By Adam Wilkinson
Addiction knows no bounds.
I challenge anyone in the world to claim they have no addictions. It’s so easy to label addiction as a chemical dependency when it is so much more.
Addiction is tricky. Most of the time we don’t even recognize our own addictions. We fail to recognize them because we have come to accept and label that addiction is limited to the realm of chemical dependency.
There’s a new concept I have recently become aware of and it is relatively pertinent to the social issues currently raging across the globe—emotional addiction.
Some of us may be addicted to happiness, sadness, loneliness, love, hate or any number other of emotions we exhibit. Our emotions release similar chemicals to our brains that we eventually become dependent upon. Our dopamine levels are at the mercy of our emotions. The release of dopamine to our brains therefore can become equivalent to that of chemical substances that boosts our receiving neuroreceptors.
For example, someone who may be addicted to sadness may get the same sense of euphoria as an alcoholic or drug addict. Chemicals are released in the brain that fills a person with an emotion of sadness, and a consequent sense of elation.
To be without sadness, a person may feel similar signs of withdrawal, just like a person who is chemically dependent. The fundamental basis of addiction is to feel normal. The idealistic basis of addiction is that we want to chase the initial high that first captured us. Realistically, that is next to impossible to accomplish. The person may begin to feel irritable, moody or depressed in the absence sadness. There are also physical symptoms as well, such as low levels of energy, lethargy, nervousness or in extreme cases, body soreness.
I have often argued and once wrote that we addicts (yes, I am an addict) never recover from this disease. It is most certainly a disease and there is no cure. It can only be managed. There is no such thing as a ‘former addict,’ for addiction is a life long battle.
I argue that we replace one addiction for another. Heavy drinkers will often quit drinking to pick up smoking. Smokers will quit smoking to pick up heavy consumption’s of sugar. Unhealthy sugar consumers may switch to some type of emotional addiction. There is a constant void that addicts need to fill. Addicts believe and feel that “downgrading” from one addiction for another is a justification for choosing the lesser of two evils.
Many of us fail to acknowledge or recognize that we even have an addiction. We live in constant denial. We struggle to live pure, healthy and clean life styles because we need that rush.
We need that dependency.
We do not feel complete unless we have something in our lives that gives us that sense of euphoria. Mentally or physically we are dependent people by nature. If we are able to avoid the temptations of chemical dependency we still run the high risk of addiction to another form of expressive or emotional addiction.
I went through a period not too long ago where I constantly felt depressed. I was never diagnosed with depression, because I just felt I was unhappy.
Soon, the feeling of unhappiness was in control of my daily routine. I knew the triggers and times of day when I would feel the most unhappy and I would prepare and embrace those times. The chemicals sent to my brain of unhappiness soon had me addicted yet again. Moments of happiness felt awkward to me. I actually preferred to be alone and unhappy instead of happy and content.
That was my high.
I felt as if my happiness was a ruse and any happiness I felt would only later be replaced by an even deeper unhappiness. During some periods at that point in my life I actually avoided happiness because the feeling of unhappiness gave me a greater sense of bliss. The ultimate goal of an addict, as I mentioned, is to feel normal.
The goal is not to feel euphoric, because the truth is that we can never achieve the initial high we get from the first experience. We merely continue the chase. It is within this chase where we feel normal.
Eventually my unhappiness subsided, however, as with any addictive substance or tendency, I traded my addiction of unhappiness for an addiction of expression. Now I always feel the need to be overly expressive and speak my mind. I might say 10 words, when only three or needed.
For addicts, it’s a never ending cycle. We find it so very difficult to live a pure life, free from attachments and desires.
We may latch on to causes that are pertinent issues in society today such as gun control, immigration or the struggle for racial equality can consume our being and we can become dependent on rallying for a cause. While these causes may be righteous from our viewpoint, we still run the risk of becoming addicted and chasing after that initial euphoria we felt when we first became involved.
I do not express my concerns of potential addiction to social causes, only the stress that may accompany the passionate pursuit of them. Addiction takes a toll on our minds, bodies, souls and spirits.
A popular saying I hear a lot, and one constantly preached to me by my mother growing up was, “everything is best in moderation.” For an addict, advice like that typically goes in one ear and out the other. A mantra that I have latched on and connected to is, “anything worth doing is worth overdoing, moderation is for cowards.” (Sorry mom!) The other mantra that I have connected to is, “once is nice, two times is good, three is great and four times means more times.”
These are the risks we run as addicts.
We all have our vices, and as I often do, I can’t propose many solutions to the issues. I merely intend to shed light on the struggles that we endure. If we understand what true addiction is all about, we can become better equipped to handle our imperfections.
We all are human, we all are imperfect beings. We should not feel ashamed, we should feel in control and able to accept our human nature.
Editor: Peter Schaller
Adam Wilkinson, high school Social Studies teacher by day, freelance writer and free spirit by night. Firm believer in fate and that all things happen for a reason. Worshiper of the sun, ocean and the stars. Lover of tattoos, deep intellectual conversations and meaningful connections with like minded people. A jack-of-all-trades, so to speak. Someone once said of me, “You’re a lot of things, but one thing you never are is boring!” Words spoken from someone whom I’ve had a close bond with most of my life and words that I have always tried to uphold. “Vive intenso!”