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Understanding Addiction 

Understanding addiction on a deeper level helps the journey to not only recover your life but to make it one you can love.. 

What is addiction? 

 It seems easy to know the answer. Yet so little is truly understood of what causes this painful experience and why it's one of the most challenging habits to break

While understanding addiction does not make the mountain climb easier; it can prevent you from spiralling into deep suffering. I know a thing or two about the addiction game and the resistance to change. 

I’m the hero and anti hero of my own story. I crave false lovers whose offers to serenade me and cradle me -  in the face of seemingly endless agitation - appear to be the solution to all problems that ever were and ever will be. 

 My false lovers wear different masks, shapes and shades. By the time I know it, I’m well seduced. I dance with the challenges of this addiction game (and its shame). My lovers and I have known each other well. 

From the first cigarette I smoked on the school bus to fit in; to the sweet inhibitions-less world I found with alcohol whose taste I never did enjoy.

 The comfort of heaviness a full belly brings after a meal big enough to feed ten; the buzz of coffee that turns my dread into a high; and the numbing out the television can bring.

All to squash an anxiety and fear that lives within. All to quell the resentments accumulated over time.

An addiction is another word for attachment. Anything your mind believes you can not survive without is an addiction. You know you're addicted to something if the idea of being without it makes you anxious, angry, agitated, uncomfortable, fearful, irritable or defensive. 

You can be addicted to concepts too. You can be addicted to your way of living in the world.

Underneath all addiction is fear. Doubt in something higher than ourselves. Belief in the unsafeness of existence. It is not simply just a destructive habit. To understand addiction is to understand this. 

When we deal with those habits that are harmful in essence, toxic in nature and we focus on the habit only, not the root cause -  we'll keep coming back to the more of the pain. 

oh the seduction of sweet addiction

Understanding addiction is understanding the very existence of humanity.

There is a sweetness. Before the darkness sets in. The temporary lift from disconnection. Understanding addiction requires us to understand the cycles of pleasure and pain. 

Each addiction brings with it a cost. Some more imperceptible than others. Some deadly.

What’s your fancy?

Whatever it is, a cost none the less. Irresistible still. Russian Roulette. What an addiction game it is. We romanticise it. 

As teens it’s part of the rebel. - that was me

I thought non-drinkers were nerds. It was most certainly a dirty word. I would have been ashamed to join that clan back then. Yet before 12 I was that. I was that nerd.  I was soft and gentle inside,  I so easily cried. Easily bullied. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like how it felt when my nervousness ruled. Behind my smile butterflies. 

My rebel rescued me from victimhood. 

Addiction gave me strength.  I thought. Made me wild. My inside and outside world applauded me. Rewarded me with friends, adventure and fun. Innocence no longer appealed.

At the time there really didn’t seem much choice. Bravado reigned.

Thoughts of my ineptness and ugliness reduced to a whisper. Anger unleashed, in that I found a degree of peace.

So I know a thing or two about resistance to change and the addiction game. Could it be more than it appears to be?

 I’ve wondered at times about the human design. That it seems so much easier to reach for all that hurts. That what hurts gives pleasure, comfort and with it the illusion that I’m not God’s Vine.

I have my own spiritual understanding of this  - at times. My own understanding of addiction. A clarity so to speak. Mostly though in my humanity it makes me mad with God. In my struggle I’ve screamed at the unfairness of what honestly doesn’t feel like my fault. I didn’t choose to be made this way. 

 But that self pity won’t save me or you from the addiction game. Because it has it’s purpose. It’s not a mistake. There is no greater growth. A reward far more than the short lived gain of that complex addiction game. And you’re so not alone. 

Understanding what addiction is.
A growth far beyond what the imagination holds.
How to change your life?

It takes acknowledgement, surrender and perseverance. It takes support, love and compassion. It takes re defining who you are. 

Although it works in the programs, I don’t call myself an addict. I won’t be labelled into the finiteness of categorising who I am into a such box. It's part of my life experience. 

It's not my identity. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t recognise addictive patterns that live within me. I still over eat sometimes. I still get overly anxious in my need for everything to be just right.

Patterns however do not define me. They do not make me WHO I am. I’m not an addict. I am of light and love. I’m an infinite being. 

No-one knows this pain, except those who've walked the road. It’s a lonely, lonely journey. Not that uncommon in the human experience.

Only less shared in the day to day appearance. We hide. 

Me - two years before I began smoking and drinking. I was shy and reserved. Afraid of people.

"Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and  fraught and debilitating as addiction itself.”

 ― David Sheff, Beautiful Boy:

A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction

Understanding addiction is to understand your pain, your hatred.

Understanding action is to understand the depths of human darkness. 

I no longer face cravings every day. And no matter how bad things get I still experience joy.

I’ve recently refused the sounds of self hatred while I play in this addiction game. 

I’ve health issues from years of antibiotics as a child, years of cigarettes and booze and years of bad food. It gave me a bad colon. Even my healthier diet and lifestyle hasn’t been enough to heal. All the stressful thinking, traumas, bread and coffee have made it worse. It's colon cancer waiting to happen.

With over eating, I know a thing or two about resistance and this dance with the addiction game. 

Life after addiction & falling off the bicycle. 

Quitting smoking is easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times.

- Mark Twain

I experienced it when I first quit smoking 22 years ago.

It took another four years for that decision to become a life long one. I still have dreams where I smoke a cigarette.

I feel the pleasure of the first puff followed by a horror at what I’ve done. I  wake with the most enormous relief, my heart is at quite a beat. Because as any 'smoker' who has 'tried' to quit will tell you - all it takes is just one. Just one. Soon enough it will be a pack a day.

 At the time though, it is easy to believe it will be just one. The mind is a strong force. Maya (illusion) can make anything appear real. Especially the notion that suddenly one has become a master of oneself over night.

'I've got this. I can control it. Please. Besides I deserve just one. That's all it will be.' Skidding sounds followed by a mighty crash, as that bicycle smashes into the wall.

The mind plugs into chemicals that recycle. Same old same old. Disappointment, shame, guilt, hiding the habit, fear, judgment. You name it. The very same feeling that caused the need to 'have it' is created by having it.

It's a vicious cycle. Anger follows. Anger especially at anyone who suggests that giving up the addiction is best. 

“Why the *@#@@# should I?” 

It’s not only negative feelings that cause cravings. It’s also the belief that 

“ I deserve it. This is a reward after a hard days work. It’s even a reward for not caving into the addiction for a period of time. It’s the one bit of pleasure I have in my life.”

Oh the mind is trickery. 

I’d the same experience when I quit drinking. It didn't happen all at once. I fell off several times.

  • Alcohol. Check. Relapsed. Check.
  • Sober now for 21 years. Check. Check. 
  • Cigarettes. Check. Check. Check. 
  • Abusive relationships. Check. 

          Check. Check. 

  • Depression (sitting on the couch all day watching tv).  Check.
  •  Sometimes visit victimhood and anxiety for brief interludes. Still I call it a CHECK! 
    Whose aiming for perfection? 
  • Emotional Eating Losing 18kg. Check. Relapsing. Check. Relapsing again. Except now with healthier foods. BIG CHECK
    None of these things came to me instantly. Each change I've made, seeded in me long before I made it.
    I conversed about it; read about it; experimented on it, wrestled with it; lost many a 'battle' to it. 

    We cannot,

    in an instant get rid

    of decades

    of  bad habits.

    Right now it’s over eating. Who knew one could eat healthy food just a bit too much?

    However I'm not in self pity. I'm unashamedly human. 

    I am in determination. With all the amazing changes I've made behind me, I know if I don't give up I can not fail. For every fall has brought with it a stronger me. Far stronger than the rebel I discovered in my teens. Far wilder than the booze ever made me. Far greater than I would've known without the dance. 

    I do not romanticise it though. It’s the hardest shit in the world if you’re not living in a war or dire poverty. It’s a different kind of war. One that can only be won with love. Wars are not to be romanticised. There is nothing glamorise about it. It’s dealing with your deepest pain.

    The resistance you find here is the same resistance that stops you from all your dreams. 

Our greatest glory is not in never falling,
but in getting up every time we do.
- Confucius

The resistance to change makes you believe

there is a greater cost to quitting

than to staying the same. 

The resistance nurtures the comfort of your temporary high. The resistance gives voice to your fears of what life in the unknown will bring. 

If you become quiet for a moment, you’ll hear all the voices that keep you from being you. Sit with them like an old friend. Do not resist the resistance. Listen with all your heart. There you’ll treasures find…with answers and a way forward. There lies in the seeds of change.

Underneath every addiction is disconnection from your highest self. From Love. From God. From your spirit. With every addiction is a doorway to your light. I know this to be true because I’ve lived it. 

I welcome my latest addictions. I fall off my bicycle. A bruise or two I gain. Every time I fall my brain learns more about balance. My coordination increases. My fear decreases. I welcome the fall. 

I am not my addiction;

nor my dread.

I am of Light and Love.

I am an infinite being. 

You are not your addiction;

nor your dread.

You are of Light And Love.

You're an infinite being. 

If you don't give up you will not fail. 

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Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.

All works are copyrighted. You may quote me or use no more than a paragraph with a link to the article on my website. 

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Hi, I'm Jo, a qualified coach and facilitator. Host of the Dare To Love Club. Creator of The FreshStart Love Journey. I'm lover of love, a relationship explorer. You can find out more about my story and my professional qualifications and experience here.  xo, Jo

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