At the root of all addictions lies a sense of missing something, an emptiness that generates a painful feeling. In order to avoid this unpleasant sensation, something external provides a sense of relief. When the sense of relief fades and the unpleasant feeling re-appears, a craving for the source of relief is felt and the external source of pleasure is desired once again. This creates a cycle of addiction.
An addiction can be in the form of a substance like drugs , alcohol, food, shopping or even a person or relationship . In short, anything that is habitually carried out compulsively can be regarded as an addiction. The addiction in itself is not the real problem. The real problem lies behind it. The addiction is the strategy used to avoid the underlying issue.
Let’s consider a few different, related themes: the basic assumptions of all addictions; the characteristics of a drug, the most addictive drug that mankind has invented; the three basic ingredients needed to develop an addiction; the truth about overcoming all addictions; the good news about addictions; and finally, a challenge to yourself that can help you overcome any addiction you may have.
All addictions are based on three major false beliefs
Becoming aware of them can help us to contextualise and understand what is taking place and being felt.
- The belief of not being enough. The consequence of this belief is that we have to acquire something in order to feel complete.
- Since the mind is extremely powerful it creates the feeling of craving something that is needed in order to fill the perceived void.
- Something or someone is then controlling us since we believe that our well-being and sense of completion depends on it.
I used to take drugs to avoid facing my personal issues. I had very low self-esteem and believed I needed to take drugs to be able to enjoy myself. Of course I was not aware of it at the time,but instead I was telling myself that I was doing it to have fun and not because I needed them. The addiction factor was confirmed by my inability to even consider going out clubbing unless I was taking some kind of substance. I got to the stage where I didn’t know if I was going out and socializing for the pleasure of doing it or to get the artificial pleasant feeling of being produced by drugs. Most of my time was devoted to thinking about how to get them. I was controlled by it. The process is subtle and difficult to see while being immersed in it.
The same dynamic was present concerning relationships. In fact, I believed that I was not enough on my own and was looking for relationships to fill the void that only I could have filled. Whatever I believed was the source of well-being and relief was controlling me.
The characteristics of drugs
Every drug has some basic common characteristics. I am now going to talk about three of them:
- Every drug alters our emotional and physical states. That is why we take them in the first place. Because it enhances our emotional state and distract us from feeling a sense of inadequacy or suffering. Normally we forget about our problems and the drug becomes the focus of our attention. What we are addicted to is not always in the form of a drug . It could be shopping, eating or even a relationship. In that case the act of buying, eating or being with that person becomes our distraction and the main focus of attention. Most of our time is invested in satisfying the underlying craving that the absence of “the drug” is felt after we have experienced its effects.
- This in time creates dependence. Our well-being is conditional on being able to take the drugs or doing what temporarily satisfies the craving that is being felt.
- Our emotional stability is dependent on it and we need it in order to feel good.
We know we are addicted to something when we panic at the idea of not being able to take it or doing whatever it may be that we are addicted to.
The most addictive drug: outside validation
As I said before, when I use the term drug I may not be referring to a chemical substance. It could be something that has the same characteristics. It could be anything that we are addicted to because we believe it is needed for us to survive and are therefore depending on and conditioned by.
There is one thing that humankind has created that has the very same characteristics of a drug. We have all been exposed to it growing up and are still very much exposed to it socially. It is outside validation.
- We all crave positive judgments from others
- If we don’t get them we feel bad
- This need for validation allows them to control us
While growing up we have been conditioned to behave in certain ways by receiving outside validation in the form of compliments and appreciation. Just like a dog is trained to perform certain tasks in order to receive a treat. This kind of outside feedback related to our behaviour didn’t allow us to cultivate self-esteem. Our sense of value was in fact dictated by how others perceived us and not by our own evaluation. Different people or the same person at different times would evaluate us differently and no true sense of innate and stable value could be internalised.
In order to feel good we became addicted and controlled by compliments and positive feedback about everything we were doing, saying, being, and even how we looked.
This is the reason why I consider validation to be the strongest, most addictive drug that humankind is addicted to and probably the most subtle and difficult to overcome.
This is a major cause of dissatisfaction and suffering. Like any drug, outside validation is fleeting and has to be continuously sought after.
The basic ingredients of addiction
Just like any other drug, outside validation was acquired following the same dynamic of a drug addiction. Let’s consider them. An important factor to take into consideration is that children have one basic need: to be loved. Most parents communicate this to children: If you behave in ways I like, you are good and worthy of my love. If you behave in ways I don’t like, you are bad and don’t deserve to be loved.
This is the message I received growing up and probably the main one that society is still promoting. It is based on the three basic characteristics of addiction: need, conditionality and control.
- We needed to be appreciated and loved by our caretakers.
- Growing up we learned that love is conditional. We have also mistaken been appreciated with being loved. Love and appreciation are two different things. We can dislike someone but this doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t love them. We have also learned that not only was happiness conditional on how we were behaving but also the happiness of our caretakers depended on our behaviour.
- We learned from a very young age to control others because we had been controlled and our behaviour at times were used to manipulate others and others were doing the same to us. This flattering and fleeting but powerful sense of well-being became a need and an addiction, just like any other drug.
Truths to overcome addiction
Our parents loved us. They most likely showed their love to us the same way they had been shown love by their parents. True love is unconditional. It would have been easier to understand what true unconditional love is if our parents had spoken to us using these words:
“I love you unconditionally and you are always worthy of my love. When you behave in certain ways that I don’t like,for these reasons… and for the consequences that they generate… it is difficult for me to express my love for you.”
“When you behave in certain ways that I like, for these reasons… and for the consequences they generate…it is easier for me to express my love for you.”
These messages takes all the doubt and confusion away. They are affirming that we are worthy of being loved regardless of what we do. What we do is important because of the consequences they generate, although it doesn’t add or subtract to our sense of worth. Once this is understood, the illusion of believing we are only loveable when we behave in certain ways and we can only love others if and when they behave in certain ways fades away. We are then able to love unconditionally. It may not always be easy although is always possible.
The good news about addiction
Even if no one had explained to you what true, unconditional love is I am now telling you that irrespective of what you have done in the past you are perfect and lovable as you are. You are worthy of being loved.
You deserve to totally love yourself and forgive yourself for what you may have judged yourself to have done wrongly. You didn’t know how to behave differently and ultimately you don’t even need to be forgiven since you didn’t do anything wrong. To do something wrong would mean to know what is right but if you truly knew it then you would have done right in the first place.
For example, have you ever been fighting or arguing only to realise that if you could turn back time you would have behaved differently? If you reflect upon how you felt while arguing you were not able to behave any different from how you did since the emotions you were feeling were controlling you. You could not even think or see any other options. Usually we realise afterwards that we had different choices. This awareness allows us to accept everything we have ever done and also what others have ever done. We can then learn and be thankful for the mistakes we made so that we don’t repeat them. The next time we find ourself in the same situation we may then see a choice that we didn’t see previously.
When you realise and feel that you are whole and complete as you are, you won’t need to look for anything outside of yourself to feel complete.
Your challenge to yourself
Your mind is a powerful tool. When it is used properly, it acts like the search engine Google. It is able to find anything you may be looking for. I invite you to ask yourself the following question without thinking you have to know the answers. You will find them but not in your mind.
Do I truly love myself?
This question will allow you to look inside yourself and consider what it is that you do that promotes love in yourself or not. Any discrepancy will emerge and you will get the answer to the question. The next question I invite you to ask yourself is:
How can I love myself unconditionally?
These questions stimulate you to do what is necessary to feel unconditional love. It is only when we can feel love regardless of what is happening, when there are no conditions required to generate the feeling of love that we know what true acceptance and unconditional love is. You will let go of the negative judgments toward yourself that were not allowing you to accept yourself and to love you as you are. The next question is:
Can I be enough without anyone or anything I think I need to be well?
If you have properly answered the first two questions you will probably find it easy to get the answer to this question. You will probably by now have felt that you are complete and don’t need others approval or something to complete you and make you feel good because you have accepted yourself and how you were negatively judging yourself. You are self sufficient in terms of feeling worthy of being loved. You will probably want to be with others or do things but not because you need them. What you do and who you see is motivated by pleasure and not from a sense of need or lacking something. The last question I invite you to ask yourself is this:
How could I do that?
You can love yourself unconditionally by understanding that you are who you are because you have also made the mistakes you made and everything was useful for you to be who you are now. You can now be the source of what something or someone was providing you in the past.
You have everything inside.
You are perfect as you are!
If you found this information helpful and would like more resources to help your or someone you know, I invite you to get in contact and even consider booking a session.