Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Addictions

Every morning at 10:30 my office provides tea, coffee and biscuits / cake / jello for everyone who works or studies there. I don't always go down for the tea-break - I might be feeling too ugly to socialise, or not trust myself to resist the carb+sugar overload, or just be too wrapped up in my work - but today I did go and ended up having quite an enlightening conversation with my colleague, whom I'll call Jake.

Jake is probably in his mid-50s, in the process of getting divorced, and has two teenage kids; a son and a daughter. He also volunteers once a week at a recovery course for people with addictions. He himself took the course some years ago and says he found it immensely helpful in helping him beat his addiction (of which I don't know any details), and has now gone back to help others in a similar situation. Jake's probably one of my closest "friends" at work, despite the age gap, and I've also spoken to him briefly about self-harm after he spotted the scars on my wrist one day and asked me about it, as he was struggling to understand why his daughter was doing the same thing.

Anyway, today we were musing over addictions of various kinds, and I thought some of his insights were quite applicable to both EDs and self-harm. I don't currently qualify for an ED, though I'm not yet ready to completely close the door on all the behaviours I learned when I did, but I am trying really hard to close the door on self-harm. So I'm posting some of Jake's comments here as much as a reminder for myself as anything else, but perhaps they'll be helpful to some of you, too.

  • Statistically, people who recover from an addiction almost invariably fall prey to another one soon afterwards, unless they consciously identify what it was that the addiction was giving them (control, escape, protection from vulnerability etc.) and find a healthy way to fill those needs or address the issues driving them. 
  • Addicts tend, either consciously or sub-consciously, to view their addiction as a "friend"; a never-failing source of comfort who's always available to buoy us up when times are tough. Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the personification of Ana and Mia; all over these blogs I read phrases like "Ana will always be there for me", "Mia welcomes me back with open arms", "Ana is my secret saviour". I'm not pointing any fingers here - I think and write in exactly this sort of language myself sometimes. But if ever you want to escape an addiction, be it an ED, or self-harm, or negative self-talk, or anything else, you have to let go of this perception and realise than the addiction exists for one purpose alone - to destroy you and take down as many relationships, opportunities, and successes as it can on your way down. However good it may make you feel in the short term, your addiction is not your friend. Ever.
  • If you want to recover from an addiction, it often helps to see things in black and white. Write two lists, one for all the good things in your life, and one for all the bad. Then mark which things in each list have been caused or enabled by your addiction, and which have been jeopardised, compromised, or destroyed. Write a third list of things that you dream of for yourself, in terms of relationships, career aspirations, hobbies, travel, etc, and mark which of these will be more difficult to attain if you keep up your addiction.
In more personal news, I did manage to narrow down my list of adult education classes that I mentioned in my last post. There were a whole bunch of things that looked interesting, but I've whittled it down to Italian, Pottery, Plumbing, and Calligraphy. Kind of a random mix, I know, but those were the ones that really jumped out as being the most interesting to me. I think, realistically, I can only afford to do one or maybe two though, so i'll have to choose... Will keep you posted!

I hope this period - a new month and a new season - marks some new beginnings for all of us, and brings renewed focus and commitment to our goals, whatever they may be. Have a good week, all.

2 comments:

Miranda, AKA Fed Up said...

It's interesting how similar addiction is even among different addictions. Those classes sound fun! Hopefully they'll keep you happy and occupied.

Stick Thin said...

Thanks for the insight. You nailed a lot of truth's about addictions. The words 'black and white' bring up a phrase from when i was in treatment.

"that's black and white thinking'. ha ha it means something totally different from what you posted. Often times when people are struggling with recovery we see only two possibilities. i'm going to cut or i'm going to not, for example. i can't explain myself very well. sorry.

nuff said. thanks for your post!