I came home from a weekend retreat and said to my husband, “I am an addict.”
Addicts, in my mind, had always been shady characters living behind dumpsters downtown. They weren’t the “pretty people.” They certainly weren’t me! My addiction wasn’t crack or whiskey. Mine was anger. I couldn’t live without it. It controlled me, and those around me suffered the consequences.
Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
There’s the obvious addictions (sometimes obvious to everyone, but the addict):
Alcohol, Drugs and Nicotine
What about the hidden addictions:
Pornography, Sex, Gambling, Prescription Medication
Or the socially acceptable addictions:
Shopping (spending), Work, Church, Eating, Sugar, Codependency, Working Out
Through the years, I’ve struggled with anger, codependency, anti-depressants, and codependency. How about you? Does your family brace themselves when they know you are angry? Do they hide, ignore, or plead with you to stop? Has anyone expressed concern for your weight, how much you work, how many church activities you’re involved in? Do you have bills you can’t pay for, but you continue to shop? Do you wish you didn’t (fill in the blank) anymore, but can’t seem to stop?
What’s this all about? What pain are you trying not to feel?
I dealt with my 4 addictions in different ways. When I returned from that weekend aware that my anger controlled me, I felt totally heartbroken over what I’d done to my family. I grieved. I wept. I cried almost constantly for about a week, sometimes so hard I felt like I would throw up! It was painful to realize the fear I’d caused my family. As the week came to an end, I felt different. I was not angry. I didn’t feel the need to scream or rage at anyone. I don’t really know what happened, but I pleaded with God to take this from me. I believe he did.
After using anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, and medicine for sleep, it wasn’t so easy to stop. Through therapy, I knew I was emotionally healthier than I had been in years. I didn’t need the meds for the reason they had been prescribed. I needed them physically. For 6 weeks, my body detoxified itself. I had horrible aches and pains, fever, sweats and chills, and headaches. I worked with my doctor to help alleviate some of the side effects. I gained a new sense of compassion for anyone going through detox!
Codependency is an extreme dependence on another person’s emotional well being. We are supposed to be responsible FOR ourselves and TO each other. When we take that too far, we can’t separate what the other person is doing from ourselves.
I couldn’t break this one with just me and God. I needed help. I voluntarily found a sponsor, and worked a 12-step program. It was not pretty. The irony of this was that I was completing my last semester of graduate school with a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy as I was working my 12-steps. I graduated while in the middle of step 5! It’s kind of funny now, but at the time, I felt like a total sham!
Sugar. I think most Americans have this addiction and don’t even know it. I didn’t think I did…until I tried to give it up. I’m not that into sweets, so I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal. Then I realized that bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes turn into sugar once they’re in your system. I quit cold turkey, and suffered about 2 weeks of headaches, flu-like symptoms, hot flashes, aches and general misery. Once it was out of my system, I felt much better! I lost weight and gained energy. Now I can have sugar and carbs in small quantities. Some people can’t. If they have any sugar, they can’t stop. I’m thankful that’s not me.
I’m not sure who this blog post is for. Maybe someone really needs to read this today. Maybe it’s just to help me remember where I’ve been and thank God I’m not there anymore. If it impacted you, please leave a comment below!
Written by Colorado Life Coach, Carrie O’Toole