If you’re going to avoid addiction, you need to get good at diversification.
Addiction happens when we get dependent upon one source to get an important need met.
Once we become overdependent upon that one source, we lose the ability to deal with that source with realism and perspective.
Our brains realize that, if something should happen to that source of need fulfillment, we’d be out of luck— and once our brains realize that, they begin to panic.
Our behavior around that source of need fulfillment becomes compulsive and impulsive.
A very common example of this phenomenon is how some people relate to food. They make food the main source of stimulation and pleasure in their lives. Once this is the case— that most, if not all, of the enjoyment in their lives comes from food—their relationship with food tends to get toxic.
They never miss an opportunity to eat, because they don’t know when their next “hit” of eating-related pleasure will arrive. They become defensive about their eating behavior and preferences. They refuse to consider any potential changes to their eating habits, because they’ve gotten it fixed in their minds: IF I WANT ANY PLEASURE IN MY DAY, I HAVE TO EAT LIKE THIS…AND ANY CHANGE TO THIS PATTERN THREATENS MY ABILITY TO FEEL PLEASURE.
Another example of this is in certain peoples’ patterns around friendships and romantic relationships. When a person gets it in their head that their primary, or even their exclusive, source of self-esteem is a limited number of friendships or romantic relationships, then their behavior around those relationships tends to become toxic.
They put up with behaviors in those relationships that are disrespectful. They no longer feel free to be “themselves” in those relationships, because they’ve figured out that to be “themselves” is to risk doing something the other person may disapprove of, which would leave them bereft. They become terrified of abandonment, because they’ve gotten it fixed in their minds: IF I WANT TO EXPERIENCE SELF-ESTEEM, I HAVE TO RELATE TO THESE PEOPLE IN THESE SPECIFIC WAYS…AND ANY CHANGE TO THIS PATTERN THREATENS MY ABILITY TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF.
This happens EVERY time we get exclusively dependent upon one or a few sources of important needs.
Pleasure, self-esteem, money, feelings…it is ENORMOUSLY important that we cultivate numerous sources of all of these in our lives, if we’re going to avoid becoming overdependent and addicted to one or a limited number of sources.
The main reason many people fail to give up their addictions, even in structured rehab programs, is usually because they have not diversified the sources in their lives that provide them with whatever they were getting from their drug or behavior of abuse.
The good news is, diversifying our sources of need satisfaction usually isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
It may be the case that it is very EASY for certain substances or people to get certain needs met in our lives. But if we’re going to diversify, we often need to accept that we’re going to have to take the less-than-easiest road to getting our needs met, at least sometimes.
For example: it’s very EASY to feel AWESOME when you take, say, an opiate.
But if an opiate is the ONLY way you’ve developed to feel good in your life, it is almost certain that you’ll become addicted to opiates.
In order to keep that from happening, you need to develop numerous ways to feel good in your life. You need to diversify. The catch being, the various ways you develop to feel good will probably not be as EASY as popping an opiate.
They will, however, save you from getting addicted.
Similarly, it’s enormously EASY to feel good while eating chocolate.
But if chocolate is the ONLY way you’ve developed to feel good, it’s a certainty your behavior around chocolate will get compulsive and neurotic. You’re going to become addicted.
In order to keep that from happening, you need to develop a few non-chocolate ways to feel good in your life…but you’ll also need to accept that those ways will probably not be as EASY as chowing down on chocolate.
Again, though: they’ll save you from getting addicted.
Understand, diversifying isn’t necessarily a lot of fun. It’s certainly more fun, a lot of the time, to just pop the pill, eat the chocolate, call up the toxic ex, spend the day on Facebook, or whatever, than to cultivate multiple, healthy ways of feeling good.
You know what’s even more of a drag than developing coping skills, though?
The end consequences of addiction.
Diversify. It’ll quite literally save your life.