The field of addictions is very fascinating because addictions can be far-reaching and affect so many people in so many different ways. I got into the field of addiction accidentally. I was working with men and women who had been charged with a domestic violence offences and had agreed to counselling as a term of their probation. Of course, many of the offenders who came to see me struggled with addiction to substances like alcohol or drugs, but what interested me even more was how people could continue behaviours that they knew were not benefiting them. This lens allowed me to stand in curiosity instead of judgment and helped me to see how many people engage in addictive behaviours, even if they do not fall under the clear categories of substances. Most people I have seen from that day forward have one thing in common- they are using something to prevent them from being in the present moment. How each person differs is what they are trying to avoid in the present moment and the technique they use to keep them from being present. Addiction then becomes, as Tommy Rosen defines in his book Recovery 2.0 “any behaviour you continue to do despite the fact that it brings negative consequences into your life” (p.3). By using this definition of addiction, we can see how so many of us are addicted. The most common addiction that I see, which most people would argue is not an addiction, is television. Most people, including myself, sit glued to the TV every night after work and for hours on the weekends. The negative consequence of this behaviour is that most people feel they do not have enough time to take care of themselves, by doing things like going to the gym or doing a meditation. It can stop you from spending quality time with your partner or your children. These consequences may not seem as extreme as the images we hold of addicted people, who are living on the streets and have lost everything. But, it can still have seriously detrimental results, such as divorce or obesity.
How do I know if I am addicted?
If you want to challenge yourself to understand if you may be addicted, try eliminating all distractions for one evening. When you get home from work, turn off your phone, your tablets, your television. Do not pour an alcoholic drink or use any other substances that would keep you from being present. If you smoke cigarettes, try to plan to have your last smoke before you get home that evening. Sit with your family or with yourself. Take deep breaths. Pay attention to the natural sounds in your environment. Notice any sensations in your body. If you are with your family, ask each other about the day and really listen. Don’t think about what you will do tomorrow or anything you forgot to do today. Just be aware, using all of your senses, of the things in your present moment.
How did it go?
This exercise can last for a few hours if you do it for the whole evening. However, I know that many people will experience uncomfortable feelings just imagining going one evening without any distractions. Some people may try to engage in the exercise but then have to stop because it feels overwhelming. There may even be some individuals who engage in the exercise and are surprised by how great it feels to disconnect from things and reconnect with yourself and your family. There is no judgment and no marks for how well or how long you are able to do the exercise. It is meant as a way to increase your awareness of whether you are being present in the moment.
Did you struggle with this exercise?
If you found this exercise challenging, it may indicate that you are struggling to stay in the present moment. There may even be something you are avoiding or don’t want to look at. In my experience, it’s best to catch this at an early stage. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can set up a session to bring you back to the present moment and address whatever is there that needs your attention.
Tessa- Owner/Registered Psychologist
P.S.- Are you wondering if your addiction is more serious than just not being able to be TV-free for an evening? Reach out to me right away and we can discuss ways to get you support.