Addictions /Compulsive Behaviors

Human beings can become addicted to and compulsive with just about anything, whether it be alcohol‚ drugs‚ money‚ sex‚ sexual behaviors‚ pornography‚ romance/love‚ spirituality‚ cleaning‚ shopping‚ gambling‚ organizing‚ fantasies‚ exercise‚ codependent relationships‚ children‚ work‚ etc.

Some addictions are obvious, while others are more subtle and harder to recognize. An obvious compulsive behavior is people who cut themselves. Many youth and young adults literally cut themselves with razor blades‚ knives‚ or other sharp objects. They say it is the only thing that makes them feel alive. More subtle addictions are often labeled successful and good and applauded by those who have no clue as to what is actually going on, such as the man who works 60 hrs per week year after year. His family will have plenty of material things, but not enough of the man himself. Addictions rob the life out of real living and are a counterfeit attempt to live genuinely.

Addiction is defined as giving oneself up to a strong habit. Compulsive means to be driven by a force. So‚ addictive compulsive behavior implies we lose our identity within a force that bends us to choose unhealthy behaviors that harm not only us, but also those close to us. I believe there are complex reasons people become addictive and compulsive. These reasons can be made up of our personal conscious and subconscious choices and the level and type of emotional woundedness we may have from our past. Which came first‚ the choice to enter addictive‚ unhealthy behavior or the emotional wounds that usually lead to addictive‚ unhealthy behavior? Perhaps it is a little of both. Nevertheless‚ I want to offer practical steps to acknowledge‚ work through‚ stop, and be free from addictive compulsive behaviors.

I have an intense type of personality where if I do something, I do it with all my heart‚ which is not necessarily a bad thing if done with a healthy balance. Yet‚ there was always an element of an unhealthy extreme mixed in with whatever I did. In my baseball career I lived and breathed baseball to the point of obsession. With weightlifting and exercise I crossed the line too. Then‚ with Christianity I slipped into legalism‚ which can be defined as spiritual addiction. Yes‚ that’s right! A person can become a spiritual addict and that is what I was for a few years until I realized it and got help. A spiritual addict is someone who usually interprets things from a “hyper-spiritual” perspective that is not based in reality. They see deep‚ spiritual truths behind every circumstance and usually have a harsh‚ black and white‚ rules and regulations type of “spirituality.” Grace is in their head, not in their heart. This is exactly how I used to be. You know why? Because I used my spirituality as a means to avoid dealing with the emotional pain from my past. This is the root of most, if not all, addictive compulsive behaviors…an attempt to stay one step ahead of our emotional pain by transferring our pain to an addictive compulsive behavior. Addictions are an attempt to “control” our hidden‚ repressed emotional pain. Why do some people vacuum their carpet 5 times per day? Because it is dirty? No. They are doing something to occupy their mind and emotions as a means to avoid and escape the reality of their inner pain. Addictive compulsive behaviors are just the symptom. Unresolved emotional wounds usually lie beneath all the unhealthy behaviors and activities. These wounds contain anger‚ grief, depression‚ and these hidden emotions  fuel and are the force behind addictions. So‚ when the pain of our unresolved emotional wounds begin to surface, we decide to choose either the healthy route to deal with the wound, or the unhealthy route by “stuffing” the pain with our addictive compulsive behavior. If we stuff the pain, it will soon surface again; this becomes the sick cycle of addictive compulsive behavior. I hope you will choose the healthy route!

Do you have any addictive compulsive behaviors and/or thoughts? If so, you are not alone. I spent a large part of my teenage and adult life stuck in compulsive behaviors. The good news is I have discovered the way out and want to share it with you! The following are some things that helped me become much more healthy and balanced. Perhaps they can help you too.