Gaining freedom from addiction
I am writing this for you, regardless of what substance or behaviour you struggle with, be it alcohol, food, prescription or recreational drugs, gambling, too much time on the internet, spending, losing your evenings/weekends to television, watching porn, etc. I have used the heading “addiction” because it is such a part of our popular vernacular, and when we consider that the origin of the term “to addict” comes from a Latin root meaning “to assign to” or “to surrender”, it fits. That said, the word does seem to imply an on/off switch, that is, either you are addicted or you are not, when really, usage is on a continuum. You may still choose the term “addicted”, or you might prefer to think of yourself as having a dependency on a substance, or that you have been abusing a substance or activity. I will use the terms interchangeably in this piece.
The most important thing for you to know is that there is no one “right” way to deal with your dependency, and the best way will be the way that feels right for you. That pertains to when you feel ready to address it, whether you discern that aiming for abstinence or moderation is the best approach for your situation, and determining the kind of support that will best serve you.
Right now you may only be feeling angry at your dependency and wishing it was gone. It may have gotten to the point where you feel like the dependency has taken over the driver’s seat and is running (and ruining) your life. You’re probably imagining what your life could be like without it. I also suspect that at the same time, another part of you feels a lot of fear around giving up or lessening your involvement with the substance or behaviour.
Recognizing this push and pull is a necessary part of beginning to address your addiction. It is important to recognize all the ways the addiction is affecting you emotionally, physically, financially, socially, and spiritually. It is also necessary for you to give the substance or behaviour you’ve been abusing its full due. It has helped you tremendously; it has helped you to bear life and to keep away feelings that have threatened to feel intolerable. It has helped you to calm down, it has distracted you, and it has helped you to deal with all kinds of feelings, such as loneliness, fear, sadness, even excitement, and whatever other feelings you would add to the list.
Fully recognizing how the substance/behaviour has helped you will also assist you in gathering the strength you will need to say goodbye to the level of engagement that is now costing you too much. Recognizing what, specifically, the substance/behaviour offers you will also help you to begin to think of other ways that you can gain the same benefits … while accepting that for awhile, anyway, nothing will feel quite like your “substance of choice”. Rest assured that with time, and as you build a new life, complete with new coping strategies and new satisfactions, you will miss your old companion less and less.
Therapy can be very helpful as you begin to think about addressing your addiction. You have a lot of decisions to make about how to proceed in a way that best suits you, and it can be invaluable for you to have an experienced therapist to accompany you throughout your journey. Most importantly, you can make real progress in your life, and lessen the chances of your turning to detrimental substitute behaviours or relapsing to your old one, if you get help in dealing with the emotional issues that underlie your addiction. Within a caring, trusting therapeutic relationship, you can slowly let these issues come into the light to be met and healed.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to schedule a free consultation in my downtown Toronto office to discuss your situation.