Difference between addiction or not

Perk Me Up, photo by Gomi Lao, Baguio City, Benguet, PhilippinesI have often been asked the question put to me by Uli Bartels, the photographer for the coffee addiction post, that is, how does one know the difference between addiction or not? The answer is quite simple – when the behaviour is repeated until it becomes problematic and often life-threatening then it is addiction. In other words when a person cannot stop themselves from repeating destructive behaviour then they have become addicted. So it is far better to reduce the behaviour before it becomes harmful and then it is necessary to abstain from usage all together.

Robert told me that he knew he was not addicted
because he could go without drinking for months
I asked him when he does drink what happens and
he pulled a face as he told me that he got high
but although he drank too much
he was a ‘happy drunk’ or so he was told
because he couldn’t always remember things
then the penny dropped as he realised
that he was a problem drinker
that’s the difference between addiction or not!

Perk Me Up, photo by Gomi Lao, Baguio City, Philippines

Coffee addiction

cup, photo by Uli Bartels, Berlin Germany, www.ulrichbartels.deEveryone who loves coffee enjoys the taste and the lift it gives, as well as the social interaction that goes with having coffee with people – friends or business colleagues. It is considered safer than alcohol or other excesses but needless to say coffee addiction is dangerous. How many people do you know who have reached the stage of needing to reduce the number of coffees they have in a day because of doctor’s orders? As I see it if you like coffee, better to drink a safe number of coffees per day than to have to do without it completely, should it get out of hand.

I prefer a cup of tea to a cup of coffee
yet when we are out my first reaction is
to ask if anyone wants to have a coffee?
which surprises me immensely
I realise it is a socialisation outcome
just the thought of going out and
having a cup of coffee over a chat
appeals to me whereas
a cup of tea is something I
have at home or with breakfast out

cup, photo by Uli Bartels, Berlin Germany

Natural high

light FX:9 # 1,photo by Michael Bretherton, Brisbane, Australia,  fireworksIt is possible to get a natural high without risking our health with using substances or processes which can be life threatening. Some people can reach a natural high easier because of their genetic make-up. Nevertheless, there are many testimonials about how once people came into recovery from addictions they not only became free from symptoms of mental illnesses but also came to experience natural highs.

before I gave up chainsmoking through NicA
my fear was that I would become boring
fortunately I reached a stage where
smoking was losing its joy for me
so after a few weeks in recovery
and as a non smoker I experienced
what felt like the first natural high in my life
and I was smoke free, how unbelievable?!
but how empowering and what serenity?
and this is now a common event, without smoking

light FX:9 # 1,photo by Michael Bretherton, Brisbane, Australia, fireworks


That look, photo by Betty Miller, Colorado, United States, http://fireyes.deviantart.com, inner turmoilEvery day we have mixed feelings about different matters. Resentments are strong feelings which we can bury deep within, contaminating our wellbeing. What’s worse is being in denial about doing just that. Resentments are so cunning that we can ignore their existence until it’s too late and we have surprising explosive behaviours. That’s why it’s far better to be in touch with our feelings and own them as being naturally ours, and in doing so they settle down. Then we need to observe their origin and what can be done to resolve this turmoil. The expression ‘befriend our demons’ means finding those feelings which we have suppressed, that have subsequently turned into problematic behaviour, and processing them.

she had long ago ‘befriended her demons’
as a result of intense therapy and
personal and professional development
she took pride in being a guide for others
on similar journeys of enlightenment
but she didn’t notice resentments building up
deep within, in her inner world
on the outside she was busy and happy
but something was not as it should be
she’d gained weight and had an insatiable appetite
it took 3 OA meetings a week to get real
about her buried unwanted feelings of
resentment, self pity, boredom, loneliness
which she was busy avoiding with activities
and for which she had paid the price
fortunately it didn’t take long for her
to tweak her choices back into healthy living

That look, photo by Betty Miller, http://fireyes.deviantart.com

Addiction symptoms regardless of nationality

World map, photo by Brian S, Jakarta, Indonesia, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/653075, worldwide diseaseAn interesting fact is that people suffer similar addiction symptoms regardless of nationality, that is, whether we are European or Australian or Chinese and so on. The need to use or self medicate increases as the illness of addiction progresses and the illness can only be arrested by abstaining. Some of the symptoms are: depression, aggression (violence), resentments, isolation, paranoia, neediness, self-pity, poor anger management, and disorders in sleeping, eating and sexual behaviour. When feelings or behaviours are exhibited to the extreme then people would do well to explore the extent to which they use substances or processes to cope with them – this only makes those feelings worse.

during the day he was a successful businessman
but his behaviour was becoming more and more
aggressive, dishonest and unbelievably mean
towards his family, friends and staff
during the day it did not appear as though
he was drinking alcohol, but he did at night
that was the only time he was jolly
then his doctor said that his drinking had to stop
or his damaged liver would cause his death
for a few weeks he was sober and went to AA
the change in him was amazing and once more
his wife saw the man she had fallen in love with
but he was bored with his authentic self and
he gave up his recovery and that lost him his wife
his only salvation has been that
he’s minimised his drinking, however
his behaviour is obnoxious and yet
he knows what needs to be done when he’s ready

Sex and love addiction

Heels, photo by Marko Matovic, Cacak, Serbia, obsessive compulsive So many people nowadays suffer with sex and love addiction and yet are in denial about it. They are seen as rogues and the behaviour is condoned. Or it seems easier for people to believe that a person is worthless because they lose control of their desires for sex and love. Whereas if there was more understanding that this behaviour is a disorder or disease which can be treated, then it could be corrected. It is described simply by the need to have sex and love in order to get a thrill, only to feel guilty afterwards because the consequences are bleak and people are hurt. At times it is life-threatening when those involved are careless too.

he said that he couldn’t understand
what happened and that he took such a chance
he had not intended to have a one night stand
and yet he felt driven and what’s more
he didn’t use a condom
now he was stressed as he may have
signed his own death warrant
this was not the first time this had happened
and yet he is a good looking, successful guy
any number of women are attracted to him
something had to be done and right away
he agreed he couldn’t do it alone and needed help
he’d been to have his Aids test and
now he made a commitment to go to
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous which
he had resisted for so long
when I saw him next he seemed
more serene and spoke about how
surprised he was at meeting people
he respected and some who had
been through the same thing as he had
but were free of the madness
and now he felt there was hope for him
I saw him again one year later and he
was in recovery and grateful for his health
emotional physical and spiritual

[SLAA Sydney telephone: 9358 6605]

Aroma therapy

Aroma, photo by Mohamed Riffath, Maldives, feel goodMany people underestimate essential oils and the effect aroma therapy has on our wellbeing. Our sense of smell and sense of touch contribute to relaxation and the healing of stress related illnesses. Aroma therapy has many different combinations of oils and how they benefit us, whether through massage or the aroma of oils in a burner.

I had gone to a health farm for a week
needed the break after a series of traumas
both in my personal life and through work
it was great healthy food
good company
excellent education about nutrition and health
even a little fun like horse-riding and singing
also great was the float tank and mud baths
but best of all was the massage with the
essential oils especially applied in reflexology
that was heaven for me and my feet
furthermore, relaxing music in the background
as well as the most amazing aromas
wafting from the burner
such a phenomenon
the best high ever

Motivation and recovery

wet bottle, photo by sanja gjenero, zagreb, Croatia, serenity, sobrietyIt doesn’t matter whether we search for recovery from addiction or any other form of emotional or mental ill health, motivation and recovery go hand in hand. Good intentions are not sufficient. How many times have we heard the afflicted person being accused of not wanting recovery otherwise they could have it. In response the addict desperately claims that they do want recovery. Motivation is vital to recovery. Usually reaching rock-bottom motivates the afflicted person to commit to recovery. They say ‘no pain no gain’. But it would certainly be great for motivation to be accessed without the pain of rock-bottom.

Getting free of the grip of addiction is like learning anything new. Practise makes perfect and then the most difficult becomes easy – it’s the same as learning to ride a bike or learning to play an instrument. Repetitive positive behaviour (recovery) replaces the repetitive negative behaviour (addiction). There is a big difference between negative addiction and positive addiction (recovery). Although one needs to be always on guard that the positive addiction does not become negative addiction. The way to avoid that is by knowing that negative addiction makes life unmanageable whereas positive addiction is the serenity in recovery.

he came to me, a sorry sight
having been in detox 27 times
coming out each time with
the promise of recovery and
freedom from the clutches of addiction
yet after a short period he busted
on alcohol and narcotics
I feared that death would find him
before recovery did
and deep down inside he felt the same
but as advised by those who know better
motivation and recovery would come when
he attended 12 Step meetings even though
there was great resistance from within
“get your bum on a seat” they said
and he did until eventually it worked
and sobriety and clean time became
his positive addiction
serenity and freedom at last
what bliss?!

Deprivation versus indulgence

Chocolate truffles, photo by hartini a, Hiland, United States, stress, treatsWhen a person is in the clutches of addiction they experience feelings of deprivation versus indulgence. In other words they are torn between abstaining from the drug of choice to giving into what they crave. Often this is due to experiences in their childhood where they perceived their parents to be at times too strict and then quite the opposite when they were generous. Such inconsistent behaviour is damaging to young children. A person then becomes confused about their self parenting skills and they too swing from one extreme to another. Until they find recovery, when they discover how to have serenity. Then developing a healthy relationship with self is the final outcome.

I struggled and struggled with my food cravings
and feelings of deprivation versus indulgence
attending self help programs and therapy
and participating in countless
personal development courses
I moaned and groaned about
my predicament as I explored my childhood
as well as being examined for biological reasons
no easy answer while I was in denial about
my willingness to resolve the issue
then one day after much dedication and
sitting with painful feelings
instead of suppressing them
I befriended my demons and
developed the relationship with self
now I feel free of cravings and deprivation
and food is just for nutrition not comfort

Food Addiction has triggers too

Walnut, photo by Gian Paolo Dessolis, Sassari, Italy, eating disordersIn all addictions, there are triggers which hook in the compulsion. Food addiction has triggers too. Triggers involve people, places and things which result in the food addict being driven to the very thing that they are trying to abstain from. ‘people‘ refers to those who have dysfunctional behaviour and affect us negatively. ‘places‘ are those which we need to avoid because of the temptation presented. ‘things‘ can be carbohydrates such as flour and sugar, which are poison to the food addict (one is too many, a hundred’s not enough). Then there’s the HALTShungry, angry, lonely, tired and serious – the states which are triggers for using feel-goods.

she had come to see me about the insanity
that overeating was causing her and
how she had tried everything!
belonging to a weight loss club
which had worked in the beginning,
special weight loss programs
which involved everything from
juice fasting to food replacement shakes
even nutritionally balanced diets
and yet all these worked temporarily
only to put on more weight than that lost!
we discussed her successful skills in business
and her unhappy experiences in life
she came to understand the meaning of addiction
and that food addiction has triggers too
that was the beginning of her recovery