The word addiction conjures up all kinds of images like street junkies shooting heroin or transients lying in cardboard boxes with a brown paper bag clutched in their fists. The reality is most of us have some form of addiction. We can be addicted to chocolate, coffee, sex, nail biting, shopping, exercise, video games, or working. Or maybe we’re addicted to beating ourselves up, ranting when upset, or cutting our bodies.

Addictions are substances and activities we use to distract ourselves from feeling our emotions about our current situation. They give us a temporary dose of pleasure. We know we’re addicted if we can’t stop doing it without becoming agitated or giving in to the urge. Not only are addictions detrimental to our health and well-being, they effect those around us. Our addictions become our primary relationship, our best friends.

Addictions Help Us Feel Temporarily in Control

Fear drives addictions: we grab them in a reflexive fashion, without pausing to make a conscious choice. That fleeting shot of instant gratification allows us to avoid what we’re presently feeling – anger, sadness, or more fear. We feel out of control and our chosen addiction provides comfort and offers a temporary reprieve.

Countless times a day we’re confronted with situations that evoke emotions. Some are hurts and losses. Maybe we’ve been called a mean name, just got diagnosed with an illness, or lost our wallet. Violations and injustices, such as being frustrated, wrongly accused, or hit without provocation occur and naturally elicit anger. Often our survival feels threatened, when we don’t think we can get everything done or don’t know how we’ll pay our rent next week. Rarely do we allow ourselves to experience our emotions in their pure physical form – that is, to cry, stomp, or shiver. We default to our addiction instead.

What Triggers Our Addictions?

Pinpointing when and what triggers our addiction allows us to choose to do something different but healthy in that moment. According to Attitude Reconstruction, the best thing to do at those crucial choice points is to express the sadness, anger, and fear physically and constructively. If that’s too radical, figure out another constructive substitute that’s easy to do at those moments. Perhaps find a helpful thought to rigorously repeat at those moments, such as “Everything is okay. This feeling is temporary. This sensation will pass.” Or select something else to do until the urge passes, such as whistle a tune, run around the block, or call a buddy for support.

Each time you resist and make another choice, you’ll experience a sweet shot of victory. When you stumble, renew your resolve and start again. Freedom, power, confidence, and strength will become your new companions. Instead of addiction running the show, you’ll be making the best decisions for your life. A new way to experience your emotions. A new Attitude Reconstruction.