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Substance Abuse: The Emotional Credit Card

Self-Love and Respect—the Repayment of Emotional Debt

This is an analogy I have used with my clients for a while now and many people can relate to it in their own lives as well as with friends and loved ones. The principle is really very simple; short-term gain, long-term pain.

Those of us who have ever been caught up in substance abuse have a lot in common with people who misuse credit cards or monetary loans. The immediate rush of instant gratification is so powerful that we ignore the cumulative effects of prolonged use and abuse.

I once talked to a client who said the first time he tried heroin he made a decision to make it the central focus of his whole life. He said something along the lines of, "I'm going to pay rent and do heroin." 

The rush of the drug for this individual was so profound that it usurped his ability to understand what his decision would cost him in the long run. Before long, he was unable to pay rent and was just doing heroin. Shortly after that, he was unable to even do heroin because he landed in jail and (luckily) ended up seeking treatment.

In addition to the staggering financial debt that can accumulate with such a lifestyle, the emotional debt is the most harrowing thing of all.

All those days and years people spend abusing substances is time when emotional wounds are covered over; their healing is postponed in favor of the next hit. The law of diminishing returns soon takes over and more of the substance is needed to deal with the increasing emotional debt as well as the compound interest.

Some corner of people's awareness realizes how deep in emotional debt they are sinking. Rather than stop using and begin paying it off with self-care and better choices, many people double-down on their situation and increase their substance use (or other addictive behaviors). 

At this point, rock bottom is really the only salvation. Much like an individual or corporation that has no choice but to declare bankruptcy, those caught in the grip of powerful addictions come face to face with an unavoidable wall of emotional liability.

It is at this crucial point that the light may actually start to trickle in. People realize that the only way out is through. There are no shortcuts or easy answers to be found; the sobering reality stares us square in the face.

I have had the honor and privilege to work with many people who have reached this place in their lives. They make a commitment to do whatever it takes to heal the wounds of the past and get out of the emotional red zone.

The open secret to all of this is to simply love ourselves in whatever situation we are currently dealing with. Self-love is the antithesis to addiction; there is no such thing as an addict who loves him or herself unconditionally. When we reach a certain threshold of love and respect, we will stop accumulating emotional debt and begin to quickly pay off whatever liability remains.

We have reached a crucial point in our civilization where we really have no choice but to heal and stop indulging in temporary coping mechanisms. Even if we are not full-blown drug abusers, everyone has certain coping mechanisms that are less than healthy and slow down our healing process.

That is why my work is dedicated to working with people wherever they are at in this process of recovery, healing, and self-discovery. Learning to give ourselves the love we have sought for so long is the cornerstone of a happy life.

Michael Thielmann
Michael Thielmann

I am a counselor, spiritual mentor, and writer living on Vancouver Island. My passion is to help people get in touch with their own love, creativity, and empower them to live in alignment with their highest wisdom.

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