Addicted to Addictions: A Growing Culture Of Dependence
It seems the more sophisticated and automated our culture becomes, the more we become addicted.
You can probably think of ten people off the top of your head who struggle with some type of addiction.
Drugs and alcohol aside, an onslaught of alternative addictions have been gaining momentum; internet addiction, gaming, pornography, sex, food, gambling, exercise, shopping. These are all process addictions that have amped up over generations.
As our lives have become simpler, our addictions have become more complicated.
We have gotten further away from our true selves in favor of a quick fix, a fast escape, or an opportunity to numb out. While most of these process addictions have less obvious consequences (there’s no OUI for gaming), that just means that they fly under the radar for a longer period of time.
These addictions are damaging, but the social consequences are less common.
People with these addictions are more likely to be able to live a functional life. Process addictions usually wreak less havoc on people physically. There are psychological withdrawals but no detoxing symptoms.
And because most people engage in these activities as part of ‘normal life’, they can be passed off as everyday life events. That is why process addiction can remain in the shadows for so long; the excess of the behavior is hidden right in plain sight.
The time that is spent is the compromise in addictions such as internet, gaming and exercise.
In shopping addiction, it is a financial resource that is squandered. In pornography and sex addiction it is human intimacy and connection with others that is compromised.
Why Are We All So Addicted?
Addiction has always been a thing. We certainly didn’t invent it. Our minds are geared toward getting the dopamine and endorphins that surge when we are enjoying something intensely.
Even though we didn’t invent addiction, it sure seems like our current culture perpetuates it more than ever. Industrialization and tech advances have enabled us to spend more time accomplishing more tasks.
These advances have created more (and different types) of stress, which we are now managing in different ways than we used to. Every few weeks it seems there is a new tech novelty that appeals to our desire to escape and indulge.
We binge on these novelties recreationally and sometimes the disconnection from our demands feels so rewarding it begins to feel like a need. The tricky addict-brain wants what it wants and will justify behaviors that aren’t healthy. Psychological dependency kicks in and the cycle begins.
Ceasing a process addiction is sort of like ending a bad relationship. The relationship may have started out as fun and enjoyable but somewhere along the lines it took a negative turn. It stopped being fun.
It turned into a demanding situation in which the addictive behavior somehow finagled its way into a controlling role. Even though there is no chemical addiction involved, the psychological addiction is powerful.
Explore the purpose it served:
When we ask ourselves what made the behavior so appealing, it is important to listen to the reasons why. Beyond the obvious benefit of the behavior, did it meet a need in some other way?
Establish a support network:
Talk to loved ones about your desire to stop the behavior and ask for support. Sharing your burden is helpful and also keeps you externally accountable.
Join a support group:
Regardless of what type of addiction you struggle with, there is a support group to help you. Online support groups can be a lifeline for those who are fearful of joining an in-person group.
Anonymity is an important component of support groups, and virtually all groups have a confidentiality expectation that they review during each gathering.
Learn to surf:
When dealing with addiction and cravings to indulge, learning to urge surf is an important skill in the quest to abstain. Think about your cravings like a giant wave. As it approaches, build a tolerance to the discomfort of abstaining and remind yourself that the urge will pass, all you need to do is ride the wave until it passes.
Just like a wave, urges and cravings will start small and peak, and then crest and dissolve. It is a matter of sitting through the difficult moments and knowing that waiting it out will work. Urges don’t last forever.
Be careful here, since it is easy to trade one addiction for another, particularly with process addictions. Keep a list of healthy alternative coping strategies around for difficult moments. Make sure the coping strategies are not escape routes.
Process addiction is all about escape and numbing. Try to use more mindful distractions that can’t get you into trouble. Meditation, breathing techniques and visualization are healthy ways to get through difficult moments without trading addictions.