Help for Addiction in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Crowborough, Forest Row & East Grinstead areas. Do you have an Alcohol or Drug problem, addicted to Gambling, are you a Workaholic, or can’t leave the internet alone?
What is self-destructive addiction about?
We all have our addictions; problems only arise when they have a self-destructive aspect to them. These addictions come in all degrees from the slightly annoying to the full blown anything goes search for oblivion of severe substance misuse. They also come in different forms. There is the use of substances which we take to change our state in some way, whether drink or drugs. Then there are all the various problem behaviours like gambling, over-working, eating problems, porn / sex, internet, self-harming, etc. etc.
With self-destructive addiction it is obvious that there is a process going on that we don’t understand, that we can’t control and, especially to start with we are in denial about. So the first step is always about acknowledging that a problem exists. This often comes after some sense of “rock bottom”, from a crisis which causes more suffering than the pain that the addiction was designed to avoid. But it can also come as a dawning realisation that this is not what we want for our lives and that there must be some way out of our vicious circle.
Where am I?
What is going on that drives us towards self-destruction? What are the inner forces that are so strong that our capacity to resist them are powerless in the face of our need to carry on repeating what we know, in another part of ourselves, is madness?
Finding the answer to these questions takes time and effort. Firstly, an effort to really look and face ourselves like we have never done before. This is the tough place of starting to take responsibility for ourselves. Of stopping blaming others and the world for being wrong and start facing the fact that it is only myself that is choosing to live the way I am. No one can change for us, here we are alone. This is the existential place where only I can own that I have a problem. If we can’t, we continue down our path of self-destruction.
Supporting this ‘facing’, can be a glimpsed intuition about how the mess, chaos and damage of the life I’m leading, has its roots in my psychology and history. Maybe therefore I am not as fixed as I assumed. Perhaps change is possible and I don’t have to carry on fully believing in my self- condemnation.
Why am I here?
The slide into addiction is accompanied by a gradual letting go of the self, a giving up. Whether its alcohol, drugs, gambling or any other addiction, we let it happen. But why?
In my experience this is about the self-destructive impulse deep down inside us. Some talk about this as “having an addictive personality”, but what I’m clear about is that we were not born that way, it is the result of our conditioning.
It comes from the belief that I am bad, not good enough, not worth caring about. Which in turn came from how we were treated. Sometimes it’s easy to see the history of difficult circumstances that created this belief. Sometimes the past is harder to interpret with the injuries coming from a more subtle, accumulation of negative forces. The point is though, that there must have been “trauma” in some sense, to make us deeply internalise the view of ourselves as being bad, wrong etc.
Trauma happens when we are overwhelmed by difficult experiences. The self’s survival strategy is to desensitise ourselves, to close down and diminish our aliveness. The way this happens is that we split the connections between our heart, head and body, which means that we stop knowing what we feel, we give up thinking things through and we ignore our bodies.
We get so used to living this way that we think it ‘normal’. We resist looking too deeply at ourselves, denying the possibility of change, because at some level we intuit that this would involve facing the hurt and pain we buried and continue to avoid. In my experience there is nearly always some punishment / abuse / abandonment or neglect at the bottom of addiction.
So, what to do?
If we really want to change, this wish needs to have permeated deep down inside us, so that we’ve had enough of living the way we are. Then maybe we are prepared for the work of facing what we’ve been long avoiding. The fear of this is always worse than the reality!
If this is where you are then the next step is to find support to deepen your self-awareness and self-understanding.
How do we become more aware?
With support we can see more about what we are feeling, thinking and how our bodies are tense. This is about attending to our here and now experience in a new and deeper way. We can start to see how our thoughts are influenced by our feelings, our feelings by our thoughts and how our bodies hold all our tensions. Fear and anxiety are always instantaneously there in the body as tension.
As we start to re-connect up our heart, head and body it enables us to see a little more about what is going on. This new awareness can then be digested and integrated and we become a little stronger. We can then see more of our insecurity. We have a new perspective and here the patterns of our experience makes sense and we can see the logic behind our behaviour.
As we see deeper below the surface we start to understand the hurt, anger or distress we’ve been living with for maybe all our lives. It’s by attending to this ‘victim’ place as deeply as possible that we repair ourselves. This is about taking responsibility for ourselves, about seeing and understanding our ‘what is’, our reality.
We can’t ‘do’ Change
Gestalt understands that change is a paradoxical process, we can’t change by willing it, life doesn’t work that way, and it is life that governs the process, not us. We notice change after it has happened. As we integrate and understand ourselves we are then more able to forgive and care for ourselves in a healthier way and our need for addiction slowly and naturally diminishes.
Most importantly this work is about how there is no blame and yet there is self-responsibility, it’s about working towards increasing our awareness which is by itself very powerful.
This approach is about enabling us to leave addiction behind rather than controlling it, about our ongoing self-development towards living increasingly in the here and now, towards being able to trust ourselves and our creativity and living with satisfaction and enjoyment.