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I wanted to follow up my recent article on substances with this piece, as I feel we need a constant stream of insight and practical solutions in the area of addiction and mental health.
When we think of being addicted to something, most of us jump to certain substances like cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. There is a paradigm of societal programming that tells us what addiction is, and what it is not.
I like to redefine the term in a very general and inclusive way. In my experience in my personal life and in helping many others, it seems like almost any substance, behavior, or experience has the potential to develop into an addiction. It all depends on the individuals involved and various factors in their lives.
For instance, many people enjoy a healthy sex life with long-term partners and do not give their sexual activity a second thought. A relatively small number of people develop unhealthy and compulsive sexual behaviors that require some level of conscious intervention to deal with.
The same can be said for gambling, gaming, and many other activities. Why can some people enjoy certain things in moderation while others fall into a vicious cycle? There are many different things involved that I will discuss in separate articles. The practical question to ask is what can we do to help ourselves and others lead healthier and happier lives right now.
Addiction is a phenomenon of subtlety and nuance. It is most easily recognized in its extreme forms, but by catching it early we can save ourselves a lot of needless heartache and suffering.
A general question I like to ask myself is, "Are there any activities that I find enjoyable but have trouble stopping?"
For example, if I tell myself I have time for one hour of video gaming but find that I am negotiating with myself to play for a second hour, this is a good thing to look for. If I make a concerted effort not to have my phone out when I am with real-life people, how often does it seem to be glued to my hand in spite of my intentions?
How easily does a glass of wine with dinner turn into a whole bottle over the course of the evening? Can a couple of (strictly medicinal) tokes inexplicably transition into a green fog that alters time and space?
It is not about self-judgment; rather, it is all about self-awareness and self-love. Sharpening our discernment and knowing ourselves on a deeper level can help us automatically regulate or let go of anything that may be problematic now or in the future.
What we realize is that our real freedom and happiness come from within ourselves rather than from any type of substance, behavior or experience. Addictive behaviors can cover up the pain, unease, and unresolved baggage we're carrying but they can never heal it at the root.
Making a concerted effort to have the discipline and honesty to call ourselves out on things before they become a problem can save us a lot of anguish in the long run. Quitting smoking today may mean we get to live an extra five or ten years, all things being equal. Getting our gambling under control could be replaced by investing in a new exciting business venture.
Similarly, gently, and considerately pointing out potential red flags in our loved ones may, at the very least, plant seeds that may help them down the road. It may not always (or ever) be appropriate to hold others to the same standards as we hold ourselves, but we can often make agreements with close friends or loved ones to mutually help each other out.
For instance, my wife and I have an ongoing agreement that we will call each other out on certain behaviors. If my caffeine intake gets too high, she will gently remind me to replace my [number redacted] cup of coffee with water or decaf tea.
When we live in a world where certain potentially addictive behaviors may actually be encouraged in a consumer-based society, the onus is truly on us to become sovereign beings in our own lives.
Feel free to contact me for more information. I have been passionately working to help empower people to clear obstacles in their lives for many years, and am dedicated to creating stronger individuals and communities, one person at a time.