which is to change the way the addict feels. All addiction is masking unresolved pain.
This is how it works. The addict has a feeling. Now the feeling could be good or bad. A good feeling will lead the addict to celebrate. If they are addicted to food, they will celebrate by eating. An alcoholic will have a drink. A gambler will treat himself to a little flutter. If the addict has a bad feeling, they will indulge in the addictive behaviour to try and make themselves feel better. This is the paradox of addiction. One cure for all feelings! So, as the addictive behaviour continues it naturally gathers momentum (I will explain why in a moment) and becomes a bigger and bigger part of the addicts life. In extreme cases, if allowed to continue, it becomes the only thing in the addicts life.
Addictions naturally gather momentum for numerous reasons. The first reason is that the addict perceives that they gain some kind of reward from their addiction. This is never the case. If you enjoy something, you can take part in the activity and feel better for having done it afterwards. An addict usually feels worse following the addictive behaviour. A drinker will have a hangover, a shopper will feel guilt about the bills they now have to pay, an emotional eater will feel guilt about their latest binge etc. As discussed earlier, addicts indulge in their addictive behaviour to change their emotional state. Once the bad feelings surface after their latest indulgence, what is the first thing you think they will want to do? Yes! They will indulge once again in their addictive behaviour in order to get rid of their unwanted feelings. This is obviously a downward spiral.
The second reason why addictive behaviour gathers momentum is because it is used as a coping mechanism but in addition is used as a celebration (initially anyway. Once the addiction really takes a grip there is no longer the desire for celebration). Usually, if we are healthy and balanced, we have a number of ways to alter our emotional state. A few examples are, take a hot bath, meditate, read, relax and watch a movie, chat with friends etc etc. The addict stops looking for new ways to resolve challenges and ease stress. They use their addiction for immediate gratification. This gives the addict fewer and fewer coping mechanisms, as the addiction becomes a bigger and bigger part of their lives.
The third reason addiction gathers momentum is if the addiction is to a substance rather than a behaviour. If the substance is physically addictive, this causes further complications in the cycle of addiction as the body starts to crave the substance and will react (withdrawal symptoms) when the substance in question leaves the body.
The forth reason addiction gathers momentum is tolerance. Our bodies are amazing and intricate machines. If you are addicted to nicotine or alcohol, try and think back to the first time you smoked or drank. The taste was disgusting! You felt sick and dizzy and your body produced all kinds of unpleasant feelings. It did this because you were poisoning it! It was a warning. Now nature is very clever. Your body assumes over time, that if you are constantly poisoning it, you are doing so because you have no other option. So in order to make you more comfortable, it stops producing warning signs. This means that in order to get any ‘benefit’ from the drug of your choice, you have to take more of it. Your body then once again reacts to warn you. You ignore the warning, so your body decides to stop warning you because it assumes you have no other option than to poison yourself so you have to increase the dose. This is called tolerance. Obviously, with each increase in dosage, the body comes under more stress as it tries to cope. As the body comes under more and more stress our health and well-being becomes more and more compromised. Again, a very painful downward spiral.
So we now come to the point where we can explore how to overcome an addiction. As previously stated, it is not the addiction that is the difficulty; it is the addicts perception of their addiction that is the challenge. If the addicts perception changed, the addiction could be overcome with relative ease. The addict feels helpless to overcome their addiction because they perceive their addictive behaviour as being precious to them. This is denial. It is this denial that needs to be addressed and then the addiction can be resolved because the addict can see clearly that the addiction is not serving them. It is in fact doing the opposite. It is destroying them. The strongest addiction is actually psychological addiction rather than physical addiction. Physical addiction can usually be resolved after a few days of detoxification. If physical addiction were the strongest element of addiction, then it would follow that after a few days of detoxification, you would be free. As we all know, this is not the case. Psychological addiction is the root and is caused by faulty thinking and denial. Change the thinking and the addiction no longer exists because it is no longer ‘needed’.
If you think you have a physical addiction, please seek help because you may need a supervised detoxification programme. For addictive behaviours, your first step is to admit you have a problem. You do not have to hit rock bottom to overcome an addiction. People hit rock bottom because they fear their life without their addictive behaviour so much that they continue with the behaviour until they have nothing left. I promise you. Life without addiction is wonderful. It is faulty thinking that is telling you otherwise!
Beneath addiction is often unresolved emotional pain. If you have suffered any type of trauma in your past, please go and seek help now to resolve it. Avoiding emotional pain will not help you. You have to learn to walk through emotional pain. Don’t allow your past to dictate your future.
Addiction often also masks a feeling of lack of purpose. Addiction can allow someone to ‘opt out’ of life and sit on the fence just observing from a distance. We all have skills and gifts to share with the world. You are no exception (although you may feel as if you are). Trust me, you have a purpose. Decide today that you are going to commit to finding and living that purpose.
As I said before, addiction often masks emotional pain. If you have suffered trauma in the past, get help today to resolve that trauma, and then resolve to make meaning out of your suffering. There are probably thousands of people who have suffered a similar trauma who could really benefit from your help even if it is just hearing your story.
Addiction also exacerbates emotional pain. As you try to navigate life through the eyes of your addiction, you create more challenges for yourself. Your behaviour creates feelings of helplessness and guilt. This has a prolific effect on your self-esteem, which then needs to be medicated further with your addiction of choice. Be kind to yourself. Try and think back to things that used to give you pleasure. Slowly introduce those things back into your life. And don’t beat yourself up if you try to quite and then relapse, doing that will only make the journey more difficult.
And finally, as a Homeopath, I have dealt with many clients with addictive behaviours. I have listed below a few remedies that may help with your addiction. Remedies should be 30c potency and should be taken 3 times a day until you start feeling better. Once you start feeling better, only take another remedy when you start feeling worse.
Take this remedy if you work hard. You may worry about work, eat unhealthy food and drink alcohol to cope. You may be bad tempered and stressed.
Take this remedy if you feel anxious and restless. You may be off your food or you may have a large appetite. You may feel sick at the sight or smell of food. You are exhausted but will still get things done. You like everything in its place.
Take this remedy if you like to be perfect. You may have had abusive or strict parents when growing up. You may have had to take on adult responsibility as a child. You need to be a ‘good girl’ ‘good boy’.
Take this if you find it hard to share your problems with people. You like to cry alone. You don’t like people to get too close. You may like salt. You dwell on past disagreements or negative situations. You find it hard to forgive. This is also good for past unresolved grief/loss.
Take this if you feel you bend and sway to gain peoples love and approval. You can be needy and clingy. You may weep a lot. You don’t like being on your own.
Take this if you have a philosophical approach. You may think more than you ‘do’. It is also good to restore energy where energy is depleted due to toxic liver.