Fear is a part of life, painful but unavoidable. Many people who have experienced trauma have over the years developed an unhealthy relationship with fear. Instead of allowing oneself to feel the fear and move through it in healthy ways, an addict might use different coping strategies to try to escape it. Trauma affects us in deep ways and can contribute to the development of very unhealthy, self-destructive tendencies which can easily become addictions. Running from our fears can happen in many different ways: avoidance, distraction and self-medicating are a few of them.
When battling an addiction or really any major life challenge, the sufferer and those around him or her are often aware of the problem, but because it is so painfully difficult to address, they avoid it instead. An addict might avoid talking about the issue altogether because he is filled with guilt, remorse, regret, shame and embarrassment. His family and friends might avoid addressing the issue with him directly, in order to prevent anything remotely triggering, and to offset the chance of verbal, emotional or physical abuse. The addict himself may avoid thinking about the addiction altogether and find ways to distract himself.
Distracting oneself from the realities of addiction not only perpetuates the original problem but can manifest in additional addictive or cyclical behaviors. A sex addict might drink excessively to distract herself from her pain. An alcoholic might distract his partner with gifts after violent incidents to try to compensate for the abuse.
Similarly, an addict might develop addictive thought patterns, or obsessions, as a subconscious means of distracting herself from the pain. These obsessions can revolve around anything: other people, partners, mistakes we’ve made, past regrets. At the center of these obsessions are deeply rooted fears needing to be addressed, but our minds are often too consumed with, and distracted by, the subjects of our obsessions to be able to do that important healing work.
Unchecked obsessive thought patterns and behaviors can morph into neurosis, which can compound addiction by giving the addict yet another source of pain to try to avoid. For example, a sex addict might become obsessive about his wife’s whereabouts and grow increasingly paranoid that she is having an affair. This is his subconscious mind’s way of distracting him from the real fears that are at the root of his addiction, such as the fear he might cheat, for example.
Another way addicts avoid painful truths and distract themselves is by self-medicating. An addict might overuse sleeping pills not only to help with insomnia but to sleep through the day to avoid the pain of her current reality and to escape the racing thoughts. Similarly, an addict might turn to other drugs, overeat until sick, or binge on TV shows for days on end rather than face responsibilities. One way to describe addiction would be to say we are essentially running from our fears, but eventually, as we know, there comes a point when we can no longer run from ourselves.
Be Brave. We know firsthand how terrifying addiction can be. At Enlightened Solutions, we have personal experience with recovery and can help. Call us today: (833) 801-LIVE.