I noticed in the paper on sunday a story on a former world champion boxer and his battle with alcohol, and I got thinking about the issue of addiction. Not a foreigner to alcohol and its hold it has over people i am very aware personally of the issue of addiction. It is interesting that many of the people who suffer from addictions of all sorts from alcohol, drugs, risky behaviours, internet, gaming, sex, porn and more are often those who are high achievers in other areas of their lives.
They demonstrate focus, determination, perseverance, risk taking, discipline and all that it takes to succeed, yet at some point in their lives they find themselves powerless over some form of addiction. Despite all their efforts they are unable to break free and live, what they believe to be, a normal life free of their particular ‘drug’.
Yet there is another side of their success in life which plays a large part in their being captured by addiction. The thrill of the chase, the adrenalin rush which comes from being out there taking risks. When that is no longer there and is not being satisfied in positive ways, this need finds a way of being met. It often starts off innocently and appears harmless, yet a theme of addiction is that it is progressive, i.e. it always moves forward and becomes something bigger, requiring more to satisfy the need.
And it never goes away fully. When you step off the train, the next time you get back on you start from there, not at the beginning. So it only gets worse and can get to that point where, after many efforts to change behaviour, it becomes all too hard and you simply give up and immerse yourself in your addiction.
How do we deal with this addiction. It is simple but not easy. It is about building up our resiliency day by day so that we no longer see ourselves as victims. Victimhood plays are large role in addictive behaviours, so does boredom, inaction and loneliness.
We develop our resiliency and ability to cope by:
developing connections with significant others in our lives, focussing on building relationships that are more than casual and passing;
ensuring that we are involved in positive activities which feed our need for recognition, success and value and sometimes push us beyond our limits;
taking back control of our lives from those people who blame for our situation no matter how much we may love them.
We also need to be aware of what places us in the at risk space where, before we know it we are indulging in our own particular addiction. HALT is a suitable acronym : Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, on their own each one increases the risk of ‘reoffending’ but in combinations of two or more, it spells trouble.
When faced by any of the above take positive steps to deal with it – get something to eat, eat regularly; talk to someone about your anger, go for a run or do some exercise, weed the garden; find someone to talk to, make a phone call or just go and get a coffee and talk to a stranger in the coffee lounge; get some sleep, develop a regular sleep pattern, turn off all electronic devices in your bedroom. There are many more.
The last thing is to remember that addictions are common and there are many people suffering the same addiction or set of addictions as you are. You are not alone and as you begin to confront your addictions you will begin to meet and come in contact with others, and together support one another.
Thus you become resilient, able to celebrate your successes and not be bowed down by your failures, able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and move forward. Life is a journey and it is not how many times you fall down that counts, but how many times you get up.