Addiction and recovery can be a helpful way to think about a lot of destructive patterns in our lives.
It doesn’t necessarily have to involve a substance or a behavior that is widely known to be addictive, like gambling or compulsive sex.
There are simply some times when our desire, our seeming NEED, to feel a specific thing, overpowers our judgment.
We may be aware that doing something will probably have negative consequences on our lives; but we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing the thing, because we so, so badly want to feel a certain way.
That’s exactly how addicts feel about their substance or behavior of choice.
In traditional addiction, the equation can be relatively straightforward. When I ingest a particular substance, it makes me feel a certain way— and that feeling is so incredible, so removed from my everyday experience, that I simply cannot imagine saying “no” to the opportunity to take that substance.
Many of us have behavior patterns that might be a little more complex…but still fit that pattern.
Some people find themselves getting involved in certain kinds of relationships with certain kinds of people, again and again.
They may KNOW that this pattern is destructive. They may have experienced the consequences of that pattern in the past.
But, when confronted with the prospect of NOT feeling the way they feel in the early stages of that pattern— the “high”— they simply cannot fathom giving it up.
It’s like really liking a roller coaster.
If we go on a roller coaster again and again and again, we are going to get sick and probably injured.
Your stomach and neck aren’t going to tolerate you riding the roller coaster again and again and again. Your friends who came with you to the amusement park will probably get annoyed that you keep getting back on the roller coaster again and again and again— they want to go ride some of the other rides.
But, you really, really like the roller coaster, at least that first part of the ride, where it goes up and up and up,…and then the intense adrenaline rush and dump when it plunges down, and goes up again, and the loop de loops…you love it.
Even as you feel the letdown when the ride ends and you have to go back to the end of the line to wait your turn again, you do it anyway, because you just cannot imagine NOT singing up for that amazing first part of the ride again.
Yeah, it might sound silly to think of having a “roller coaster addiction.” But the pattern you’re repeating checks almost every box when we think of addictive behavior.
It’s compulsive. It’s self-perpetuating. Over time, it’s painful.
And you do it even though you “KNOW” all these things.
A lot of our behaviors, especially our relationship behaviors, are like that.
Sometimes the only rational way to think about those patterns IS in terms of addiction and recovery.
Every day, recovering addicts have to figure out how to live life while saying “no” to experiences that are so pleasurable they’re almost willing to trade their lives for them.
Every day, recovering addicts have to deal with the frustration of NOT having those experiences.
Every day, recovering addicts have to figure out how to create lives worth living WITHOUT the most pleasurable experiences they’ve ever known, being a part of their lives.
And they do.
Which means there’s hope for EVERYONE who has an “addictive” pattern in their lives.
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