Understanding My Addictive Personality


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Thought | Posted on 10-02-2014

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

drinking-alcoholYesterday while pondering the many forms addiction can take, I suddenly had a “life flashing before my eyes” moment. (Apparently you can have them even when you’re not about to die!) All at once I saw clearly how so many things I’ve done in the past were attempts to seek happiness outside of myself. I realized that my “outside in” way of thinking caused a whole lot of addictive behavior on my part.

Let me back up for a moment, and explain.

For as long as I remember, I felt I had an addictive personality. I’d absorb myself in one thing (or person) and it would become my total focus–until the next thing came along. It wasn’t all bad as it’s what propelled me into a highly successful website marketing career. After all, when you’re completely focused on a work thing, you have an advantage over others who have an actual (balanced) life. Being addicted to SEO and all that it entailed meant that I knew every nuance that might not be known to a more casual “expert.”

In other cases, my obsessions were less than helpful.

For instance, I cringe when I think about the numerous friendships I killed by being too clingy–starting back in first grade and continuing throughout my adult life. I see now that in each relationship I was always looking towards the other to make me happy. Which they did…until they didn’t.

I now also see how this played out in my family life.

When my husband and I were first dating, I’m quite sure I was crazy addicted to him (like most people are in the first stages of a love relationship). Luckily for me, he was one of the few (only?) people in my life who managed to put up with my clinginess and total obsession with him. Once we had kids, a lot of my addiction transferred to them. I became obsessed with everything having to do with parenting and being a mom at home. While that had its positive side, I was again looking to my kids for my feelings of well-being. Thankfully they were awesome kids so most of the time they did seem to provide me with good feelings. Unless they were sick, or something else worrisome happened. Then a whole lot of bad and scary feelings would surface.

I’ve also been somewhat addicted to alcohol at various points in my life.

I started drinking at a young age (I think around 14) and found it to be the perfect drug of choice for my shy introverted self. With a few drinks in me, I was able to more easily unleash the real me. While I didn’t drink often when my kids were young (mostly because we didn’t have the time nor money to go out!), I came back to it the past 5-10 years. Even as an accomplished professional adult, there was something about alcohol that seemed to “take the edge off” of life. Those worrisome things that seemed to be happening? Just go to the bar, have a couple of drinks, and suddenly they didn’t seem so worrisome anymore.

The problem with alcohol or any addiction is they were all temporary solutions.  They made me feel good while they lasted, but they were all things outside of myself–so they eventually wear off.

If only I had known that what I was seeking all along was already inside me.

What I see clearly now is that all of my addictions were merely my way of attempting to change my thoughts to help me feel good. I didn’t realize that good feelings were always only a thought away–with or without my obsessions.

The thing is, it’s difficult to see that when you have an extremely busy mind.

My mind (like most people’s) was constantly reminding me of all the bad things that have happened or could happen–even if I wasn’t consciously noticing it. I recognize now that all of my obsessions and addictions were an attempt to keep my mind focused elsewhere. As long as I was obsessed with something or someone, I didn’t hear (as much) those insecure voices in my head.

But here’s the kicker.

I found an escape hatch, and it didn’t require yet another obsession (although I do have to be careful not to let it become one).

Just by Knowing (with a capital K) that all along it has been my thoughts that have been creating my feelings, and that at any time those thoughts could (and do) change, I no longer need my old obsessive catalysts to change them for me.

How cool is that?

Plus, my mind overall is clearer. I’m not exactly sure why, but it might be because I pay more attention to my thoughts. Whatever the reason, having a clear(ish) mind miraculously leads to fewer icky thoughts sneaking in and grabbing me without warning.

I’ve gotten to see this play out in so many ways.

One of the first things I noticed was I no longer need to have music playing in the background all the time. I had no idea that I was unconsciously using a constant stream of music as a method for distracting me from my thoughts. (On the other hand, I do pat myself on the back for managing to come up with that harmless coping strategy!)

More importantly, my new found Knowledge has also played out in a big way regarding alcohol.

While I used to feel that if I was going to have any drinks at all, I wanted to at least get some sort of buzz out of it (after all, why waste the calories 🙂 ) But now I have the exact opposite feeling. While I still drink, I’m not interested in getting buzzed in the least. In fact, if I do drink too fast and start to feel a buzz, it makes me uncomfortable. It’s as if I’m taking my nice calm mind and screwing it up. I can absolutely take or leave alcohol right now, which you never would have heard me say a year ago. I simply don’t need it in the way I used to.

Seeing my past behavior and relationships in this new light is fascinating.

I’m impressed with our mind’s ability to find all sorts of coping mechanisms to deal with the ups and downs of life. It’s especially interesting to me that I managed to live a relatively happy life, despite my addictive personality. Whether that’s because life didn’t throw as much crap my way (knock wood), or that I naturally tend to see the goodness of life (or a combo of both), I think I intuitively knew that our default setting is happiness. If only I hadn’t spent so long looking in the wrong direction for it!

— Jill

P.S. The real test will be to see if this knowing keeps me from forming any new addictions moving forward. If anyone has any experience with this or even any questions about it, please leave your thoughts below. I’d love to have a conversation with you!

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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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Leave Your Thoughts Below(18)

Thought is key, for sure. I find that alcohol, sound, motion and smell can all detract from a good thought session. Conversely, being sober, silent and still will enhance the session. Even better, putting some music on after a silent session enhances the listening experience. Toast and tea is a delight after meditating, as is a brisk walk. It seems to me that the easy availability of stimuli actually makes it harder to enjoy them. That is addiction, as you observed, surely?

I’m not quite clear on what you mean, Trevox. I generally don’t have “thought sessions” anymore. Instead I opt for attempting to be more mindful and present throughout my day regardless of what I’m doing. (Easier said than done, of course!)

This is really interesting Jill. I’ll be honest with you, I have been wondering what’s happened to Jill as I used to follow your previous life as an SEO expert. Then you changed paths and I did wonder what it was all about. But I understand more now, having read this post and your other articles. And also from my own recent experiences.

I see similarities in what you’ve written here with my own life. And maybe others will too. We fill our lives with obsessions and addictions – whether it’s work, exercise, alcohol, food, sex, relationships. But you’re right, it’s like we can’t sit with our thoughts. And find peace inside. Everything has to be so busy and full. Got to keep running. Because if we stop what will we hear. What will we face. I’m only just beginning to realise that I don’t have to keep running. And be the best at everything. I’m ok as I am. I’m learning to listen to my inner voice. And be the person I want to be. And be comfortable with that person. There’s still a long way to go though. And I’m still yet to meditate!

Thanks for sharing your story. It’s really interesting seeing your journey and what you’re going through. I feel at a similar place in life and I’m grateful that you’re sharing it with us. So keep going! And keep enlightening the rest of us! Thanks Jill.

Thanks so much for your comment, I’m so glad it resonated with you! And what you’ve said here definitely resonates with me as well.

Feel free to contact me privately if you’re ever interested in discussing this stuff further, perhaps via Skype. It’s so hard to find others to chat with who have similar mindsets.

Thankyou Jill for sharing your experience strength and hope.
Your journey sounds similar to mine and to that of following a 12 step programme… Is it? Do you?
Either way I admire anyone’s courage to change… It’s not a journey for the faint hearted but the rewards are second to none… 🙂

You’re welcome, Jules. But no, my journey has nothing to do with 12 steps or any steps for that matter. Nor did it start out with anything having to do with addiction. You can learn more of my journey via my other posts on various topics. I’d recommend starting with the home page 🙂

This post, and your journey, resonate with me in many ways: work obsession vs. health and family, addictive personality + external validation vs. being an introvert. Being an introvert in an extroverted industry. Thank you so, so much for sharing.

You’re welcome, George. Glad it resonated with you!

It really is a fascinating topic, Jill. Loving your writing and the way you think!

PS: All that said, I do still enjoy getting tipsy now and then, lol.

Thanks so much, Danielle.

I’m definitely amazed that I have no desire for that tipsiness, and in fact I think might even have an aversion to it!


As I read this reality post, I connected in so many ways.
Thank you as I try daily to create a positive focus balanced lifestyle
God Bless

You’re welcome. Glad it resonated with you at some level!

Jill – you could have been writing about me! Especially the music always playing in the background. Non-stop music. I never once thought that it is a coping strategy, but it make sense. Once I was introduced to the Three Principles I realized that I have been in a near constant state of anxiety for most of my life, continually creating coping strategies to just get by.

I am still in this place of anxiety, but at least I am observing my thoughts, feelings and all the ways I try to cope. Exhausting!

Thanks so much for sharing.

Wow, Cheryl, definitely sounds similar. I still feel a lot of anxiety as well, but it just doesn’t bother me as much!

Hi Jill!

I like this article a lot. It makes me feel better about being an addict. I’m kidding! Hahaa. But really. Sometimes I catch myself (ok, frequently) thinking how I need to go do something. But that feeling seems to be motivated by anxiety–sometimes obligation which is really another form of anxiety. One of my art professors back in college called it, ‘horror vacui’…the fear of empty space. There was actually an art movement with this sort of effect. They had to fill every space on the canvas with crap! They couldn’t stand any kind of empty space.

I realized this phenomenon also happens to me. For many years I had a lot of codependency in friendships and relationships (still working on it, but getting better all the time)…I was deeply afraid of abandonment, and that really impacted my behavior. But all along, I had myself. I was just not a good date for myself. Hah.

If I have an issue with something or someone, I feel like I go into damage control mode–fight or fight–and I have to ‘fix it!’ now, but what I find is that when I try to ‘fix it’ I often make it worse. Rather than simply allowing for the time and space for things to resolve from a place of flow.

Looking forward to talking with you next week.


Great Insights, Hannah! I really believe now after seeing it so clearly in my own life, that for the most part, life is actually just one big addiction.

And what you’re talking about in terms of us always trying fix stuff, that’s definitely one of our greatest ways of making ourselves suffer. Let. It. Go.! 🙂

Yes…I can really see what you mean. Distracting ourselves from the present moment. So funny! LOL.

I think the trap is when I start feeling virtuous when I ‘help’ or try to ‘save’ others. That’s one I’m really trying to extricate myself from. And I do that best by relaxing and realizing it’s a waste of time and energy-and that they know what to do for themselves better than I do anyway.

I see, in myself and in others, that we are so hard on ourselves, not trusting ourselves each moment. High-fives to you, Jill!

Agree! That’s one of the hardest things. We think we’re being helpful but it’s somehow just our own ulterior motives. It’s usually a lot easier to spot in other people than ourselves, unfortunately. But if/when you have the courage to look inside yourself and be honest, it’s amazing how it changes things!