Ashamed of our addictions, we hide them, we “fool” people, first we fool ourselves, and we lead a double, sometimes triple life. As Americans the chances are that we are addicted to something. There are so many choices, ones that we think about, such as drugs, alcohol, sex, food, smoking and gambling. Then there are those that are more prevalent and acceptable: Nielsen Ratings estimates that the average American watches 34 hours of television a week, almost 5 hours a day. If not watching television this time is often spent on playing video games. That is five hours a day taken away from a life full of meaning and purpose. A Time away from a productive, satisfying life. Time away from building relationships and community.
One way of dealing with addiction is to stop and try to control it on our own. This certainly makes life better, but unfortunately we usually replace one compulsion or addiction for another.
The second way is to call for help, see an addiction therapist or attend a 12 step meeting. Taking this step opens a life with unlimited possibilities. The potential to begin a rich, productive, full life filled with other people and community begins immediately. After a short time, people become grateful that they have an addiction, because their life has changed. They are no longer alone, they realize that many people suffer from the same problems and, in community, they build compassion for themselves and understanding of others.
With professional help they discover who they were meant to be on this planet. They free themselves from the bonds of compulsion, and learn that they really can reach goals and achieve dreams. The amount of time and energy spent with each compulsion becomes the time and energy that is put in fulfilling dreams, nurturing families, building deeper relationships with our partners, our spouses and our friends.
As a therapist I know that those who admit their compulsions and the painful effects of them grow several times faster than the person who claims only anxiety and depression. Desperation to change one’s life due to the pain we cause ourselves and others, leads us quickly to changes that would take years under other circumstances. If we are not forced to change, we probably will walk a life that never changes. At the very least our lives are boring. Often they are self-destructive.
When we seek help for an addiction, we are saying “I Want Life.”
My next article will describe an addict’s life and the road to freedom.