My definition of addiction is feeling management. Any time you are doing something or thinking something to make yourself feel any differently than you do in that moment, you are practicing your addiction. That addiction can be anything from heroin to television, from Emotional Freedom Technique to affirmations. I like this definition for addiction because it points directly to the treatment: learn to be present with however you are feeling right now.
Learning how to be healthy with your feelings, no matter what they are, is the best treatment for addictions I’ve ever seen. All the rehab programs that are successful teach their participants this skill. And they encourage them to practice this skill until they can use it with even the most powerful feelings. Rehab programs that are not successful generally are teaching their participants other ways, besides drugs or alcohol, to avoid their pain and other feelings. These are nothing more than substitution addiction programs.
Being healthy with your feelings means that you are fully aware that they are there, that you fully accept the truth of them and that you follow them back to their roots, their genesis, their source (see Feelings – Part I and Feelings – Part II for more on that). Signs and symptoms, of which physical and emotional feelings are a subset, are clues that something in your system is out of balance. They are clues we need to follow.
So, let’s say that you and I are working together on a treasure hunt. We find a clue that says “Proceed three blocks east and two blocks north, look for an orange box.” You look at that clue, get out your pencil and start scribbling, “I hate going east. I’m changing that to south. I hate orange so I’m changing that to blue, and instead of a box, I’m going to look for a flag pole.” And off you go with your new clue that is more to your liking. How successful are you going to be in the treasure hunt?
In real life, your feelings are the clues and the treasure is a healthy, fully realized you. We alter our clues all the time, we don’t follow them and then we wonder why we don’t get better.
Your addictions are asking you to be impeccable with your feelings and to find and be your truest self, which is also a Spiritual path. Every addict I’ve ever met has three personality traits in common: they are all very bright, very creative and very sensitive. Put those three traits into the same person, drop them down into this cesspool of human suffering and it’s going to hurt. Addicts are often trying to get out of that pain. Rather than finding other ways to ignore the pain, it is better for the addict to learn how to find the blessings in those three traits, to turn them from being curses.
Here is what I suggest. Engage your intelligence in a challenge. Challenge it to help you find lasting real peace and happiness, not just a momentary escape. Keep challenging yourself, keep searching and stick with it until you figure it out.
Engage your creativity because chances are, you are going to have your own unique path to your peace and happiness. Other people’s journey might give you suggestions or encouragement, but you have to walk your own path in your own way. Again, look inside yourself at least as diligently as you look outside yourself for answers.
With your sensitivity, you can listen quite deeply. You will be able to hear inner information that others have to practice for years to access. Trust what you hear. Follow your heart’s knowing. It will help you navigate fears and limited beliefs and get through. Work with someone who gets addictions on this level.
Tom Green, Patti’s late uncle and a lifer in AA, was fond of saying, “The alcoholic is a Spiritual Seeker.” And how right he was.
Copyright 2013 Steven M. Hall, MD
Previous Posts in this Series: 1. Healing Implies Change 2. Emendation 3. Faith 4. Awareness 5. Acceptance 6. Compassion 7. Feelings – Part I 8. Feelings – Part II 9. Feelings – Example 10. Feelings and Diet