Addiction is not just a physical problem. We are finally recognizing non-drug addictions such as sex, gambling, and gaming. In other words, addictions can be composed of unhealthy attachments to people, places, and things. So what is driving your addiction if not a physical drug?
True or False?: The body’s physical addiction to the drug is the core of the general problem of addiction.
Answer: FALSE. Why? The drive behind the addiction is a psychological compulsion to perform an action, such as use of a drug, checking your Ex’s Facebook account, or going out of your way to obtain a particular substance or encounter. It is the decision to engage in the addictive behavior and not the behavior itself that reverses your state of distress.
To support this concept, imagine you are on a diet and desperately craving a doughnut. You will be conflicted between the desire to stick to your diet and your desire to indulge your sweet tooth. This leaves you in a terrible state of discomfort and stress. Notice when you decide to surrender and have the doughnut, your distress is not relieved at the moment of your first bite but rather at the moment you decided to eat the doughnut. The emotional stress will be lifted as soon as you give in to your decision to act, not upon performing the act itself.
Keep in mind that when we act on our addictions, we are attempting to repair an underlying feeling of helplessness or powerlessness. Not in the action of the addiction itself, but in the decision to make the addictive action, we regain a sense of feeling empowered and in control of our own emotions. To have your emotions be dependent on something external (substance, person, situation) leaves you feeling like you are not in control of your own emotions. Many times your behaviors can be a frantic attempt to just change your mood, for better or for worse.
Therefore, to best manage your compulsive behaviors, avoid triggers that make you feel personally helpless or ineffective – in all realms of your life. This will reduce the drive and the impulse to reverse those feelings of helplessness. Remember that we all have a certain degree of uncertainty and lack of control over what happens in our lives. Strengthen your ability to sit with this discomfort while remembering that it is only temporary. This too, shall pass.