Addiction: It's far more common than we realize

What percentage of the American population do you think would claim that they watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix despite wanting to stop?

Or do you think struggles with watching pornography consistently despite wishing they could stop?

How many men and woman do you think are struggling to stop working over-time on the weekends despite the disappointment and pain it brings to their kids and marriage and themselves?

When most of us think of addiction, we often associate it with the most extreme cases, like with alcohol or meth. Yet, addiction is all around us.

It's far more common than we realize.

I love Dr. Gabor Mate’s definition of addiction because almost anyone can relate to it.  He states that “Addiction is any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life or the lives of others.”

...Been there?

Stuck in a cycle with something that is momentarily relieving, yet harmful over time, and you just can’t stop?

I mean, I would even say that I listen to podcasts at times because it’s more relieving than silence. It gives the sense that I’m moving up in life.... like I’m doing something significant, even if it’s just learning. And yet, I know what my brain really just needs is to catch up in silence.  But still, I turn it on simply to stimulate my brain.

It's minor but you get the point.

Or... Starbucks? What percent of America won’t face their day without their morning cup of caffeine?

Yet we say it’s far off...

We think addiction is for others.

People not like us. 

But collectively, as a society, it’s everywhere. 

So what do we make of it?

As a society, are we despicable? Failing? Or weak?

No, not at all, actually.

Addiction is never a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of pain.

And likely, this is the best way we know how to deal with it.

The question for you, however, if you admit to having your own repeated struggle with a harmful, yet momentarily relieving behavior, is what pain is perpetuating your cravings?  What is it that you are seeking relief from?

Should you believe in your dreams?

Maybe not all of them.

It's important to ask ourselves why exactly are we dreaming?

The motive behind our hopes and dreams can be hidden and more misleading than we often give them credit for.  For example, it’s easy to dream or fantasize when we're lacking self-worth or feeling insignificant, to dream in such a way that our dreams will "save us" from our circumstances and self-limiting beliefs.

Dreams, however, are not meant to be our escape, our savior, or a means to an end for finding internal peace and fulfillment, dreams are meant to be an act of creativity and generosity that flows out of the gift of who we are.

We form our dreams out of what we already have, out of who God made us to be, and what is distinct about our being.

So perhaps the question is not what would you do with your life if money was not a problem? Perhaps the question is what gift would you give to the world from the overflow of who you are if you already had all the praise, attention, wealth, and significance that you desired?

What interesting problem would you help solve in the world?  Where would you contribute and lead? What would you create for us?

From this place alone do I believe dreams flow, and from here and here alone do we live out fully who God made us to be.  

Combating Shame

You can do 9 things right and 1 thing wrong, and shame is so powerful that it's able to take one mistake and, somehow, make you believe you’re a failure.

It only needs 1 bad decision to override 9 good ones.

Its narrative is quick, sharp, and convincing.

For such reasons, it's important to form your own set of truths that are non-negotiable and predetermined so that you can pull them into your consciousness as quickly as you're triggered.

It begs the question: what are your truths about yourself that are premeditated, non-negotiable, and at the ready to be pulled out in a moments notice?

Here is a couple of examples of beliefs to draw from amidst the heavy pulls of shame:

You are stronger than you feel. 

You are doing a better job than you realize. 

You are more loved than you know.

Saying "NO"

When your boss asks you to come in this Saturday on your day off.

“No, sorry. I promised my family that I would spend the day with them.”

When you find yourself impulsively eating snacks for no other reason than to escape what you’re feeling...

“No, I should stop.”

When someone asks you to get coffee on Saturday morning, but it's been a long week and you need time alone to reflect and gather yourself....

“Sorry, I won’t be able to this week."

But... how do you know when it's the right time to say no? 

When saying no to others is difficult for us, it's often a sign that when we were young, we were never taught that our desires, moods, and voice mattered.  And it reveals itself in our inability to stand up for what we want.  But, we did learn that our mom’s opinions and fears mattered... or maybe it was our father's rage or pride. Or maybe it was someone who violated us sexually or verbally without our permission.

The silence that followed our feelings when we were young taught us that our voice, or our "yes" and our "no,” don’t matter.  Our voice was violated.  And crossing such a landscape taught us that our role isn't to form our world, but to get out of the way of it...

And here we are fifteen or thirty years later knowing that something needs to change. We know that if we don't value our moods and opinions, no one will for us.   

Yes, it's painfully difficult and you'll mess up and get pushed over from time to time and forget as you learn to speak up.

But if you don’t start saying no, no one ever will for you.

The three factors that universally lead to stress

According to Dr. Gabor Maté, there are three factors that universally lead to stress for human beings:

1) Uncertainty
2) Lack of information
3) The lack of control

And here are two other bonuses:
* conflict that we're unable to handle
* isolation from emotionally supportive relationships (because isolation actually affects dopamine levels)

All stressors represent the absence of something that we perceive as necessary for survival- or our threatened loss.

So the next time you find yourself stressed, a great question to ask is why?

Maybe it’s all of the reasons listed above... 

If so, now what?

What will you do to find peace?

*Gabor Mate, Scattered: How A.D.D. originates and what you can do