No matter what our circumstances, we have the power to choose our directions. The most basic choice we have in life is whether to expand or contract – whether to bring our creative and expressive energies out into the world in positive or negative ways.
After writing my first blog post (on my addiction to alcohol) I became infatuated with the topic of addiction and decided to dive further into the ins and outs of it. After reading numerous books, papers and blogs on the psychology of addiction; I can openly admit that, looking back, I was at the level of Almost Alcoholic.
Here are a few definitions of addiction:
Wikipedia: An addiction is, “the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.”
Psychology Today: Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine, etc.) or engages in an activity (gambling,shopping,cleaning,etc.) that can be pleasurable. The continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, finances, relationships or even health. Users may not even be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves or others.
Personally I dislike the word addiction altogether. It paints a negative picture and only gets looked at in the extremities, keeping one to blind to certain behaviors that may actually be “addictions” in their own lives.
The fact that the word addiction paints such a negative picture allows us as human beings to justify our own behaviors as not being addictions by comparing ourselves to that of the most extreme cases which we see or hear about; Homeless people scrounging for change to buy booze or drugs, and even shows like “Intervention” always display the worst case scenarios. But is this the reality?
Seeing these extreme situations allows us to justify our own actions as not being addictions because we are no where near as bad as what we are seeing around us so I must be okay… right? “Because “they” are worse.” Wrong. This type of thinking allows us to justify our own addiction-like behaviors, hindering our ability to achieve so much more in life.
Symptoms and behavior patterns associated with being “almost alcoholic” would include but are not limited to: using alcohol to create feelings (relaxation) or mute them (anxiety, depression) or to influence behavior (socialize).
I can relate to all of the symptoms above and if you’re drinking twice per week or more I am sure you can too. To put it simply: If your weekend routine consists of drinking on Friday and Saturday night, you are at the stage of “almost alcoholic” and need to pay attention to “why” you’re doing it in the first place. Is the excuse of “I’m just having a few” truthfully as acceptable as we like to think it is?
Drinking at the stage of “almost alcoholic” makes a person vulnerable to certain negative consequences, frequent hangovers, unpredictable mood changes and lack of concentration to name a few.
I never looked at my drinking as being an addiction. I thought of myself as more of a “functional drinker” even though I knew I drank too much and should tone it down; I still had my family, friends, steady job and good health. I didn’t think it was actually taking value from my life. I enjoyed it and the “badass” nights it created (sometimes).
As much as my family loves me I could feel a gradual tension every time they knew I went on a binge. There were also problems that were “by-products” of getting loser pissed all the time. Poor finance management, ridiculous relationship fights, being un-productive, yo-yo dieting, lost phones and keys, jay walking tickets. The list could go on and on; but you get the point.
All addictive behavior is fueled from a feeling of powerlessness, helplessness and not being loved the way we want to be or should be. Addictions are hard to beat cause they never judge us. Patterns emerge and then we can become blind to the addiction itself. It starts to override our conscious rational brain that knows there are better decisions to make. Behaviors soon form; putting our bodies and minds on auto-pilot, keeping us unaware of the problem and preventing us from moving forward in life and growing. Addictions are habits, and we all know how hard it can be to break poor habits.
Now that I am aware of it, binge-drinking almost always followed when I felt a feeling of powerlessness or helplessness. I.E. getting out of a relationship, feeling frustrated, stressed or just being confused about the direction I should or shouldn’t go in life.
Drinking was so much fun, it couldn’t have possibly been the problem as to why I felt a feeling of un-happiness, besides “everyone was doing it”
My drinking was almost entirely in brief binges and no matter how much it got out of hand I always seemed to be “somewhat” okay in between them. It was easy for me to minimize the effects that binge drinking was causing. It wasn’t anywhere as extreme as the addictions I was used to seeing. There was no way I was addicted.
This way of thinking allowed me to lie to myself for so many years about binge-drinking and excessive partying. I always looked at drinking as something I did to relax, to just let loose and have fun. No harm in that hey? I never looked at it as a problem. After so many years it just became part of who I was, something that defined me. I had no idea my drinking was connected to deeper issues such as; why I wasn’t completely happy with my life or why I didn’t have everything I wanted yet?
I always thought this was just because I wasn’t making enough money. Truth is, I was making great money. I just chose to spend it foolishly on things I really didn’t even need: booze, restaurants, and designer clothes. All things to make it look like I was doing awesome by creating a level of “external” validation.
External validation will always lead to short-term happiness. I am sure everyone can relate to feeling a little alone, sad or depressed; only to go out and buy something we figured would make us happy or “look-cool”. How long did it last? 1, 2 maybe 3 days I bet… if that.
I believe that as human beings the two major things we need to feel a sense of fulfillment and happiness are growth and contribution. If we aren’t growing we are staying still. If we are still we aren’t truly happy and living up to what we are capable of as human beings.
No matter what our circumstances, we have the power to choose our directions. The most basic choice we have in life is whether to expand or contract – whether to bring our creative and expressive energies out into the world in positive or negative ways. To put a brighter image to that – we are either creating our dreams or fueling our nightmares.
I was expressing my creative energies in a negative way by drinking heavily 2-4 nights a week (sometimes 6). Wasting money, time and energy that could have been channeled into the things I wanted to aspire towards. It held me back from working toward a fulfilling life.
Since I’ve stopped drinking my attitude, happiness, efficiency, productivity and bank account have all improved ten fold. My creative energies are being channeled into more positive endeavors. Waking up everyday is fun, in-fact I don’t even pay attention to what day it is any more. I guess that’s just a side effect of taking a Kingpin Social Intensive Program. Sounds much better than a hangover and an empty wallet to me.
How are you bringing out your creative side to the world and channeling the energy you have inside of you?