Are We All Addicts?

How society encourages addiction

Are we all addicts? Well perhaps not all of us, but I’d put forth that there are lots and lots of us!

Life has become so stressful for most of us, that it is almost impossible not to become addicted to something. In the most of the world, much of society not only encourages addiction, but almost demands it. Some addictions, such as workaholism, are actually applauded in our culture — while others, such as nicotine, TV, internet porn, gambling, and sex addiction, are simply tolerated. And I believe that women are pressured hugely to drink wine in most social gatherings. Wine has become a staple in the “Girls’ Night Out.” As this article in The Huffington Post points out — Women Have a Complicated Love Affair With Wine.

Anne Wilson Schaef, author of When Society Becomes An Addict, explains:

“Often unknowingly the vast majority of us collude in a system that encourages addiction and co-dependence — and sees these states as normal. Many of us are addicted to chemicals, not only to alcohol or drugs but nicotine, caffeine, chocolate and overeating in general. Even more of us are involved in addictive processes: workaholism, gambling, compulsive shopping, sex, and so on. The realization of the extent of our addictions, both individually and as a society, is shocking.”

And this book was written before the internet took over as our number one addiction! If we are using anything to not feel our feelings, and we do it consistently, it is argued, that we are in an addiction process.

In another article in The Huffington Post:

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, author of Start Where You Are, agrees with Anne Wilson Schaef — we all are addicted to something. But she doesn’t blame it on American culture; she says it’s simply part and parcel of our human nature. Chodron explains that we are restless, irritable, and discontent — we find it impossible to just sit still and BE. So we distract ourselves with activity and entertainment: cell phones, texting, video games, iPods, TV, movies, magazines, non-stop busyness to keep us looking everywhere but inside ourselves. We mood-alter with substances (sugar, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, etc.) and activities (shopping, gambling, sex, work, viewing porn, etc.) Chodron says that we are unable to simply be awake and present to life — so we medicate our existential anxiety.

The article points out some sobering numbers regarding addiction in the US. But I’m sure many people will object to the use of the word addiction, but here is one way to decide for yourself (if you can get past the denial!)

Russell Brand describes the 12 steps of recovery from addiction in his book Recovery in a very in your face manner that may help some people see their own addiction. Most people either love Brand or hate him, but I find this confronting, in your face description of addiction and the way out refreshing.

Here are Brand’s 12 Steps:

“Here is how I look at these steps now, and it’s how I invite you to look at them too. It certainly de-mystifies it. I’ve probably overcompensated with the ‘f ’ word, but my point is that this is a practical system that anyone can use.
1 Are you a bit fucked?
2 Could you not be fucked?
3 Are you, on your own, going to ‘unfuck’ yourself?
4 Write down all the things that are fucking you up or have ever fucked you up and don’t lie, or leave anything out.
5 Honestly tell someone trustworthy about how fucked you are.
6 Well that’s revealed a lot of fucked up patterns. Do you want to stop it? Seriously?
7 Are you willing to live in a new way that’s not all about you and your previous, fucked up stuff? You have to.
8 Prepare to apologize to everyone for everything affected by your being so fucked up.
9 Now apologize. Unless that would make things worse.
10 Watch out for fucked up thinking and behaviour and be honest when it happens.
11 Stay connected to your new perspective.
12 Look at life less selfishly, be nice to everyone, help people if you can.

For Step One, Are You A Bit Fucked? Brand describes addiction simply and succinctly:

This is an invitation to change. This is complicated only in that most of us are quite divided, usually part of us wants to change a negative and punishing behaviour, whereas another part wants to hold on to it. For me Recovery is a journey from a lack of awareness to awareness.

A 5-point guide to the cycle of addiction:

1 Pain
2 Using an addictive agent, like alcohol, food, sex, work, dependent relationships to soothe and distract
3 Temporary anaesthesia or distraction
4 Consequences
5 Shame and guilt, leading to pain or low self-esteem . . . And off we go again.

I love the simplicity of that 5 point process.

If you can go through that 5 point process and honestly say “Nope not me”, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones. If not, there is hope in the steps mentioned above.

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