Are You Addicted?

stressed out

This is not a post about substance abuse.

This is a post about the little things you do every day that pull you away from what you really want for yourself.

It is about addiction to habits and behaviors that suck time away from us without adding much back to our lives or our souls. And often we hide our eyes from these addictions.

Granted, addiction is a strong word. It's a word that suggests a loss of control, a dependence on something that has become powerful enough to separate you from your true self, your highest self.

The dictionary.com definition of the word reads as follows:

ad·dic·tion

noun: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

What struck me about this definition was the idea of being enslaved to a habit or practice. Enslaved. This usually suggests that someone is doing the enslaving against your will.

But with addictions, you are enslaving yourself. (And of course, with substance abuse, the substance eventually enslaves you. But it always begins with you.)

Sometimes we can become enslaved by lesser things, things that don't appear so harmful on the surface but that undermine our desire to be fully engaged in life. You might call them habits, thoughts, or choices — but when you won't stop, when you think you can't stop —  you are enslaved.

Why would we want to enslave ourselves to anything, even a habit or behavior? Why would we want to give away our freedom and personal power to something that lulls or entices us into mindless repetition?

Most of the addictions I'm talking about here seem harmless enough. And the cessation of these addictions likely wouldn't cause “severe trauma.” Quite the contrary in fact. The cessation or reduction of these habits might lead to profound happiness or fulfillment.

Addictive Thoughts and Behaviors

Here are some of the addictions I'm talking about (most of which I have had or still have myself):

  • mindlessly watching television
  • checking email every few minutes
  • mindlessly surfing the net
  • filling time with errands and tasks
  • writing to-do lists
  • reading the newspaper or online news every morning
  • sleeping late
  • staying up too late
  • talking on the phone
  • texting
  • rushing, having too much to do (adrenaline addiction)
  • driving too fast
  • eating too fast
  • shopping
  • looking at magazines or catalogs
  • over-reading about an idea or goal
  • over-thinking about a decision
  • fretting and worrying
  • negative thinking about yourself or others
  • getting ready in the morning (hair, make-up, etc.)
  • micro-managing someone (especially your kids or spouse)
  • gossiping
  • hanging out with draining or negative people
  • sitting in or conducting meetings
  • being sedentary
  • over-exercising
  • asking for the opinions of others
  • complaining or whining
  • focusing on the future
  • focusing on the past

I'm sure you could add to this list. Maybe you or someone you know has their own particular addictions which suck time, energy, creativity, and positive action.

Few of these actions or behaviors are inherently bad or harmful. Some of them are necessary, fun, or useful in small doses. But the problem arises when these things become habitual — mindlessly habitual. Or habitual with your awareness, but you do it anyway.

If I could count the number of hours I've spent in front of the tv, fretting and worrying about stupid stuff (that I can't even remember now), checking my email, gossiping, trying to get my hair to look good, etc. etc. — I would melt into a puddle of tears over the wasted and lost time.

This is time you can't get back. And as morbid as it sounds, we really don't have all that much time. There is an end to it. That's why these addictions are so insidiously harmful. They cloud your thinking, numb you to real living, and steal away your precious time.

Good friends, we can't let this happen!

We must reclaim our time with a sense of purpose, and kick these addictions in the butt!

(And I'm speaking as much to myself as I am to you, believe me.)

What can we do? How can we make the most of our time and our life (which is comprised of all of our actions, thoughts, and behaviors)?

As you are reading this, and if you are giving it serious consideration, you know which behaviors, thoughts, or actions are addictions for you. You know which ones you cling to and pretend that are necessary or harmless.

I've certainly been thinking about these for myself and have come up with a plan for dealing with them. I'll share it with you . . .

Analyze

Take a look at each addictive behavior and ask yourself why you have allowed it to overtake your precious time. Some common reasons are:

  • boredom
  • fear of success
  • fear of failure
  • insecurity
  • general unhappiness
  • a need for control
  • avoidance of something else (that might seem difficult or challenging)
  • tiredness
  • uncertainty
  • inability to focus
  • peer pressure or social pressure

Once you identify and become aware of these reason behind your addiction(s), you can begin to address the problem at its root. You can see your addiction for exactly what it is. When the devil is no longer in disguise, it's awfully hard to continue to live with him.

Be willing to face the truth about your choices for addictive habits and behaviors. This must be done before change can happen.

Inquire and Rectify

To address the root problem of your addiction, ask yourself a series of questions to learn more about it. Here's an example.

Let's say your addiction is mindlessly surfing the net (a very common addiction). So you ask, “Why am I spending so much time surfing?” Your first answer might be, “Because I'm bored.”

But then you must press on. “Why am I bored?” “Because I don't have anything interesting to do.”

“Why not?” “Because I don't have any interests beyond the computer.”

“Are you sure? Have you really tried other things?” “Well, a few, but I might not like them, they might take energy.”

“How hard have you tried?” “Not very hard.”

“What could you try that would be fun, purposeful, or interesting — something that I would be proud to give my time away to rather than surfing the net?”

Self-inquiry helps you reach full awareness of the truth, and leads you to ideas for rectifying the addiction. You can find ways to replace old behaviors and thoughts with new ones.

If you have no idea what you want to do or how to spend your time more purposefully, do the work to find your passions or find a way to serve or help others.

Sometimes the root cause might be deeper or more complicated. It might require the help of a coach or counselor to understand why you are addicted to behaviors or thoughts and how to kill the root.  It is so worth the time and effort this might take. You could regain time that can dramatically improve the quality of your life.

Reprogram

Changing any habit or entrenched behavior takes time and practice. If you have spent most mornings sitting for an hour with your coffee and newspaper (and you don't really want to give that much time to a newspaper), then you'll need to retrain yourself.

First, you need something to do with this time instead of reading the paper. That's what you determined through self-inquiry —  a better use of your precious time. Once you have a replacement for the old thought or behavior, you need to begin the big switch.

Rather than focusing on dropping the addictive behavior, put your focus on the new habit that you will replace it with. The new habit must be at the same time as the old addictive behavior.

Address your addictive behaviors one at a time by inserting a new behavior in its place. It will take 4-9 weeks for the new behavior to become automatic, so be patient. If you are planning for a year, you might plan on eliminating 6-8 addictive behaviors during the year.

What's the Point?

Some of our addictive behaviors or thoughts are benign. They don't really hurt you or anyone else by continuing to do them. Who cares if you watch tv every night for a few hours? What's the big deal if you sleep late every weekend? Isn't it good to have a long list of tasks to work on every day?

The point is that you have a choice. You can use your time for neutral, mind-numbing, adrenaline-fueling, inertia-supporting, success-stalling actions and thoughts, or you can savor every hour of your life with life-affirming, joyful, fulfilling actions.

Of course we will continue to do some of these behaviors some of the time. But tip the balance in favor of thoughts and actions that support the person you really want to be.  Mindfully create your time so that you can squeeze the juice out of every moment, every hour, every day.

Unless you know something I don't, this is our one shot here on Earth. Each minute is valuable beyond measure. Kick the addictions, reclaim your time, and live the best life you possibly can. Why wouldn't you?

Comments

  1. Great post! Thanks for naming the culprit

  2. Barrie,

    I love expanded the concept of addiction to mindless behaviors like checking e mail and surfing the web.

    Learning to focus on behaviors that really feed our passion and improve our world is certainly a whole lot better than mindlessly filling up the time between our birth and death. Time is so precious and what a gift to learn to consciously choose how to use it.

    Thanks for the great post and reminders,
    Susan

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are absolutely right Susan. Filling time can’t holding a candle to creating time.

  3. Thank you for this Barrie!
    I’m so guilty of a lot of those addictions! The reasons were spot on. I really need reprogramming as you say. Sometimes I think I have this need to keep busy by always doing something online, and it’s not healthy anymore.
    Thanks for introducing this way to change it.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Glori,
      You only have a certain number of waking hours in a day. How do you want to use those? “Keeping busy” doesn’t really do anything for you. Have a purpose for your choices and actions, and life will feel much more full. 🙂

  4. It’s strange that you should write this today, Barrie. Just a few days ago I read about ‘soft addictions’ for the first time. These often don’t get the mention they should and can be absolute energy-sappers. Thank you for sharing.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so welcome Corinne. It’s funny how that often happens — I guess your mind is tuned in to the topic now! 🙂

  5. Julian Coelho says:

    what the passion is matters. If truth is objective, the real passion of everyone should be love of God, and doing everything else because of that, including contributing to the world in your unique way, helping others, and using your talents to the fullest. life is so short, eternity is forever. that is what the real wise man knows.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you Julian. That is certainly a way to use your talents and put your life and work to good use.

  6. Have you been channeling my mother? How did you know to say exactly what I needed to hear? All I can say is ‘wow!’ and thank you…

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Haa!! Maybe so Jana. 🙂 I’m so glad it came to you at the right time.

  7. This is spot on. I know for me these addictive behaviors can be a way to numb myself, so I don’t need to feel uncomfortable feelings (boredom, stress, fear, etc.) When I catch myself doing an activity I know is numbing me, it’s a sign to ask myself what’s really going on. It’s also time to kick myself into gear and do some tiny action to get me moving toward what I really want to create. Unless I’m just tired and need a nap 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jennifer,
      You are so right — we don’t want to feel those uncomfortable feelings. But once you create just a little momentum toward something else, usually you can kick yourself into gear.

  8. I like this idea of ferreting out the root of what’s really going on with the addiction. I feel like I ‘know’ why I’m engaging in behavior that wastes my time, but your post has made me wonder if I need to dig a little deeper. Habitual busyness, web surfing, reading article after article about a project instead of just jumping it – these are all mechanisms of fear I think. Fear of failure, of success, or of just doing something new and different. Thanks for all this food for thought.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Yes, fear is definitely a culprit. Or sometimes we’ve created a bad habit of doing something, and our brains are just stuck in that mode. But now that you are aware, you can find the path to change!

  9. Reagan says:

    Hi Barrie, thanks for writing this post about a topic that is of great interest to me personally. From my perspective, addictions get too little attention and way too much time and energy. Some of your readers might be interested in a book I’m reading now: The Soft Addiction Solution by Dr. Judith Wright. She has studied these “soft” addictions and has some very helpful suggestions. I also wanted to let you know that I am working my way through your visioning course and loving it. Thanks so much for pulling all that information together in such a nicely done package. You should probably charge more for it. But, I’m glad you don’t!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Reagan,
      Thank you for sharing that book. I will definitely look at it. I’d love some other ideas on solutions for these addictive habits. I’m so glad you are enjoying my course. Thank you for your kind comments. I won’t charge more for it this week! 🙂

  10. Hi Barrie,
    “Addiction’ is a fair label for these behaviours/thoughts. It’s the type of terminology that I have used. Thanks for the post
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you David. Most of us associate it with substance abuse, but we can have many addictions — even some that appear positive on the surface.

  11. Hi Barrie
    I do sometimes watch TV mindlessly and I do eat too fast
    I agree with you that it’s because we have nothing to do
    we should fill in our time with leisure activities that we like for instance!

    • Hi Lila,
      We all do that. TV can become a bad habit. Doing something for leisure and fun is wonderful, especially if have a full and busy life. And if you do something for leisure that has another purpose (taking a walk, riding a bike, learning something, etc.), then you get the benefit of the fun and self-improvement.

  12. I loved this post!! thank you , although it makes me very sad because I recognize myself in so many points.
    Almost all the points you mentioned in the analyse section apply to me, but it is mainly this one: avoidance of something else (that might seem difficult or challenging.
    I am addicted now to my virtual world, my online family and friends, but I can’t see any other way for me to cope 🙁

    • Don’t be sad Nikky. We all recognize ourselves. Everyone shares these same addictions. You can find another way to cope. Start small — like taking one hour away from your computer to do something else. Plan for another activity that will be fun to fill that hour. Or if you are really having difficulty, plan an hour with a counselor who might help you. You need “real” interactions and experiences for a healthy and happy life. You can do it.

  13. The Hebrew translates as ‘consumed”.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s a great word for it Irv. These addictions can consume us.

  14. Noch Noch | be me. be natural. says:

    Ah! I’m totally addicted. I said I’ll go offline for 2 weeks for the wedding, and here I am back again…
    Noch Noch

  15. I agree to a point, Barrie 🙂

    I love how you address this “form” of “addiction. ”

    The thing is many of the things you listed are in fact “necessary” and “helpful” parts of life and so people get confused 🙂

    Even “eating” can go on the list, if people aren’t in tune with themselves, and that’s the key I feel.

    People need to be in tune with their bodies and emotions. Your gut may take a “weird path” but it always delivers results 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so right Jason. Just about anything can become an addiction if we have the wrong motivations or thoughts behind the behavior. Balance is so important, even with the healthiest behaviors and thoughts.

  16. I totally relate to the list of activities that routinely take up a lot of our everyday time silently. Nowadays I stop many times a day to check on myself and ask ‘ what is the best thing I can do at this moment instead of …’.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Rehasana,
      I love your self-questioning. That is a perfect example of how to get yourself out of these addictions by bringing awareness to the situation. Good for you!

  17. What a wonderful article…I love the list of addictive thinking and thoughts often associated with drug & alcohol use. Speaking from my own experience, things like boredom, fear of failure and even fear of success have definitely played roles in my own past drug use. This seems to be a wonderful and very applicable forum for those seeking help overcoming addiction, alcoholism and other similar type disorders.