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Feeding Your Addiction or Feeding Your Recovery – Your Choice

So, I like to look at how addiction can manifest in our lives, kind of like a pet, a cuddly, furry, loving, adoring little pet.  A pet that likes to snuggle your neck, comfort you and keep you company.  This pet of ours, our addictive traits, comes into our lives as soothing mechanisms, distractions, ways to numb ourselves and to cope with the daily stressors of life.  These addictive traits don’t have to just be substances, nicotine or alcohol.  They can be relationships, work, Facebook, sex, shopping, cell phones, social media, porn, gaming, food, gambling, the Internet, plastic surgery, or risky behaviors.

They appear quite benign, at first, and we can easily make excuses for them, diminishing the impact they have on our lives and on the lives of those around us.  Maybe your boss might notice, the time and attention that you spend on the Internet, Facebook or your phone.  Maybe your children notice the amount of alcohol you indulge in every evening, in order to “unwind” from your day. Maybe your partner notices as your sex life is being negatively impacted by your use of porn or your need for looking for attention outside of your marriage.  And as others notice, sometimes even before we notice ourselves, we often become defensive and protective of our “pets,” having become attached to them, feeling comforted and soothed by them.

Our “pets,” this attachment, or fondness of the effects of our addictive traits, can soon become dependence, as we reach out to our “pet” before we reach out to our spouse, our children, our best friend, or our boss for support, companionship and connection.  It’s just simpler right to reach out to our “pet.”  Our “pets” don’t condemn us, scold us, yell at us, criticize us, tell us we are wrong, or stupid or we should have done something different or that we have spent too much money or time,.  Our “pets” are reliable, consistent, almost always available and it appears that they are always happy to see us, welcome us, comfort us and soothe us.

At first we cuddle our “pets,” cradle, pet and snuggle them, but as with the progression of all addictive traits, our “pets” grow.  They can grow into snarling, biting, clawing beasts, at times, and often we will still protect and defend them.  And as our “pets” grow, and become more impacting, we can become more attached, protective and defensive.  With this, our isolation increases and we become less and less connected to those around us who really care about us.  When the progression of addiction catches up with us, such as relationship loss, bankruptcy, DUIs, job loss, damage to our reputations, lack of trust, we have a choice.  We can either learn to feed our addiction or feed our recovery.

Feeding our addiction looks like the continued use of the addictive behaviors as a soothing mechanism, with defensiveness, secretiveness, lies, and denial present.  By feeding our recovery, we are starving our addiction, not feeding our “pet” and watching it get smaller, less demanding and less pervasive in our lives.  Recovery is a life-long process, as we never fully lose our “pets.”  Old habits have the ability to rear their ugly heads again in our lives, if we don’t safeguard our lives and seek health on a daily basis, which means starving our “pets” and feeding our recovery. 

By the way…  What’s your “pet” of choice?

Patty Shirley