According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the definition of addiction is the following:
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.“
- Anger a form of dissatisfaction, frustration, disappointment, or resentment. Reactions may include fits of rage, or a verbal outburst.
- Fear is not only a paralyzing, body shaking adrenaline-pumping emotion. It manifests in so many ways such as lack of trust (in self and others), hesitation, indecision, doubt, anxiety, or procrastination.
- Sadness can manifest in apathy, indifference, helplessness, or a sense of lack.
- Depression can cause suicidal thoughts in many sufferers.
The hard part is knowing, or noticing these patterns within ourselves. As with any addiction, many times it is easier for someone outside the addiction to notice. In order to notice these things within ourselves we need to examine ourselves closely which many times is very hard to do. People with these types of addictions usually spend most of the time finding excuses for their actions, and putting blame on others for causing their reaction, without ever noticing a pattern or problem. Many times we think an angry reaction might make someone respect our position in the moment better. This is generally not the case, and usually causes more harm than good. Aren’t we all responsible for the ways we react? Instead of reacting negatively, usually we can find a better reaction that does not cause more negativity, or averts it altogether, garnering true respect. This explains why these addictions are very hard to ever try to tame. Recovery for any addiction starts with acknowledgement of, and admission of a problem.
One good way of becoming aware that these things may be a problem is by sitting with that emotion. When an emotion like anger comes up, let yourself feel it. The next time you are driving, and someone cuts you off, or beeps at you for what you think is no reason, this would be a good time to try this. Sit and breathe into that feeling, and notice anywhere that feeling manifests into a physical reaction in your body. It may be a clenching fist or jaw, (or an unfurling finger, don’t laugh we have all done it) or maybe more subtle like a facial expression. Whatever it is, just notice it, don’t judge it. Find where in your body this feeling lives. The next time this emotion comes up you may notice the very same physical reaction. If you practice this enough, and you will start to be able to notice these physical manifestations, and adjust your reaction accordingly, thereby breaking the cycle of that negative emotion controlling you. This is the start of your recovery. It takes some practice, but as with any addiction it can be overcome with work and dedication to yourself, and your well being.
If we are looking at life through these negative emotions, how can we ever feel joy, or happiness. Those are things we would all like to feel more of. How can we see the good in others if we are always reacting from a place of negativity? How many times have you reacted negatively toward someone and regretted it? Feeling negativity without reacting to it will empower you. It will change more each time you practice it, and lighten the load on your emotions ten fold. It will help you to realize that these negative emotions are separate from ourselves, and they do not define us. Take pride in your recovery, we are all human, and as imperfect as the person next to us. We however can be a better person than we were yesterday. If that is our goal, it can be achieved.