Mindfulness – The key to overcoming addiction

Awareness is curative in and of itself.

I’ve discovered this to be true in my own life. It’s the basis of all the mindfulness-based addiction recovery programs and stress-reduction protocols.

The idea is that as soon as an addict becomes fully aware of what he or she is doing to themselves and others, the compulsion will be broken. Moment to moment, we can become aware of our cravings and consciously choose to not react to them.

I’ve found that I’ve always developed addictions as detachment mechanisms. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve used substances and behaviors as a means to escape negative emotions.

Instead of facing and embracing the discomfort of experiencing the emotion fully, be it shame, guilt, anger, grief or any other distressing feeling, I would allow myself to get lost in the intensities of my addiction.

I’ve been addicted to lots of things in my life, some more difficult to get over than others.

Sugar, video games, tobacco, cannabis, pornography and the need for external validation have all had parts to play, with pornography addiction and the need for validation being the most tenacious of the bunch.

The deeper I explore the subtler parts of my psyche, the more I see that these addictions have developed over long periods of time, mostly as a result of some kind of trauma.

When we think of trauma, we tend to think of horrific accidents, sexual abuse and physical violence.

However, trauma can be incredibly varied and subtle. Emotional trauma is an often overlooked factor when dealing with addiction, as is childhood neglect and isolation.

When I was growing up, events took place that still affect the adult I’ve become. My father’s sudden decision to leave my mother when I was seven, my mothers subsequent alcohol abuse and neglect of myself and my sister, constant moving and distance from friends and family have all had incredibly poignant effects on my emotional make up.

I’ve had to work hard to overcome the hardships of my childhood, but the effort has been rewarded many times over.

Addictions started to become glaringly obvious in my daily life in late adolescence. I had been using pornography and weed as coping mechanisms for years with little or no consequences, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say.

My reckless behavior was starting to catch up with me.

Although many tout marijuana as a mind altering drug with little chance of physical dependence, the mental addictive potential is often overlooked.

Pornography has also been hailed as a healthy respite from the stresses of modern life, with no ill effects. In my experience, pornography addiction is subtle but insidious.

Studies have shown that problem use of (high-speed internet) pornography closely resembles dependence on heroin, at least when comparing brain regions affected and the intensity of neuronal activity.

As a kid and young adult, porn use was subtly encouraged everywhere from sex education classes to movies and television shows, as was smoking weed (albeit not at school!).

I just went with the flow, not knowing the havoc I was wreaking on my sexual and mental health.

Now I want to make clear that I’m not anti-porn or anti-weed or anti-anything for that matter. I am however very passionate about level-headed discussion of facts, instead of propaganda guided by superstition and ideology.

I started this article off on the idea that awareness is curative. Here’s what has helped me in my struggle for independence from addiction.

Education and understanding

One of the most important things you can do for yourself in life is to educate yourself. School is fine and dandy, but ideology leads the way all too often. If something intrigues you, approach it from many different angles and viewpoints.

In fact, there’s no one real or true way to approach any subject, it’s all relative to the person studying it.

When I realized this, I started picking up books about all kinds of esoteric and taboo things, like polyamory (Sex at Dawn), meditation (The Attention Revolution), diet (The Paleo Manifesto) and out-of-body experiences (Journeys out of the Body).

The freedom from understanding that nobody really knows anything for sure is surprisingly sweet.

Keeping a Journal

Journaling has been one of the major transformative habits in my life these last few years, along with meditation and psychedelic use.

Writing in stream-of-consciousness fashion, meaning writing down whatever comes to mind, is an incredible, cathartic tool for self-understanding.

It helped me not only pinpoint what behaviors were causing me the most suffering, but also what had incited my dependence on them in the first place.

Your journal is a place to develop ideas and clear your mind, but also a place for deep self-inquiry and healing. My journaling habit may very well have been the most important catalyst for my awakening to the realities of my life.

Psychedelic Exploration

Psychedelics have been taboo for so long it’s almost ridiculous. It’s amazing to me that something so life-altering, so liberating, could be kept under wraps for so long. The potential for psychological healing in sensible psychedelic use is profound.

Taking the plunge and experiencing psychedelic mushrooms is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Bear in mind though, that psychedelic substances are not to be approached lightly. They are vastly powerful and demand respect.

Ritual and psychedelic use have gone hand in hand throughout human history, and there’s no reason to stop now; Prepare your trips meticulously, make them celestial and sacred. You will not be disappointed.

Being Here, Now

Mindfulness has been the deciding factor for me when working through my addictions. I’m still struggling with pornography, but it’s nowhere near as over the top as it used to be.

I’m getting closer to freedom from addiction with every passing day, and a big part of my recovery has been thanks to my introducing mindfulness into my life.

At first I simply started meditating, and then forgetting the principles of mindfulness in between sessions. When I finally understood that meditation is a lifestyle, not an activity, it changed my life.

Becoming mindful of your thoughts and actions is pivotal in gaining control of your behavior. When we engage in addictive patterns, we do so by allowing ourselves to get lost in the sheer thrill of the next dopamine hit.

When we manage to bring awareness to those moments, we are able to think ahead; “Is this really what’s most beneficial to me in this moment?”

And when you reach that stage of self awareness, nothing will ever be the same. I guarantee it.

I love you all.

 

 

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