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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Appeal of Addictions and Hangups

You know how sometimes you are just doing a tedious activity--laundry, mowing grass, running, cooking, etc.  You know one that forces time upon you--time to think, time to ponder.   One day, a few months ago, I was in the middle of such a task and had a profound realization.  I was thinking upon the demons that I have faced in my life as well as observing those in family and friends.  A simple question occurred to me: Why do people get stuck in self-destructive patterns, even when they know better?  These are usually referred to addictions or hangups.

Addictions or hangups are often an escape hatch.  Some things we are escaping from:
  •  Facing pain of loss
    • Death of a loved one
    • Breakup 
    • Personal security - resulting from physical, sexual, mental abuse, etc.
    • Of a job or career.
  •  The drudgery of everyday life--the boredom and grind of being.
How do these hangups manifest themselves in a person with such a personality?  More often than not by 'acting out'.  That could be going to the casino and gambling your paycheck away, going to the bar and drinking ceaselessly, using illicit drugs, seeking meaningless casual relationships to help you forget your troubles or some other destructive pattern.  

These episode are often triggered by something.  Sometimes it can be thinking about your troubles listed above.  Sometimes it can be remembering the 'good times' or high we had running away from them.  In 12 step programs they view common triggers to be HALT--Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired.

So, say for example, our hangup is alcohol.   What happens?  Something puts us over the edge and we hit the bottle.  For a time we just feel so much better.  The buzz wears off and often we feel worse with a hangover.  Over time this will destroy our body and liver.  We are drinking 'water', but the water is making us more thirsty and is actually destructive to us.  Same thing with gambling.  For a little bit, the high of winning or at least the 'promise' of winning fills our thirsty soul, but at the end of the day, when we are out of money and cannot pay the mortgage or rent, we have destroyed our security.
So why do we keep hitting these things, even in the face destruction that they cause us?  In our sober moments, we may see just how much damage our hangups or addictions have cost us, yet they still persist.

So, it occurred to me.  Once a trigger has reeled us in and the addictive behavior has taken hold, it is like water to a thirsty soul.  Our soul is hurting and it demands water to quench it, only the water is our hangup.  Think of it this way, you are dehydrated and you see a glass of water with ice.  Your body screams out to you to drink it.  Only, imagine the same scenario, except that the water has some salt in it.  If you have a deep thirst and have no other sources of water or fluid, you see the salty water, know that it has salt in it, but your heart says, dern it I'm thirsty.  So, you drink it anyway.  For a moment, you might feel a little better, but ultimately, you will become more dehydrated.  

Overcoming hangups and addictions requires a recognition that we are not dying of thirst, that the water that you'd drink is water that would never quench the type of thirst you have anyhow and seeking alternative ways of quenching the thirst.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Man in Motion, Carpe Diem, Lose Yourself, Don't Look Back: what it all means.

It's funny sometimes you turn on the radio and you hear a song that you've heard countless time and it speaks to you in a way that it never has before.  Today--July 9th, 2015, I heard St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion) and it got me to want to step outside myself.  It got me a little fired up.  Man in Motion was about the story of Rick Hansen and his world tour on behalf of the disabled.

In the wiki page for him, it is said about him that:
In 1980, fellow British Columbian and Canadian athlete Terry Fox, who had lost a leg to bone cancer, undertook the Marathon of Hope, intending to run across Canada from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island to raise awareness for cancer research. He made it from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Thunder Bay, Ontario, before a cancer recurrence forced him to stop, about half of the way through his journey. Inspired by Terry's courage, Hansen decided to undertake a similar journey to prove the potential of people with disabilities and to inspire a more accessible world. But his planned path was far more ambitious: he planned to circle the world in his wheelchair.

Back to the memes and sayings--what do all these things have in common:

In all these memes and songs, we are exhorted to reach for a 'higher place' or calling.  But what does that mean when we are underneath the fallen debris and difficulties of life and what is a 'higher place'?

To me, a 'higher place' is the potential we have always had locked inside us, but were blocked from approaching it.  What are the steps to reaching a higher place?

  • Recognizing that we aren't where we could or should be.
    • It is hard to achieve a greater purpose when you are don't realize or are in denial about where you are relative to your potential.
    • I believe that most people know on some level that they can do more than they are doing now.  This self-awareness I believe leads to stress, anxiety and often taking 'self-medicating' steps to deal with it.  For example, if you are the underachiever relative to your group, class or family--your circle--and you know that you are as capable as other in your circle are, it is hard to escape or miss it.  This often leads to taking steps to 'cope' with your perceived underachievement
    • Having a mentor, counselor or close friend to relate to and to confer with can help us to visualize goals.
  • Wanting to achieve a higher purpose.
    • Not everyone wants to or sees the need or benefit of a higher purpose. Sometimes it takes a bad situation or circumstance to wake us up to where we need to go or that we do need to work on a higher purpose.
    • “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” ― Henry David ThoreauCivil Disobedience and Other Essays
  • Having or recognizing goal(s).
    • In order to reach for higher you have to recognize a suitable or 'reachable' goal(s).
    • Sometimes these goals are recognized in early life.  Sometimes they are recognized in later life.  
    • Sometimes these goals are not recognized all at once, but rather in steps.   Though we tend to prefer understanding the big picture all at once.
      • Effectively this implies long-term goals which house short and medium term goals.
      • It's important not to get discouraged when the goal(s) haven't become completely obvious at once.
      • This can require us to learn or practice patience.
    • Goals can be diverse in nature.
      • They can be professional goals.
      • They can be personal goals.
      • They can be athletic goals.
      • They can be intellectual goals.
      • They can be spiritual goals (or all goals can have a spiritual element to them).
      • They can involve a clear winner.
      • They can involve where everyone is a winner (betterment of society).
      • They can be goals that focus on bettering oneself.
      • They can be goals that focus on bettering lives of others.
  • Obstacles to the goal(s)
    • Important to recognize them.  If you can't put your finger on what is blocking you, it is hard to remove the blocks.
    • All obstacles do not have to be overcome or conquered at once.  As a matter of fact, trying to do that can often lead to discouragement.
    • Important to understand the type or nature of the obstacles.
      • Unavoidable life circumstances get in the way.
        • Death of a family member, job loss, etc.
        • These often require time and processing.  It is important to allow yourself a break for these, but not to forget the endgame.
      • Unforced errors/poor choices  (purposeful or unintentional)
        • Can be demotivating or distracting. 
        • We need to recognize that the errors don't define us, UNLESS we allow them to.
        • We need to avoid pinning the blame on others for why we are not where we need to be.  We need to recognize our role in this process.
        • We need to not let these become an excuse or define us.
      • Setbacks
        • These are inevitable.
        • Once again, they don't need to define us.
      • Realization that the status quo is so much easier usually.
        • As they say, any goal worth having will not be easy to achieve.
        • Often times the status quo takes no effort.
        • Anyone can fail, all you have to do is not even try.  Then failure is guaranteed.
        • As Imagine Dragons says in It's Time, "The path to heaven runs through miles  of clouded hell right to the top."
    • Faith being weak/doubting ourselves.
      • We have to recognize that while God rewards those who reward themselves, He won't usually have achievement or success come easy.  
      • We have to push on towards are goals, but remember that He is ultimately in control and can help us to move mountains if we ask Him.
      • Feelings as if we can't change and/or what difference does it make what we do.
        • It is important to recognize this negative self-talk and to replace it with positive self-talk.  Not pie-in-the-sky, delusional or completely unrealistic, but still positive.
        • Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.
Achieving a higher purpose is not for the faint and often times requires a lot of sacrifice with little reward (at least at first).  But, it is important to focus on the One that created us in His own image and realize that God doesn't give us more than we can handle.  We just have to do our best and then leave it in His hands.