Take the Mystery Out of Addictions

We all have addictions. Fortunately most of them are small and harmless. Harmful addictions are those that damage our physical, financial or relationship health. The classic harmful addictions are drugs, alcohol, over-spending, over-eating, gambling, pornography and sex. In spite of the wide variety of addictive behaviors, every addiction has the same root cause. The cause is uncomfortable or painful feelings that one wishes to avoid or feels helpless to cope with. Believing that one is helpless to deal with the power of addiction only adds to the impulse to practice the addiction. Addictions simply communicate needs that aren’t being met.

The Domino Effect

When you are able to identify the feeling you are trying to avoid, and develop healthier methods of coping with that feeling, you are interrupting the domino effect that results in the addictive behavior. Lance Dodes, M.D. is the author of Breaking Addiction. He sees all addictions as the result of feelings of helplessness. He says, “People can work out just what actions to take to prevent feeling overwhelmed–whether changing future plans or developing a new perspective. Such strategies are fairly easy to marshall in advance of that teetering-on-the-edge moment.” He adds, “Addictive impulses are never random.” They follow moments when thoughts or feelings trigger powerlessness or other painful feelings. Learn to listen to the feelings your addiction is trying to cover up.

Sources of Powerless Feelings

Working with a coach or therapist may help you identify the source of powerlessness. Often it begins in childhood when our parents were inadequate to meet our need for love and value. Although all parents are doing the best they can with their own human inadequacies, children tend to blame themselves when they feel unloved, or unworthy. We use all kinds of coping mechanisms to help us manage those lacks in childhood. But with age, more options are open to us that may be soothing in the moment, but increasingly harmful in the long run. Stopping an addictive behavior means unearthing the core beliefs and resulting feelings that we desperately want to avoid!

Personal Examples

My son, Steven, was deeply troubled by his father’s death when he was only two years old. He immediately demonstrated symptoms of his grief, confusion and hurt. He was nearly potty trained but went back to diapers. His vocabulary dropped from about 200 words back to 10-12. For years he only colored in purple and black. He cried hysterically whenever I left him with a babysitter until he was about 6 or 7. I felt helpless to help him. Child-psychologists were rare and the concept of taking a toddler to a psychologist was completely outside of my world. At adolescence he discovered marijuana. Later he told me that it gave him the relief from anxiety that he’d been longing for his entire life. As he became more immersed in drug use and more openly belligerent to all authorities, I began practicing a corresponding addiction called co-dependence…the compulsive need to clean up his messes, refuse to believe the evidence of his addictions, and other ways of trying to fix the problem…Steve.

The Inner Child

With the help of a talented coach, I learned that the feelings that were driving the eating addiction did not just appear with recent circumstances. The roots of these feelings were planted in childhood where I felt unloved, unheard, and unencouraged. I was using the measuring stick of a great marriage and well-adjusted children to reassure myself of my value as a good human being. When those measurements began to fail, my deep fears that I was truly unlovable and worthless were triggered…prompting my attempts to avoid those feelings by over-eating. I learned that I needed to develop an inner Loving Parent who could give me the love and comfort I needed in order to cope with these difficult circumstances.

The Process…the Challenge

Developing a Loving Parent part of myself has enabled me to overcome the fruitless behaviors of co-dependency. I quit blaming myself for Steve’s struggles and thus was able to make far more healthy decisions in relationship to him. Those lessons continued throughout his fifteen year struggle with drug addiction. He ended his drug addiction and I my last steps of codependence recovery with him shortly before he died in 1996.

Recently a new couple who has enrolled in Millionaire Marriage Club confessed that the hardest thing about the program is choosing a new behavior over their old habits. Yes! That is the challenge! In order to get better results in any area of our lives, we must choose new behaviors. Sometimes that means replacing old, limiting beliefs with new beliefs. It means facing the futility of expecting better results while practicing old behaviors! And allowing myself to feel what I don’t want to feel and choose better ways to soothe those feelings.

Addictions Are Speaking to Us

Am I willing to listen? Are you? I wrote about my lessons learned in Your Inner Child: A Path to Healing and Freedom. I continue to use those concepts and strategies today. All addictions can be healed by the practice of loving the part of us that is hurting. Do I do that perfectly? Absolutely not! But I am continuing the practice of loving myself when I feel painful feelings. Would you like to join a group that combines personal appointments with me with group coaching over the next three months? If so, please email me your interest along with days and times when scheduling would work for the group meetings. Nancy@NancyLandrum.com.

You have my love and support,

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