Activities – such as sports, creative projects, reading, work, TV, meditation – can be a wonderful way to relax, express yourself, or connect to yourself. Or they can be an addiction. How can you know the difference?
* Angie would surf the channels whenever she felt stressed or alone.
* Karen would lose herself in a book when things felt overwhelming.
* Keith would retreat and meditate when his wife wanted to talk.
* Patty’s work schedule left her little time at home.
* Carl spent more time in the garage fixing things than with his family.
* Patrick’s love of running was interfering with his family time.
Whether or not an activity is an addiction depends upon your INTENT.
* When the intent of an activity is to avoid the pain of aloneness and loneliness, it is an addiction.
* When the intent of an activity is to avoid the pain of rejection or the fear of domination, it is an addiction.
* When the intent of an activity is to put off doing something you don’t really want to do but need to do, it is an addiction.
Whenever an activity is used as a way to avoid something – painful feelings, difficult or boring tasks – it becomes an addiction. It’s really no different than using substances such alcohol, drugs, or food to avoid painful feelings or challenging tasks. The problem with using addictions to avoid painful feelings is that the feelings don’t actually go away. They are just numbed for the moment but are silently eroding one’s sense of self. We can get away with it only for so long before it shows up in some way – illness, divorce, depression, and so on. And avoiding tasks means that the tasks pile up, eventually causing the very stress we want to avoid. Our society is filled with ways to avoid. Yet it is avoidance that leads to the very feelings we are striving to avoid!
When the intent of an activity is to take loving care of yourself by providing yourself with fun, creativity and expression, relaxation, personal growth, spiritual growth, physical health and well-being, then it is a loving action rather than an addiction. It all depends on your INTENT.
Next time you want to participate in your favorite activity, you might want to notice your intent. Do you want to relax and watch TV or are you avoiding some difficult feeling or task? Do you find yourself scheduling more work than you can really handle to avoid dealing with aloneness, loneliness, or conflict with a mate, or are you really loving your work and feeling fulfilled by it? Are you exercising to support your health or to avoid feelings?
Once you become aware of using an activity to avoid, here’s what you can do about it:
1. Welcome the feeling you are trying so hard to avoid. Pay attention to the feeling – fear, loneliness, aloneness, agitation, boredom, anxiety.
2. Make a decision to learn what YOU might be doing to cause this feeling rather than continuing to avoid it.
3. Explore what you might be doing to cause this feeling. How are you not taking care of yourself that is causing your painful feeling? Are you procrastinating, judging yourself, or not standing up for yourself in conflict? How are you avoiding responsibility for your own well-being? Are you allowing yourself to be a victim, waiting for someone else to make you feel better?
4. Once you understand what you are doing to cause your distress, then you need to ask “What would be the loving action for myself?” You are asking this question of your highest self, or of your spiritual guidance if you are connected with a source of guidance. If you open to learning about what is loving, ideas will pop into your mind.
5. Now you need to take the loving action on your own behalf – complete a task, stand up for yourself and speak your truth with someone, and so on.
6. Re-evaluate how you are feeling. Are you feeling more peaceful and more powerful? You will feel more peaceful if you have taken the loving action. If you are not feeling better, don’t just turn back to your addictions. Look for another loving action until you find what really makes you feel safe on a deep level, not just the temporary pacification of an addiction.
You will find your addictions fading away as you learn to take loving care of yourself.