When I recovered from my alcohol addiction ten years ago, I soon discovered other objects of dependence to take its place. These secondary problems had always been there, but became illuminated when alcohol stopped stealing the spotlight.
Almost all recovered alcoholics confess to having dual dependencies, be they eating disorders or sex. Like peeling an onion, we expose a new layer with each use disorder we heal.
We never thought about those other habits as addictions because drugs and alcohol had captured all our attention. It set us apart from other people, and let others set themselves apart from us.
Middle class moms who drink too much wine worry about addiction when they can’t stop at one glass. But those same moms will spend more than they earn on shopping, yet never consider that habit an addiction.
My definition of addiction goes like this: a behavior that brings short-term pleasure or escape from reality, but harms us in the long run through negative consequences.My definition of addiction goes like this: a behavior that brings short-term pleasure or escape from reality, but harms us in the long run through negative consequences. Click To Tweet
In spite of these repeated consequences we continue to engage in the behavior, failing to learn or grow from our past experience.
That means shopping and many other commonplace activities fall under my definition, including over-exercising.
But not coffee. The only consequence of my coffee dependence is disappointment on the rare occasion I wake up and realize there’s none in the cupboard.
Why coffee is not an addiction
I do not drink coffee to distract from the fact I’m living a life based on everybody else’s needs. I do not drink coffee because it provides a respite from a life that has little to do with my values and desires.
However, drinking wine “to take the edge off”, overeating, and shopping irresponsibly are born out of this sense of disconnection. Disconnection from ourselves and others because we are living inauthentic lives.
Rather than ask for more time to herself, the overwhelmed mom will grit her teeth and make it though another day. Then soothe herself with a round of retail therapy and, yes, a glass, or make that a bottle, of wine.Rather than ask for more time to herself, the overwhelmed mom will grit her teeth and make it though another day. Then soothe herself with a round of retail therapy and a glass, or make that a bottle, of wine. Click To Tweet
As a result, nothing changes. Her needs continue to go unmet and her sense of self-worth plummets. Cue more wine, and another shopping spree.
Those dreams she had, never get addressed because she no longer has time to set goals and plan her future. She’s too busy getting through the day.
And even if she can carve out an hour, she needs many hours of time that appear unproductive before she can begin to establish a goal. Time to sit and think, to connect with her likes and dislikes, and understand who she is inside.
You may well have to fight for time devoted to yourself and your spiritual practice. It means saying no and speaking up for what you need, which can be scary at first.
But it’s worth overcoming the stigma of a few raised eyebrows (or even broken relationships) to live a life connected to who you are and what you value. Anything less will keep you mired in addiction, whatever that looks like for you.