"An addiction means that you just have to have something in order to feel good: it can be work; it can be food; it can be shopping; it can be anything."
Reducing the Seductive Nature of Addictions
Addiction: the quality or state of being addicted; a compulsive need for use of a habit-forming substance or activity known to be harmful to the individual.
Is it just me or has our so-called developed society become riddled with every addiction imaginable? With all the opportunities life has to offer us all, you would think addictions would be less of an issue now, versus years ago.
I agree with Dr. Phil that many of us have become addicted to something in our life; the vast majority is completely oblivious to it or is simply in denial. I am one who was in denial for over 20 years about one of my addictions and resolved another addiction only recently. I will talk about my addictions later.
One of the many reasons individuals get addicted is to fill a need or feeling of emptiness. That need could be emotional, mental, physical, interpersonal, or spiritual.
But wait--addictions are no longer limited to adults. Now our children are part of this tendency. Think about video games, shopping, food, Internet, TV, and related activities in which children engage and you will observe trends that are addictive and certainly not healthy.
So what do we do to limit the effects of the seductive addictions in our lives and our society?
First we must acknowledge that addictions are a significant issue for most of us. Unless we believe that, we will do nothing to correct our condition. Here are some real examples.
- In the UK, an individual became so addicted to being online -- 20+ hours a day -- that he lost his job. He then went on social support so he could Web-surf all the time.
- A 15-year-old girl was hospitalized when her hands became numb and she was no longer able to use them. While she was in hospital, her condition subsided but returned after a few days at home. Eventually it was determined that the cause of her numbness was her addiction to cell phone text-messaging, which she did 8 to 12 hours a day.
- An individual recently died while jogging. He had become so addicted to running; he actually exercised himself to death.
- Locally a new support group called Shopping Anonymous was started by an individual who had shopped himself into despair and bankruptcy. Even though he did not need the things he was buying, he purchased over $100,000 worth of products on various credit cards in just 12 months.
- In a recent documentary on The Learning Channel, a 750-pound man denied he was addicted to food; his position was that he simply liked food. After being hospitalized, he died a few weeks later -- his body no longer able to function. He was 39.
The list of what we could be addicted to is endless, including all substance abuse.
Obviously, the cause and solutions of the various addictions would each fill a book. Today, I would like us simply to own whatever addiction we might have and/or help other people with theirs. I will provide you with a few guidelines to move forward.
1. We must all pay attention and acknowledge the potential that some compulsive thing we are doing can very easily become an addiction.
2. We must not judge ourselves or others harshly about addiction(s). When people are addicted, they no longer have full control. True, they must decide to do take action to help themselves but, in many cases, the cause of the problem can be much different than we might think.
Let me share two personal examples of addictions.
- In the late Ď80s, I was wrongly diagnosed as manic depressive and given antidepressant drugs. They almost killed me because my body did not need them. After further investigation by non-traditional medical professionals, it was determined I was hypoglycemic, not manic depressive. A 6-hour Glucose Tolerance Test proved that to be true. My low blood-sugar condition had placed me into an addictive pattern of consuming sugar. When I ate a candy, I needed another and there began the vicious cycle. I simply could not stop eating sugar. My system was trying to compensate for my condition -- which made "my addiction" even worse. Family and friends judged me that I had no self-control and that my condition was my fault. That kind of support I could have done without.
- The second example is a more recent discovery of addiction. For the past 20 years, I have experienced various levels of insomnia. I soothed my inability to sleep by watching TV far into the night. I knew that if I went to bed early, I would only wake up later and not be able to get back to sleep.
Of course, well-meaning friends made statements like these about my TV habit.
- You need to have more willpower and just turn off the TV.
- You lack discipline.
- You know you are doing this to yourself.
On and on went the judgmental comments, generated through ignorance or naivety.
What most people didnít understand was that I am the person most frustrated by this ongoing condition. I would love to be able to have a night of restful sleep.
Just recently I went to see a specialist -- a neurologist -- who determined the reason for my insomnia. I have an irregular brain-wave pattern that does not shut down during sleep. Itís like being awake with my eyes closed. And TV causes my body to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which eventually helps me sleep -- TV is a sort of self-medication, if you will.
My point here is that the reasons and causes of some addictions are not clear cut. We must be vigilant and look for all possibilities.
Not all addictions are as simple as making a decision to rid yourself of the problem. A certain level of compassion must be directed to the addict to help him or her find resolution and a release from the addiction. The last thing an addict needs is an individual with a judgmental attitude. I know; I have lived with that for all my life.
Successfully freeing yourself from an addiction can take many forms. Here are some general strategies to consider.
1. Look for all possible causes or reasons of the addiction.
Look for biophysical conditions such as to mental and emotional fears that manifest themselves into various addictions.
2. Addiction management requires a commitment to change. Without that, forget it.
Your thinking will need to be in check; be sure to frame your success into benefit statements of why life will be better without the burden of your addiction.
3. We all need support -- especially when it comes to addictions.
Why do AA and similar help-groups have a support structure? Because they know you will need it -- and it works. That can be as simple as a friend with whom you are accountable or a formal support group. Do whatever will work for you or the person you are helping.
4. Create no-fail environments.
Itís not good enough to try hard. You must create an environment where you can win. If the addiction is food, make sure thereís no unhealthy food in your house; you canít eat whatís not there. If you canít control your spending, cut up your credit cards and ask your financial institution to place a daily limit on your debit card.
You might say -- Ken, you donít understand. I wonít be able to function without those things. If you say that, an addiction is looming, for sure. Nobody said it was going to be easy -- only worth it!
5. Donít beat yourself up because you have an addiction.
Regret has no long-term value. Simply acknowledge your condition and move forward. No more is required. There is far more value in looking forward than backward.
6. Celebrate wins for yourself, no matter how small.
When it was determined my insomnia was not my fault, I felt relieved. I also felt vindicated; I was not staying awake on purpose!
Hereís a final checklist regarding addiction.
- Reflect on your life to determine if any addictions are controlling you. If you have family -- especially children -- please do the same exercise with them.
- If you have some areas of concern, look for the root causes. Leave no idea unturned.
- Many books are written on this topic. Seek outside expertise.
- Take the steps to help yourself or someone else release the control the addiction has over you and/or others.
Action Steps for Reducing the Seductive Nature of Addictions
1. Addictions are not limited to substances like drugs and alcohol. An addiction can be anything you must do (compulsively) to feel good or fulfilled. That includes shopping, work, exercise, surfing the ĎNet, eating/food, gambling, TV, etc.
2. What behaviors in your life could be addictions? Ask a close family member or friend that question about you. Does he or she see any addictive-type behaviors in your life?
3. Do you feel you have no addictions, even mild ones? Are you sure? Denial is a strong friend of addictions.
4. Do you have a family member or friend who might have addictions and who might benefit from reading this article? Forward it to that person now.
5. List the addictions you are willing to own or consider. Now take the time to investigate (with professionals, if required) to determine all the possible reasons or root causes of each addiction. That will influence the roadmap you create to release yourself and/or others.
6. List all the benefits you will enjoy if the addiction(s) no longer influence you and/or others.
7. Stop being hard on yourself and/or being judgmental toward people who have addictions.
8. Establish benchmarks in the areas of your health, self-worth, and values because they will all help in the recovery process.
9. Change requires a 100% commitment. Nothing else will work.
10. Create a support network willing to work with you during your transition.
11. Get professional help, if needed. Specialists work in almost every area of need.
12. Set up a winning environment. If at all possible, remove the source of the addiction from your immediate access. If it is unhealthy food, remove it from your home. If it is TV, cancel your cable, and so on. You get the picture. Get rid of temptation. Nobody has that much willpower.
13. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small.
14. Make an effort to help someone else win the battle of the seductive addictions.
15. Now enjoy the freedom that your new life will provide you.
Until next time, keep Living On Purpose,
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Ken Keis, MBA, CPC, is an internationally known author, speaker, and consultant. He is President and CEO of CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc., Many professionals herald CRG as the Number One global resource center for Personal and Professional Development.
For information on CRG Resources, please visit crgleader.com
For information on Kenís Training and Speaking Programs, please visit kenkeis.com
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