The addict in us

I’m coming round to the idea that all of us have the potential to become an addict. In some form, good or bad, I believe it to be true.

There’s no science needed, no heavy data analysis or surveys, its there for all to see, plain as day and in its many different forms,  our behaviours are becoming more and more addictive.

The definition of addiction is; The fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity.                                                                                                                         

We hear the word addiction and society has trained our brains so that we instantly go to a place where we think of the most destructive of things like alcohol, drugs or gambling, now these probably are the 3  of the worst addictions out there, but it certainly isn’t as clean cut as that and there are plenty more besides.

I have been an addict in some form for 20 years plus, some of it healthy, some unhealthy and some simply destructive and bordering on self harm. When I think of my own addiction/s and trace them back they can directly correlate to things that were going on around me in my life.

When I was a young child I was addicted to sports, being competitive and being the best. I grew up on a tough council estate so it was always about competition and trying to be the best, not showing any weakness. I think that this is normal, healthy and probably fairly usual for a child especially a lad, its as much of a cultural thing than anything else but nevertheless the reward was popularity, stimulation and confidence. Very ego driven.

When I became and adult (and that’s still arguable), I became addicted to work, I was a workaholic. Whether it was running night clubs or the sales environment, I got the buzz from getting up in the morning, driving staff to drive sales and hit targets, the reward was success, personal development and financial gain.

When I became a Cocaine addict, all the other things that stimulated me and I looked for in reward became irrelevant. I used drugs In the earlier stages, recreational, to feel a euphoric high and gain confidence and stimulation, this was my reward but later after the ‘recreation’ really became an addiction the reward was to feel numbness, create a sense of oblivion and suppress any emotions so that I just didn’t feel.

The above show my personal three different types of addiction and addictive behaviour,:

  1. Playing sports. To be the best, at a high level, you could say fairly healthy, and was at a time in my life where I was young, with no stresses, financial headaches or any of life’s other little challenges.
  2. Work, work, work. You could argue this is where it because less healthy and more an obsession, albeit its not destructive or hurting anyone, however when you are doing 80-hours a week, dealing with emails every day even when you are 5000 miles from the office and managing social media sites until 4 am, its not helping you or your relationships or life balance. This was at a time of my life where I had been beaten down by life but felt like I was still the boss, still in control of everything.
  3. Cocaine. This is an obvious one. Unhealthy, destructive and self harming. This came at a time in my life where I had pressures which had built up over time, financial, relationships, trying to conceive and the loss of my Mother and Father. All the Cocaine would do was stop me feeling anything for the above things and being numb because normal. Not feeling emotions had become normalised.

All 3 of these addictions gave me the stereotypical reward, the instant gratification but it went from winning, to making money to then taking drugs so that I wouldn’t’ feel anything. Overtime it evolved from healthy addiction to destructive addiction. I’m not entirely sure whether there is such a thing as healthy addiction?! As you can see from reading my addiction evolution, its clear that this is how my brain has been wired, its part of my make up so its surely just a natural progression?  When things are good its controlled but when the shit hit the fan, I climbed higher and higher up the addiction ladder.

Its not just drink, drugs or gambling that we as a society use or do to get that quick fix, that instant distraction or that momentary buzz, so I started to explore this more and look at my own actions (outside of drugs) and study others, and what I noticed is that society has changed so much and there are now so many more ways and channels for people to tap into their addictive behaviours, and that’s why I think addiction is more of a problem than ever, just not obviously visible and not just in adults but kids as well.

My personal definition of addiction (and I feel like I have merited the right to give one) is the “obsession and ritual that must be carried out to satisfy an urge or a craving” . We can explore the reasons underneath which causes people to use and become addicted, but I’m more interested in the variety of addictions types that are out there without us even really noticing. My list looks like this;

  • Drugs, Gambling and Alcohol as we’ve discussed
  • Sex
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Shopping
  • Eating
  • Computer gaming (consoles, apps & handhelds)
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snap chat)
  • Phones and I pads
  • Television.

When I was in the deep pit of cocaine addiction, the thought of me not being able to use drugs or not have any money to use drugs, would cause me to argue, loose my temper and go crazy, and that’s putting it mildly!! But If I took my nephews Xbox from him when he was naughty I would get exactly the same response from a kid aged 14!! I’m pretty sure anyone who is reading this would have the same reaction if you were told that they had to go without your phones for a week. OMG How can I live without Facebook?

We are living in the most addicted era that has ever lived, in turn this has led to the most anti-social, disconnected, obese, unfit, non communicative, poorer, alcohol dependant, drug using society certainly in my lifetime and i’m sure that ever has been,

The point is this. I don’t believe in the “Once an addict always an addict” mantra. We weren’t born like that, we’ve been trained and wired to cope with what society has thrown at us. As babies we use to reach out and ask for help when we were struggling, somehow over time we’ve stopped doing this and use ‘things and substances’ to cope.

If you go back to my personal story, it all started healthy, a happy childhood surrounded by care and love, any ‘obsessions’ were healthy, but this then later changes because life corrupts us overtime and somewhere along the line that addictive behaviour then becomes unhealthy and destructive, and i’m sure that what may seem like perfectly healthy addictions now will then go onto become dangerous later in life. The obsession with I phones and I pads, shopping and gaming, will all be transferred to other forms or substances when things go wrong. Hopefully things wont go wrong, but we all know that its unlikely because life just isn’t that kind, lets face it. Shit happens!!

We’ve trained our brains to use these ‘coping mechanisms’ to distract us so we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to feel what ever it we are feeling whether that’s happiness, sadness, fear, anger guilt or shame, these are all healthy emotions that are meant to be felt not pushed down or away, they are uncomfortable yes, but if you can’t learn to feel the tough stuff how will you feel the good stuff?

If we have wired our brains in this way then they can be re-wired to user more positive coping mechanisms. and actually learn to feel and be connected to our emotions. That’s not to say you cant have a phone, play games or have sex, but its about knowing when its getting too much, and more importantly noticing why you are on your phone all the time or glued to Facebook 24/7 or drinking in excess or using drugs but identifying that It really has become an obsession, like an itch that has to be scratched.

We have, and I know this applies to me have become masters of being able to anaesthetise our emotions.

My addiction to cocaine was as a result of traumatic circumstances yes, and at the time the pain and sadness was being dampened down but my emotions became so suppressed down that I became completely emotionless. I stopped feeling anything, then the using of drugs became about trying to feel something again, anything! How messed up is that? I used drugs to stop feeling and then it worked so well that I had to use to start feeling again! This little description of how my mind was working (or not working) just shows why drugs are ridiculous, because it just doesn’t make any sense, none of it does, it just isn’t rational, however we continue to tell ourselves that it makes sense

Whether its drink or drugs, iPhone’s or I pad’s, PlayStation’s or Xbox or cosmetic surgery we are all tinkering on the edge of addiction. Is there such a thing as a good or healthy addiction? I don’t know, I certainly believe channelling that focus into something like sport or fitness is better than drink or drugs granted but with that little addictive switch still in the mind and accessible at any point we are all walking the tightrope.

Can a social media addiction become a substance addiction?

From my experience it probably can.

Sometimes you just need to say to yourself “Just stop it”

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72 thoughts on “The addict in us

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  1. I don’t agree that everyone is an addict. Nor do I think there is a healthy addiction.

    I do think most have the ability to be and addict.

    Having experienced a medication due to surgery, I do know the effect and power chemicals have on the brain. And can empathize with those have fallen into addiction as a result. I sympathize with people whose biology increases their propensity toward addiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Its an interesting debate, our behaviours are always close to being the wrong side of the line, you make a good point

      Like

  2. I don’t know if everyone is an addict but we all have some habits that need to be modified. And working too hard is a huge one…people don’t understand how stress can kill just as fast as any drug. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually published the wrong version. I’m amended it now. Ive literally just come out of rehab so I had the older version on another PC 😦

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  3. Crazy how true this is… I met a person and simply asked, “Hey do you play any games? Like PC Games?” I was shocked to not hear, “No. Not my thing,” but instead, “No, I get addicted easily.” You’re so right, I knew so many World of Warcraft addicts!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey, thank you for sharing your own story to illustrate how seemingly harmless addictions can lead to major, damaging ones! This is a powerful and thoughtful post because you used your own process rather than just “preaching” at us. You left with me some things to think about. One thought back: what would it look like to enjoy x thing it’s possible to get addicted to? For example, how can we enjoy food, sex, a drink of wine, exercise, etc. without becoming it’s slave? Any thoughts from your own experience?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well thanks for the feedback firstly Anna.
      I am always conscious about not preaching and relating it to the point of ‘I’.
      It seems cliche to say all things in moderation but its true. I think you can enjoy anything but if you are doing it to stop thinking or feeling certain things or emotions then it becomes dangerous.
      If its being used so that you are becoming detached from your emotions then its bad.
      You just have to have the awareness to say , im getting too carried away and take a step back. Thanks for your feedback

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      1. Hmmm….yes, that makes sense! Are you saying it’s possible to overthink these things?! 😉

        I think one other way we realize that we are becoming addicted to a good thing is when our friends let us know something is off. Sometimes we are so blind to our own stuff…which is unfortunate. Feel free to check me out at http://www.thawingout.org I write about some similar themes, such as in my post, “No, Anna, No!” (http://www.thawingout.org/index.php/2017/02/11/no-anna-no/)

        Keep up the writing!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In my experience when you start getting addicted to anything you tend to start isolating yourself, so its about self awareness more than anything. I suppose if you are an addictive personality the channel it to something positive like fitness or family. Just read the post about where was God when I was abused? I can relate after losing my Mum and Dad to lung cancer I lost faith.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah, I see what you mean. Isolation does indeed limit how much others could speak into your life, but of course, you are right: isolating ourselves in shame is EXACTLY what we do! I just wrote a post about shame (http://www.thawingout.org/index.php/2017/07/03/how-comparison-leads-to-shame-and-prevents-healing/), so it’s kinda on my mind. 😉

        Thank you for checking out my blog! The post you read is probably the hardest post I’ve written. The last thing I wanted to do was cause further hurt or pain by my “hopeful ending” (as of now, at least). You lost your mum AND dad to lung cancer?! Wow. No words. No wonder you lost your faith. No you are in good company! In my own experience, we can’t force ourselves to believe something again (and perhaps we shouldn’t, depending on what the belief is). Courage to you in your continued healing! I’m around anytime you want to bounce ideas back and forth, blog-style! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, thank you! Appreciate the positive feedback. I spend a ridiculous amount of time writing my blog posts. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot, I was addicted to work, i loved it, like i loved the drugs i guess. Its an easy transformation

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  5. Excellent piece. I believe a few of the other comments miss the point that we are all susceptible to addiction, but not that we are all addicts. Habits are addicting … biting your nails, walking your dog at the same time every day, calling your mom every Tuesday etc.. Its so relevant in today’s day and age because whether we are willing to admit it, there is a serious drug problem in America and it’s only going to get better if we start talking about it. Thanks for the great read Jimmy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes a hard routine and structure are habitual but positive but are different to addiction. I’ve left rehab and rigidly stick to my routine because it gives me structure. That works for me.
      Biting your nails all the time to stop you from connecting from your emotions will be addiction, you make some good points and thanks for reading and giving feedback

      Like

  6. Good post. Learned something new here about addiction. Feel like I work so much I forget to balance my personal time with my family. If I’m not traveling, I’m blogging or networking. I have to find a healthy balance. Thanks again for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is so true. I was addicted to things like eating and then with my change came an addiction change. Fitness is now what I live for. I traded the one thing that could kill me for something else! This read hit so close to home for me. Addiction isn’t always the obviousness that we think of it can be a simple as eating or going to the gym! Great read!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A very thoughtful post. Sharing a chapter from one’s life to talk about a topic as sensitive as addiction, requires strength. More power to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting article! I think always in habits. I think we always can make concious decisions and change and improve our addiction or habits.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think there are indeed many more addictions than just the drugs and alcohol ones.
    I don’t think everybody is an addict, but I do think there are fine lines and you can never tell until you’re in to deep. Some addictions are healthy though, like the sports one you were talking about.
    It’s a very honest post, that’s what I like about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting idea! Although i do believe that there is a distinction between a hobby and an addiction. When it becomes unhealthy and it dangers other areas of your life than you can say that you have an addiction, otherwise it is just a way to handle life.

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    1. I agree as long as you can identify when you getting too involved in that hobby, it’s fine when life’s good but can transfer when you hit trouble.
      It’s about awareness I guess

      Like

  12. We can also consider any habits as some sort of “addictions”. People do really have the tendency to be too much fond of something sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

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