Be Carful of the Word Addiction by Marcus Antebi
Be very careful with the word “addiction.” It’s a title, and it can also be a trap. It definitely can be used to describe a problem, but it could also create one.
I am a stickler for using the right words to explain something, especially when I’m explaining something to myself. I prefer the word “dependency” because it’s less scary. We can make progress with helping people with a dependency on alcohol, drugs, or any other destructive substance or behavior. But just the sound of the word “addiction” sounds so negative and offensive that it takes positive energy away from solving the problem.
When I’m down and out and I’m struggling, just hearing the word and contemplating that I’m an addict discourages me from standing up and trying. But If I think of my situation in terms of my breaking dependencies to things that can hurt me, things that hold me back from seeing further and from moving on positively, it creates hope within me.
Just because the medical community likes the word addiction and there are recovery programs that use the word over and over again doesn’t mean that they’re either right or wrong. That’s just the status quo. If you don’t mind the word addiction to describe a behavior pattern, then by all means use it.
Having said that, I have quite a number of words that I use in my own process of healing that might be at odds with my need to use words that are compassionate. Sometimes I can prove to be a little rough.
One example is that when I’m describing dependencies of various kinds I realize that those dependencies relate to mental illness. And mental illness is a scary pair of words. But nothing else seems to help me best describe behavior that a person would do that is destructive to the human organism better than the word illness. And mental illness can be temporary, permanent, or somewhere in between.
When I look back at my life, my varieties of mental illness which surrounded substance dependencies, dysfunctional relationships, various anxieties, and putting my life at risk, I would say that I had a virus in the mind. Metaphorically speaking, my mental viruses were really forms of illness that were temporary that I found a way to fix. But of course mental illness could move down the line and become more drastic, requiring greater attention by the individual who is afflicted with it.
I also generally don’t care for the word “afflicted.” But it describes mental illness well: Mental illness is an affliction. And sometimes I need to feel the pressure of time. I have to realize I only have one life, and that in this lifetime I’m trying to balance my character defects—my variety of afflictions—with good qualities that I have.
I, just like you, have a side of me that is shiny and bright. I know that side of me, I love it and enjoy it, I’m constantly in search of it, and more often than not I find it. That really is the mission. You should not focus on the idea that you’re stuck with an addiction. Instead, what you’re looking to do is find the brightness within and stop behaviors that are self-destructive.
This is a self-help program. And I’m not a therapist. You can’t just read through the pages of this book and expect your troubles to fade away. You have to be willing to do the work that’s necessary to achieve healing.
Besides the willingness, you have to take the steps that will lead to positive results. It’s possible that certain steps that you take might not yield the results that you wish. If that’s the case, then you cannot just wallow in sorrow or hang your head in shame. You will need to be open to pursuing another approach to achieving the results you’re looking for.
You can get to the point of enjoying being involved with your own life and really trying to make improvements. You might sometimes make mistakes. You might feel overwhelmed with the amount of new things you need to try. But you should reward yourself for trying with a smile and a pat on the shoulder as part of building your self-esteem (not stroking your ego—there’s a difference).
Dependencies on substances have many causations. One of those causes is likely to be that at the root of who we are we have anxieties. The other cause of our gravitation towards dependency is damage to our self-esteem. In order to recover self-esteem, you have to have a good understanding of what it is.
Self-esteem has many facets, but certainly the most prominent component of it is a positive self-image. A positive self-image is developed in our youth. It struggles to develop properly if our childhood is filled with trauma, neglect, shame, disappointment, fear, the lack of love, the lack of grownups taking interest, loneliness, and many other things along the same lines.
After a yoga class we both attended, I was having a conversation with a grown man who was a professional surfer. He confided in me that he had a variety of things going on in his life that weren’t making him happy. I told him his behavior indicated that he had all kinds of anxieties. I asked him if he understood what anxieties were, and he said no.
Then I asked him to imagine himself as a confident and competent soldier in combat. In this situation, he’d find it necessary to always keep his eyes wide open, and he’d only be able to sleep during the day standing up leaning against a pole, gun in hand.
By necessity he’d have to live a paranoid existence. He’d have reason to be hypervigilant from the day he signed up in the military, through all of his training, to his time in combat, right up until he landed back at the airport after completing his tour of duty.
Imagine little children with very undeveloped personalities who experienced childhoods filled with turbulent situations: Things that were frightening, direct abuse, secondary abuse (meaning witnessing the abuse of others), all kinds of corrupted messages coming to them through society. Simply leaving the TV might be enough to severely corrupt a young mind because of all it’s garbage. Perhaps these children go to school and then get made fun of or are given the workload of a factory worker at age 7.
When we grow up in a society that really respects the rich and reviles the poor, when we live in societies where there are dysfunctional behavior patterns everywhere and very little compassion anywhere, it affects us. It’s no wonder when we’re grown up we have all kinds of anxieties. Some of them are very identifiable and others not so.
If you come from a very abusive home where terrible things happened, you can certainly link your grownup anxieties to those events. But others have trouble identifying their anxieties and the origins. There’s a lot of mystery; they can’t quite understand what went wrong. Sometimes that’s because they don’t remember it. One of our survival mechanisms that we have is that if an experience is too traumatic, we can bury it and forget it. It could be locked far away and be inaccessible to our conscious mind.
The one problem is that those events have energy fields. They occurred in the material world and they entered into our bodies. They store memories which consist of energy fields, and that energy remains in our body and it creates a subtle vibration of a perpetual state of fear. So it’s no wonder that we feel uncomfortable as grownups.
What is the solution to that? The solution, first and foremost, is that we’ve got to untrap those energy fields. If we don’t find a way to get those emotions trapped inside of us out of our minds, followed by changing our behavioral patterns, followed by learning entirely new systems of approaching life, we will remain stuck in our mediocrity. Being dependent on shit and garbage sucks. Especially when you reach bottom, and especially when the dependency is something really toxic. It sucks.
One of my biggest fears in life is being commonplace. I want to be an extraordinary person because that’s how my mind works. I like to reach for the stars in everything I try. And it’s most important to me in my psychological and character-related logical development. Psychological progress and character progress take a lot of time and effort, and the work is never done.
Perhaps if you came from a truly nomadic tribe that lived close to the earth and you spent most of your time in celebration of creation, and not creating lots of problems, if you were loved and supported as a child by your community, and by your parents, maybe you might be close to perfect. But I doubt it.
When we come out of our mom's belly, we are immediately on a journey of development. We don’t come out knowing things. Even if someone puts a book in front of us, we won’t be able to read it. We've got to learn. So our entire life centers around learning. From the moment that we are born.
What did we learn in our life? That's something that we have to think about. What we think about our dependencies and our problems is usually wrong. We’ve learned the wrong things. Breaking our dependencies on negative things requires a lot of unlearning. It takes a lot of feeling our feelings, and it requires a lot of healing.
In this journey I want to show you things you can do to practice healing. We are very familiar with being hurt. We know how to stay hurt. We are likely very familiar with acting out with destructive things. But how familiar are you with healing? One of the great healing processes of your life is putting your head on your pillow and going to sleep. Rest is very healing, and it’s just one thing. Eating nourishing foods gives your body the components it needs; it repairs the body’s parts, so to speak. And when the body functions well, it does what it does best: Healing.
But what does the mind need? The mind needs conversation. The mind needs to create an opportunity for stillness. If we experience humor, the mind signals the body to laugh. It is the appropriate action. If we experience pain and sadness, the brain signals the body to cry. It’s an incredible interaction. But what if those processes were interrupted by things that happened in our youth? It’s likely that we were told to stop feeling sad, or we were told to shut up when we were whining. We learned how to do that on our own automatically; when we felt emotions, we learned to smother what we felt for our own survival.
Our very survival depended on us complying with the needs of our caretakers. What our caretakers needed for us to do was feel the way that was comfortable for them and that is very common in many households.
Not to mention the more serious abuse that many tragically went through. Some people experienced beatings or sexual abuse, or they watched a parent with a dependency to alcohol or another substance.
It doesn’t make a difference whether or not other people experienced more pain and trauma than you experienced. Your pain and trauma affected you. And overcoming that pain and trauma will not only help you overcome your addiction, but it will also usher in the experience of a joyous new life for you.