Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Thought | Posted on 10-02-2014
Tags: 3 Principles, Transformation
[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]
Yesterday 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!
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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