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Breaking the Loop of Addiction: by Chris Sharpe

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Breaking the Loop by Chris SharpeSo the question is; how do we break the loop?

I was listening to a lady speak in a meeting recently and she very neatly defined addiction as, “The use of any mind altering substance or behaviour that relieves intolerable realism.” In his book about sex addiction amongst gay men, Robert Weiss suggests that, “…the addict will engage in addictive behaviour to distract himself from what feels like an uncontrollable internal experience.” So I thought it might be a worthwhile exercise to briefly examine what intolerable realism or an uncontrollable internal experience might be.

Let us first presume that realism refers to feelings and emotions. This fits in with Weiss’s use of the word, ‘Fantasy’ when describing a sex-addict’s way of dealing with such stressful feelings. I would further presume that these, ‘stressful feelings’ are emotions which we keep to ourselves and therefore allow them to become intolerable.

From experience, I have found five common, negative emotions that are found in most alcoholics and addicts. They are, in no particular order: Anger, low self-worth, sensitivity, isolation and compulsion. When we feel ill at ease, annoyingly these issues can continually loop uncontrollably through the brain. In doing so they perpetuate the illness, help maintain the drama, ruin relationships, reinforce self-will and keep us away from a state of wellbeing.

Five common, negative emotions found in alcoholics and addicts

Allow me to take a look at each one in turn.

Anger; can also be defined as, resentment, frustration, intolerance, antagonistic aggressive punishment, withdrawal of affection, or as passive aggressive behaviour.

Low self-worth shows itself in self-doubt, self-criticism, self-hatred, and lack of personal esteem, insecurity and anxiety etc. or maybe come about as a result of abandonment issues.

Sensitivity is about rejection, not fitting in. It’s a feeling of being special and/or different. Or maybe due to feeling trapped or being in a submissive co-dependant relationship.

Isolation is brought about by self-pity, depression, the poor me’s etc. or through a fear of retaliation or avoidance, or the suppression of painful feelings.

Compulsion relates to, the first drink or drug. To perfectionism, OCD etc. or the unnecessary responsibility for others, the need for praise, control, or simply the inability to sit and do nothing.

I think you will agree that these emotions are very real and if left to aggravate, fester and loop through our brains, will quickly become intolerable, destroying any feeling of well-being.

So the question is; how do we break the loop?

In the first instance we need to ask ourselves if we are aware of the real issues. This entails gaining knowledge of ourselves through our own perception and/or with the help of others or our Higher Power. Then, being mindful of this knew found knowledge we bring it into the consciousness rather than pushing it away as if it did not exist, this means taking responsibility and making the problem real.

Secondly, in line with the serenity prayer we might ask that we accept those traits we cannot change. Then we search for the courage to change the negative character defects while seeking the wisdom needed to search for a positive alternative. Finally we ask if we are we entirely ready. If the answer is yes, then we apply the needed action. It’s worth noting at this point that courage brings with it the quality of mind that enables us to do something we don’t normally want to do, giving us resolute strength in the face of intolerable emotions.

Wisdom indicates an integration of knowledge, experience, and understanding. It provides a tolerance for the uncertainties of life. Wisdom also gives a sense of proportion and an ability to see the big picture. Like me, you may find that wise people generally share the optimism that life's problems can be solved and thus they experience a certain amount of calm in facing difficult decisions.

Now we should be at the point where we have become entirely ready to break the loop.

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