Coping with Your Addictions
Coping with your addictions is hard. Whether the addiction is to a substance or to a form of behaviour, we want to loosen the hold that these addictions have on us. We hope that we can get to a place where we have no addictions and be free. However, along the way it is often necessary to understand what we get from the things we are addicted to and to face the uncomfortable truth that the addictions sometimes ‘work’ for us.
Our addictions sneak up on us
Typically, our addictions sneak up on us. We start using a particular substance or undertaking a particular activity in small degrees, and we are usually pretty happy with the results. Coping with your addictions at this point seems easy. In the case of alcohol, we may start drinking and enjoy the effect of it; we seem more relaxed, more sociable and things just seem easier for us. The alcohol may also stop us feeling some uncomfortable feelings.
As the hold of the addiction becomes stronger, we still feel some of these positive effects; along with a growing awareness of the negative effects. We come to rely on the positive effect – it is usually quite reliable, so we rely on it more. Our uncomfortable feelings don’t need to scare us so much when we know we can drink and have them quite quickly reduce or disappear.
The loss of a coping mechanisim
This is a very important thing to recognise in the treatment of addictions; when we try to free ourselves of addictions we are asked to give up something that – on some level – works for us. So not only do we need to try and deal with the addiction itself, but we are also dealing with the loss of a coping mechanism. This leads us to try to rely on our own inner coping mechanisms, and in many cases they let us down; if we use our addictions to cope, then our other coping mechanisms become a bit rusty. We feel a sense of failure, which only makes it worse.
Coping with your addictions with people
One of the other effects of the increase in addictive substances is that it tends to move our coping mechanisms away from people and onto substances and behaviours. For the addict, this can seem like a good thing; whereas their experience of people is often ‘people are unreliable and will let you down’. This may even be the source of the uncomfortable feelings in the first place; the thing that we are addicted to can seem much more reliable. When we face our addictions and try to beat them, this takes us closer to other people; this can be a family member, friend or counsellor / psychotherapist, at least whilst we begin to build up the inner resources.
This is often a difficult thing for the addict as suddenly they realise that they need to seek support from other people – and other people have so often let them down so badly. But ultimately, coping with your addictions will require the help of other people
If you are trying to deal with an addiction you need a source of reliable support. For those that get the help of a professional like me, we build a relationship to give you that support.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
– Tim Hill