An addiction is an action that requires extreme effort to stop. The document on Lifestyle Compensations addresses dietary cravings or so-called addictions (sweets, alcohol, salt, etc.) and what kinds of health or physical imbalances exist to cause such cravings, and, how to remedy them on the physical level.  This document addresses the emotional component of addictions. These addictions may involve food, tobacco, drugs or alcohol but may also include actions such as spending, porn, travel, stealing, internet gaming, gambling, binging/purging, mutilation, etc. When one ‘comes to his senses’ and catches a brief glimpse of the unwanted effects of such addictions, one embarks on a search to find a way out. Often many techniques, steps and substitutions are employed to ‘break free’. If you are in some phase of this process there is a very important point about addictions you need to know about.

Addictions are largely pain-masking behaviors. Your addiction is a ‘remedy’ for some emotional pain that you don’t like to feel and as such your addiction is your ‘remedy’. This is why it is so hard to let go of. If I had a ‘remedy’ that really worked for my physical pain, and without my ‘remedy’ life is almost unbearable for me, and you came to me to convince me to give up my ‘remedy’, when it is the only thing I found that helped, how receptive would I be? That is why addictions are so intractable, because they are effective remedies to mitigate emotional pain. For those of you who may be asking “What kind of emotional pain? Where would it come from?” let’s go there.

Emotional pain comes from thought patterns instilled in us by our experiences, usually as children. Examples are situations that convinced us that we were not wanted, were not good enough, were in some way defective, or ‘not perfect’, felt rejected or abandoned by mom or dad, or were violated by trusted people, not in control of what happened to us, ‘less than’ our siblings, the cause of our parent’s divorce, or their drinking, or their suicide, or their financial problems, or the cause of an accident or someone’s death, just to name a few.  These haunting convictions are like seeds that grow as we do, and loom larger than our ability to stuff them into forgetfulness.  Living with the pain from the thought patterns that these induced on our psyche on a daily basis causes most sane people to find something to numb or mask it.  Once a remedy is found to be effective, it becomes relied upon and ta dah, an addiction is born. The addiction exchanges or replaces a bad emotional feeling with a good one. So now the person is better able to cope with the rest of life knowing that when things get ‘bad’, I know what to do to calm myself, feel better or numb out.

Further evidence that these addictions are pain-masking behaviors is the common pattern of substituting one ‘addiction’ for another.  After struggling to loose oneself from alcohol, one finds himself addicted to sugar. When tobacco is stopped, one looks for remedies in the kitchen. Or maybe this illegal drug for a legal, controlled drug.  So once the remedy is taken away and the emotional pain emerges we look for something else to ‘remedy’ that pain. Basically we swap out remedies without addressing the cause of the problem.

So we can understand why convincing folks to give up their remedy has such a low success rate and why some people will not even seek help – because “they want me to give up my ‘remedy’ but then I’ll feel bad all day without relief again. No thanks.”  The convictions above frame a painful reality which needs intervention on a level above the physical.  The Address the Stress page gives several insights on the kinds of remedies available.  In the meantime electro-medicine offers good relief.  The most lasting or permanent remedies come from the spiritual level.  That is why I wrote Spiritual Disciplines for Physical and Emotional Healing: A Self-Help Guide. I believe that is the place to begin. Basically we need to face the painful reality that we accepted, and get God’s perspective from Him directly.  His Truth redefines our reality. Then we see our lives from a different perspective. As layer after layer of stinkin’ thinkin’ is addressed, the emotional pain subsides, we walk in greater peace and the need for the pain masking behavior is obviated.


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