In this hectic culture of high-stress, we’re all looking for just a little relief to get us by. Don’t get me wrong. There is certainly something to be said for the therapeutic benefit of all these activities listed here. A single glass of red wine, for example, can unwind the day’s tension from our clenched shoulders. An extra 3 hours of luxurious sleep on a Saturday after an especially hectic week can rejuvenate our entire immune system. Or a guilty pleasure Netflix binge on a health-recovery day can help you get the rest you need while keeping you entertained. Only when we begin to feel a compulsion, an ever present craving to run for the comfort of it, does it become detrimental to our wellness and vitality. A line does exist, and most of us cross it daily.
Let’s take a look at the 10 most common and socially-accepted addictions that become a problematic drain to our well-being when used as a crutch, rather than the sign of what our wise bodies need. Again, I can’t emphasize enough that I’m a firm believer in enjoying life, all of these activities included. A little freedom and pleasure every now and then is a sign of a healthy, joyful person to me. You’ve got to live a little (or a lot)! The distinction comes between choosing these behaviors in a unique moment to consciously serve your life…or relying upon them to disengage from the deeper reality and discomfort of what’s truly going on.
1. Food | An intense craving to stuff your face when you recently ate plenty can indeed be a sign you are needing something more, but it’s not grub.
What we’re avoiding: Our uncomfortable feelings.
What we really need: To deeply allow and feel them.
Try: Take a deep breath and do a quick scan of your body to feel for any tension. Soften toward any tension you may find along the way, instead of bracing against it. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling here?” Simply take a moment to honor your feelings by experiencing them.
2. Coffee | Requiring coffee to get through your day extends beyond the mere physical addiction of caffeine.
What we’re avoiding: Feeling life is empty or meaningless.
What we really need: To connect to a grander sense of purpose for our lives.
Try: Ask yourself, “What or who is most important to me today?” Make taking action on what’s meaningful to you, even if that’s exploring what that is, a priority today. If you have other duties, make sure to dedicate at least 5 minutes to this everyday.
3. Alcohol | Needing alcohol to get through an interaction or social event may highlight our need to feel more in control of ourselves.
What we’re avoiding: The human experience of being powerless. We can only control so much in our life, and that is super scary.
What we really need: To let go of what we can’t control, while practicing discipline and self-control for what we can.
Try: Recite the affirmation, I cannot control what happens around me, but I can control how I respond to it. If there is a particular negative situation that you continue to find yourself in, even despite your best efforts to control your behavior, it may be time to admit your powerlessness around this, and seek support from a professional. We all need help for some things.
4.Sugar | Aah, this is my personal Achilles’ heel. Sugar is a cheap substitute for feeling loved within.
What we’re avoiding: Our need to feel loved.
What we really need: To allow ourselves to need love and to be loved.
Try: Repeat the affirmation, I am loved. I let love in, for 20-minutes every day while you feel and visualize your heart opening to let the love in. It’s a game-changer.
5. Sleep | Some of us push our wake-up time out as far as possible because getting out of bed means dealing with reality.
What we’re avoiding: Feeling unsafe or insecure financially, emotionally or physically.
What we really need: To confront the alarming feelings of instability and create a solid plan of action to establish some level of security for ourselves.
Try: Journal all the ways you are feeling unsafe or unstable in your life. Choose the top 2 and outline the necessary steps to get you to that first level of having your feet on the ground. Start with the essential foundation first. One step at a time.
6. Smoking Pot | Though many feel that it relaxes them, marijuana is actually a hallucinogenic stimulant, increasing our heart and breath rate. So, how does that work? Pot is a more palatable way to let your guard down and express yourself for those it works as a crutch for. For others who don’t enjoy the experience much, it raises your guard way up.
What we’re avoiding: Being truly vulnerable.
What we really need: To let our guard down with those in our life and take the risk of being seen for who we really are.
Try: Take a risk with someone you can trust. Share something vulnerable and at the core of what you’re going through. Or just take a risk and say something that feels different than you usually might. Practice taking little risks to let your full self be seen.
7. Sex | Compulsive sex in any of its forms- flirting, pornography, masturbation -points to a lack of feeling important to the opposite sex (the same sex for LGBT) or worthy of love.
What we’re avoiding: Feeling unworthy and unloved by the opposite sex.
What we really need: To pay attention to and cultivate our genuine value–what’s in our hearts.
Try: In what ways might you be disrespecting yourself around the opposite sex? In other words, how do you take the focus away from loving yourself and put it onto needing their approval or interest. Start to interact with members of the opposite sex while you place the attention on and honor your heart, what you want to do, what you feel, etc. Notice thoughts about your attractiveness or sexual appeal when they arise and gently usher your attention back to your inner value.
8. Internet | Automatically pulling out your smartphone every 5 minutes symbolizes the need for a basic human experience that is becoming as extinct as the land line.
What we’re avoiding: Rejection, which is one possibility of real human connection.
What we really need: Real human connection.
Try: Leave your phone at home or hide it in the car when you go to a restaurant, for a run or to yoga class. Challenge yourself to have phone-free time, make eye contact, smile and say hi to at least 3 people you pass everyday. Practice bringing your awareness back to your own body and experience when you don’t get the response you want. If you pay attention, your heart will naturally know to move toward someone else, someone who cares about you. And if you’re alone logging on, take a walk. Get out there in the world! If it’s time for bed, envision the kind of connection you would like to have tomorrow.
9.Television | If Netflix binges are how you generally cope when you arrive home from work, you might be needing more than just a distraction.
What we’re avoiding: Our own mind and thoughts.
What we really need: True rest.
Try: Enjoy some silence for a change. Take a quiet bath, meditate or go to bed early. Breathe deeply, and all the way into your lower belly. Our body can’t get the rest it deeply needs while being over-stimulated by the images and sounds of the TV screen.
10. Work | While our work can provide genuine satisfaction, overdoing it can point to another problem. This is not about survival and people who overwork to support their families. Nor is this about the addiction to money, which is similar to sex (see above). This is about an emptiness that cannot be filled no matter how much overtime you put in.
What we’re avoiding: The dissatisfaction of living.
What we really need: The kind of lasting fulfillment that comes from envisioning what a whole, happy and joyful life means to you, and then pursuing it.
Try: Decide on the top area of your life you would like to work on (other than your career) and make a solid commitment to focus on it consistently- at least 4 times a week, but every day is best, for at least 40 days. This is how long it takes to start seeing results. Once you see some results, it will be easier to keep going!
A healthy dose of self-questioning can help us to stay honest about why we do what we do. If you find yourself leaping inside for one of these comfort-loaded activities, simply ask yourself, “what is this covering up?” And, “what is it trying to tell me?” Choosing to follow through with checking OUT anyway after checking IN let’s us know that we are human, and that is always OK. However, if you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, seeking support and resolution for these common addictions is a fundamental place to start.
For questions or for more care and support through my vitality coaching program, please reach out to me.