30 years in and around addiction has taught me that this is a struggle and failure of society and systems, an inability of individuals to cope with difficulties around them and an increased stigmatization that drives the secrecy and seeking out of whatever the addiction is. Alcohol, drugs, caffeine, nicotine, food, sex, media. We are all looking for that same dopamine hit. Some of us are more vulnerable to that hit feeling extra good and drawing us back in for more, again and again.
From personal experience, here ENVIRONMENT and habits matters. Sure, we can help out our biology, genes or innate predisposition to something with pharmaceuticals, but I have found that environment plays a HUGE role. Do you smoke every time you drink? Do you eat when you’re upset? Do you come home from work and hibernate with a whole season of the next season of whatever on Netflix?
This is an area where I am still scared of myself. Scared of what I am capable of. Maybe scared isn’t the right word, but rather incredibly self-aware. Addiction runs in my family. I tend to have addictive habits. So…I try not to put myself in situations where I know I will be tempted.
I cancelled my Netflix. I try to avoid those who use drugs and alcohol often (not because they are bad people, on the contrary they are often people who think outside the box and I’ve had many interesting convos with them…but mostly because I don’t trust myself). I try to live in places that encourage fresh foods and healthier eating habits. This is one reason why I find the mass consumerism of the US so difficult. I like living places where you buy from local markets…where you have to WALK there.
I have spent a lot of time with myself decomposing what these urges really mean to me. “Am I really hungry or am I frustrated about something.” “Do I really want sex or am I just lonely and craving companionship?” “Why am I wanting to check out and avoid my life through TV or napping?” I don’t always know, and I still sometimes override my rationality and indulge but being self-aware is the first step to helping myself, and others!
(For those who don’t know… I am doing “30 days to 30” and sharing life lessons and stories in order to celebrate my birthday—hoping to break stigmas and stereotypes about what 30 means and looks like)