Breaking the Power of Addiction by Looking Back
Addiction is a cycle. We are triggered by something and move toward our preferred medication. We indulge ourselves and then spend a time in shame and remorse. This is usually followed by a period of resolve where we insist it was the last time! For those caught in this cycle, we have learned that it robs us of the ability to maintain healthy long term relationships and hinders us from accomplishing our life’s goals.
Just like anything that is cyclical, something has to get the wheel turning. In a whirlpool, jets that are powered by motors push the water forward into a swirling circle. On a bicycle, the force put on the pedals or the gravity of moving downhill causes the wheel to turn and keep turning. When the jets are turned off or the bicycle is on level ground with no pedaling, the cycle will stop. In the same way, the cycle of addiction is powered in some way. The addict may not be aware of what started the cycle or what continues to keep it going. In fact, the initial cause may not even be present anymore. However, until that cause is addressed and dealt with, the power behind the addiction continues.
Let me illustrate. For years I was addicted to pornography, masturbation and sexual fantasy. I was unable to be faithful to my wife, my faith or myself. A skilled counselor helped me to look back in my life at where this compulsion began. Sexual abuse as a child awakened me to the pleasure of sex before I was able to understand its role. The abuse started with pain and ended with the pleasure of orgasm. Somehow, this combination began the cycle of addiction. Any kind of pain (physical, emotional, relational or spiritual) would trigger the desire for pleasure, particularly the pleasure of orgasm. The abuse had started the cycle for me but the abuse was not still happening. There were, however, lies that I was believing in my subconscious mind that were forged in the abusive incidents. I was believing that pain required a pleasurable experience to balance it out. I was also believing that the pleasure of orgasm was the correct medication for any kind of pain. When I confronted these lies and realized the truth, the power of the addictive cycle for me was lessened. The truth is that pleasure does not balance out pain and orgasm is not to cover up pain but to be reserved as an expression of intimate love.
I certainly do not want to oversimplify the power of an addictive cycle. The forward motion of my addictive pattern had been circling for years. It had developed its own ability to fuel itself and keep it moving forward (it had developed a life of its own!). However, going back into my past and finding the source of the original cause, casting out the lies that started the cycle and replacing them with truth that could help stop the cycle was a huge help in getting off of the treadmill of addiction.
Perhaps you could explore the origins of your own addictive cycle with a skilled therapist or counselor. Are there events, lies, circumstances or experiences that may communicated a powerful message that continues to drive your addiction? Accountability and coping mechanisms are like paddling techniques that help us move against the current of our addiction. Exploring the roots of the addiction help to slow down the current, making it easier to paddle!