Addiction is often misunderstood as a weakness of the will when in fact it is more complex than that.
Addiction is closely related to stress. According to Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of Kripalu Yoga, stress and addiction are actually cause and effect as explained in a June, 2010 article in Natural Awakenings, Healing the Root Cause of Addiction with Ayurveda A Natural Cure for Unhealthy Dependence by Linda Sechrist.
Yogi Desai states that, “Addictions are antidotes that provide a temporary escape from the stress- producing, conflict-creating reactions you have about what you are doing, where you are going and who you are with. Addiction, which is only an effect, occurs when you continue to use inappropriate external resources to reduce stress and restore a sense of balance while failing to resolve the cause of the stress hidden in the unconscious.”
Basically then, all addiction comes from a desire to escape some kind of conflict or consequence which raises some important questions:
- why does anyone need an antidote to a reaction or an escape?
- how can we live in a way that lets us handle challenges without becoming addicts?
Problems with reactions and the need to escape them come from a conflict we are unable to resolve which means that usually the seeds of addiction are created when we are children. As children, we have to survive in the environment into which we are born which can cause trouble when we have to live with compromises to our worth and dignity that we do not want or deserve.
The seeds of addiction can be magnified in a situation of extreme abuse where the child is not only physically and emotionally harmed but also expected to cover up the abuse for the parents. Children will also cover up abuse to avoid abandonment.
If the child must act with affection and gratitude to their abuser, the child’s feelings of shame and hurt intensify. Add the natural sadness of the child and the thwarting of the natural inclination to love that an abuse situation creates, and you have a serious emotional mess! This mess if it is allowed to exist over a long period of time results in disabling and damaging emotions that can result in extreme damage to an individual’s integrity and ability to self-regulate.
Long-term abusive situations are the one that cause the most damaging addictions because the individual’s escape of choice has a long time to solidify into a permanent habit. The addiction actually becomes a way of life and part of the individual’s identity.
People who suffer from addictions deserve compassion. Highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable in abusive situations because they take in all the energies around them like a sponge and they heal slowly.
So how can you heal addiction? Here are some ideas:
- embrace the idea of a long-term healing journey because it means that you need to travel from a place of not knowing yourself to learn who you are.
- embrace the idea that it is not your fault that you have an addiction. You did not create the situation; you do, however, have to engage in healing.
- embrace the idea that your self-image was formed when you were a child and so it is out-of-date the way a Model T automobile is today. Many people struggle with the idea that they are incompetent or bad because their adult caretakers had unrealistic expectations of them and taught them that they were defective. It is not a fault for a child to be a child. Just because a Model T doesn’t have GPS doesn’t mean it is a “bad” car.
- embrace the fact that as a human being you are not perfect, do not know it all and never will and no one else is any better. Let yourself off the perfectionism hook.
- think of your healing journey as similar to building a house. Your first job is to lay a foundation. That foundation has to include physical self-care, healing time, and attention to the voice of the inner self-seeking your attention.
There are several ways to heal the emotional pain of abuse:
- meditation helps you to detach and helps with inner healing.
- journaling helps get emotional pain out of your body onto paper, so it becomes a form of release and is a great daily practice.
- energy healing methods like EFT and reiki are superb for releasing emotional pain and creating a feeling of inner well-being.
- find a healing group of your choice, preferably one which practices compassionate healing. That means respecting your experience and pain while encouraging the healing journey. You heal faster when you have help and validation.
- If your abuse was severe, it can benefit you to have a therapist’s help to develop a renewed capacity for trust and positive relationship skills.
Many people are afraid of the healing journey because they are afraid of experiencing emotional pain and sadness. There is no question that healing can involve pain. It is similar to the pain of an illness or to the pain experienced after surgery.
Often people suffering from addiction were unable to process their feelings when they were children because it was too dangerous to do so. Unfortunately, these feeling become trapped in the body, so one of the primary jobs of healing is to let the feelings arise and release them. Each time you do you receive a gift.
When I do emotional healing, I learn something about myself or others that enables me to forgive and appreciate myself. Healing is actually a form of self-expansion in that you add something to your knowledge, perceptions, or skills. It is important, however, to have strict rules about safe healing, and do your absolute best to be non-harming in my healing. That is why meditation, journaling, and energy healing practices are so helpful. They help you heal in a constructive way.
One of the bravest actions a person can take is to decide to heal themselves and get the support they need for their healing journey. It is a journey from self-contempt to self-respect, self-harm to self-care, and self-hate to self-love. It is a rewarding journey.