What is addiction? How do I know if I’m addicted to something?

I believe that addiction is a spectrum we are all on. I would be surprised if I’ve ever met anyone who isn’t hooked on something that they do to numb out, relax, or escape, even if they do it just a little bit, every once in a while….

It is very natural and totally human to want to escape the stressful experience of having a human mind. People’s minds can be more or less stressful to exist within, depending on how hurt we’ve been in the past and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, our life, and the other people in it as a result.

For me, it the patterns and habits of escapism from the moment are a problem when they make us suffer. This happens when the addictive part of us reacts to anything in life that brings up stress, fear, loneliness… any negative emotion… by doing it’s behaviour.

Then another part of us joins in: the self-critical part. It slings shame at us for doing that thing… again! It can be quite harsh and heavy-handed – it’s actually trying to help up stop, believe it or not. But it’s methods don’t do the trick, in fact they have the opposite effect of adding to the growing reservoir of self-loathing and shame carried by….

…. another part. A part that is vulnerable to shame and is isolated within us. There will have been times for all of us in our childhood and past when we felt like there must be something wrong with us, because of something that happened to us that shouldn’t have. When we aren’t cared for as children the way we needed to be, we pick up some feelings and beliefs that aren’t true, and carry them around. Self-criticism taps right into this ‘not good enough’ belief.

I’m not big on labels, but I find it can be useful to be clear. If this cycle of addictive behaviour, self-criticism and shame is happening and even progressing, it may well be appropriate to call it ‘addiction’. This is a brilliant moment, because the joy of recovery can start from this clarity.