Addiction is a master of illusion. It convinces us by incredibly skilled and cloaked negotiation to get everything it needs from us by compulsion. I have worked with various manifestations of addiction over the past 18 years, mainly substance misuse, but also gambling & sex addictions and I have come to identify addiction as an energetic entity, with a personality, with motivation, agendas and ruthless tyranny. However, when we are under the spell of addiction it can take a long time and a lot of suffering before we see through its illusions.
How does this energy or entity of addiction get created in the first place? It would appear that in the first instance we create an escape or an avoidance as a result of something in ourselves or our environment that feels intolerable to us. Our bodies are like train stations with hoards of comings and goings of information and energies. We experience these in our reactions and responses, constantly tuning into the world around us. We are not always taught to accept these feelings or how to respond to them though, so if it happens that something about feeling our way in the world overwhelms or confuses us, we can attempt to assert control over what we feel and when we feel it.
There are times when we have very good reasons for not wanting to feel our feelings. If our environment, especially when we are most vulnerable such as when we are young or during times of great stress or trauma, we are overwhelmed, we will instinctively seek ways to survive it. We will invent imaginary worlds, with perhaps imaginary parents, brothers/sisters, friends to interact with – because we get to do that on our terms. Our early escapes can be into books, or with the characters on TV & films etc where we get to invent our entire interaction with them. In finding our way in the world, it can take a while to learn how to live in our world, on our terms, in a way that fits our well-being.
When we practice escape and avoidance consistently, we are attempting to establish in our bodies a selection option where we can choose to only feel the feelings we like and tune out the rest. But our bodies are not built that way. What invariably happens is that our body will tune out so much emotion with the result that we may lose our ability to feel our true feeling and feel our artificially created ones which can lead us to feel lost, without a sense of our place in the world; we can lose our ability to feel real joy & it can become more difficult to make decisions because we have a diminished connection with our intuition & our gut feelings.
As this becomes more established in any way as our main way of coping and surviving in the world, we can seek more and more reliable ways to manage and control what we feel and when we feel it. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food can give us this easily – use this drug/do this and have this effect. It’s that simple. But this is not the natural process. We are shutting out our true feelings & attempting to control what we feel by using a drug or other compulsive activity and these emotions will live in our bodies and can become toxic to us unless we allow them a space to be acknowledged and felt.
This leads us to the business of recovery. Nothing can survive if it is starved, and addiction is no exception. By starving addiction of what ever it is compelling us to do, it weakens. Our survival and conquering of it is that we are to realize that we are stronger than it, that as we created it, we own it. We are not its slave, it is not our master but vice versa. So, what do we need to starve it of?
Starvation of addiction can work a bit like a game of opposites. Whatever addiction is compelling, negotiating or bargaining with us to do, we must have a clear sense of what it is we must healthily do so as not to fall into the traps. Addiction’s primary modus operandi is deception and it is so skilled at using our old patterns, our beliefs, history and traumas to its advantage. The antidote is transparency & total honesty, voluntary honesty even. In diminishing the power of addiction, all that we have hidden within is eventually laid bare. We are then seating ourselves with an opportunity to face all of ourselves and in this we can conquer our pain, fear, shame, and inadequacies inside us. Acceptance of our pain, our vulnerabilities, our mistakes & failings allows us to meet ourselves at our most human, and meeting ourselves that we find the ability to set ourselves free.
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