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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.