Friday, April 06, 2007

Pardon Me, Your Addiction is Showing

Coming from a family riddled with addiction (I lost three grandparents to alcohol-related deaths before I was ever born), I managed to escape the biggies, alcoholism, drugs, etc., just as my mother did. Awareness and being conscious of the consequences of those addictions kept me off those paths. As I always told my children, "Every path has a destination. If you don't want to reach that destination, don't get on that path".

However, the thing you don't escape when you come from such a background is addictive tendencies. Even if the big, bad addictions skip a generation or two, the addictive tendencies are learned and passed on, until someone becomes aware of them and stops the cycle. I have heard so many people who have grown up around alcoholism say something like, "I will never be an alcoholic. I will never put my family through that kind of hell". And yet, they act out the same addictive tendencies in some other form and don't even realize the damage they are doing.

Whether we are workaholics, spendaholics, foodaholics or alcoholics, the effect can be very damaging both to our own lives and to those who love us. What it boils down to is escape. We escape into the addiction to distract us from whatever is not working in our lives.

The trouble with that is that while we're escaping, our problems are not going away as we hoped they would. Instead, they usually grow and spread like a fungus while we are ignoring them. Then, when we try to give up the addiction, we are faced with an even bigger problem than before. No wonder the temptation is to escape back into the addiction, and no wonder it becomes harder to overcome an addiction the longer we are mired in it.

There is always hope, of course. The thing that brings us hope is the thing we are most afraid of. That is, facing the thing we don't want to face. Facing whatever is not working in our lives. Facing the fear that if we deal with what is not working, it will require breaking through this wall of pain, and that perhaps the dull aching of an unsatisfying life is easier to bear than that one large swell of pain that may occur when we face the truth of what is not working and do something about it.

And so, what to do? Well, the choice, as always is ours completely. It is our own responsibility to decide the kind of life we will live. No one can decide for us, and no one can make our life perfect for us. It is our own creation, and no one else has the right or the responsibility to make it good for us. If we decide we would rather please everyone else than to live our best life, that is our choice. And that is the reason we can't rightfully blame anyone else for the outcome.

This is both frightening and liberating. Because knowing that I am responsible for my own experience of life and no one else is, not only means that the buck stops here, it also means that the power is here, as well. Right here, inside me. I don't have to look outside myself for the power to create my best life. I just have to do it.

If I want to, that is.

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