The Addictive Personality

addictive personalityVolumes have been written about addiction – the causes, cures, much more. But what it really boils down to is this: Addiction is the problem you use to fix yourself.

Of course, that’s an extremely simplified answer to what can be a very complicated problem, but it doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, food, whatever. These things are the blanket of comfort you turn to when life is out of control, painful, or you’re angry.

Addicts engage in this type of behavior because they literally get a chemical high from their “drug of choice”. There is a momentary feeling of, “ahh, that feels better” as the chemicals rush to the brain to calm whatever uncomfortable emotions were beginning to surface.

Unfortunately, this rush doesn’t last and the more addicts turn to an outside source for comfort, the bigger that comfort has to be the next time they turn to it. This is why addictions are so destructive. No longer is it a glass of wine to relax, it’s a bottle of wine before every social situation. A line of cocaine doesn’t do it anymore, now several are needed to get the same high. When a piece of cake used to do the trick, now the whole cake needs to be eaten in order to feel better.

The cycle goes on and on and on and for someone with an addictive personality, it can be extremely difficult to release this type of behavior because often it has gone on for so long, it has become a habit. The person engaging in this behavior may no longer even remember why they started doing it in the first place and it finally reaches a point where the addict can no longer control their behavior. Their auto-pilot takes over and before they know it, they are drunk, high, gambling, etc. The guilt that follows is often so debilitating, that the addict just keeps the cycle going.

The key to any successful recovery program is to first identify the addiction, then uncover the trigger, and finally get to the root of the feeling that lives at the heart of the addiction – that first hurt.

If an addict is willing to really, truly look at themselves and their issues, then real recovery is possible. But it takes a lot of courage and a supportive nurturing environment to help the addict feel comfortable enough to forgive themselves – which is ultimately what needs to happen to overcome the addiction.

A little self-love and forgiveness can go a long way.

The Healing Process

Birdbath in the gardenIt only takes a few minutes to hurt someone, but sometimes it takes years to repair the damage.

I work with clients on a daily basis who are still trying to heal from emotional, mental, and physical wounds inflicted upon them years ago. Of course, we can look at a woman who has been beaten by her spouse and say, “Well obviously, she has wounds she needs to heal from,” but rarely do we look at the obese mother, or acne-covered teenager, or socially withdrawn co-worker and wonder, “What happened to them?”

Typically, our first response is, “you eat too much,” or “you should take better care of your skin,” or “just lighten up,” instead of going to that space of compassion and understanding. I am a strong believer in the idea that what you see physically is the final manifestation of deep-seeded anger, guilt, or self-loathing.

The obese mother may be coping with the fact that she was teased relentlessly throughout her college years by friends and family when she gained the “Freshman Fifteen.” What most people see as a joke, or light teasing, she took to heart, and from that point forward began building a wall – literally – around herself so that the hurtful words wouldn’t hurt so much.

In the case of the acne-ed teenager, maybe he was told by someone, (usually a person of importance) that he was ugly and would never be good-looking enough to “get the girl”. Again, he internalizes this statement, gets angry but doesn’t show it, and it ends up on his face in the form of bright red spots.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

When I work with clients who are carrying old hurts, we often begin with the straight facts of the story. Then we dig into the emotion of the situation. How did they feel? How did they react at the time? What choices did they make – consciously or sub-consciously – as a result of the situation? Did they even realize that they were still carrying this hurt?

Once we can begin to identify the cause, then we can begin to heal the pain, and ultimately release the words that have harmed us for so long, allowing us to become more light-hearted, free, and loved individuals.

So be kind. You never know what type of damage you might inflict upon others – or for how long – and that can be a heavy burden to carry for the person on the other end.