Alison's Insights

Making Sense of Addiction Recovery in Midlife One Slow Deep Breath at a Time

Being Addicted to Problems

I have an addictive personality.  One glance over my 50 years of life and you’ll see evidence of this.  Not only did I overcome two addictions that nearly killed me, but I can fall into addictive-like behaviors when it comes to things like my intense need to get more done in less time, perfectionism, the book I’m writing, soap operas, department stores, brands of makeup, the list goes on and on.

One that stands out to me today is the propensity to be addicted to problems.  And I know I’m not alone.

I grew up in a home where there was always a problem of one kind or another.  Now, I’m not talking about things like a stuck drawer or which kid broke the lamp.  I’m talking about relationship issues, communication issues, and more profoundly, emotional issues.  It didn’t feel right if there wasn’t a disconnect happening somewhere.  It became a habit and over time an addiction.

And I don’t think our home was all that unique in this area nor are homes today devoid of this.  Yet the impact it has when we step outside our home is overwhelming.

Think about this, when was the last time you had a conversation which did not include some sort of problem.  It doesn’t have to be a negative problem.  In some cases, we share a humorous situation which contains a problem.  That’s funny and we enjoy it.

And then there are occasions when talking about problems can be almost life saving.  When we share personal stories of transformation it may very well be just the thing others need to hear to overcome their own issues.  In the rooms of recovery, that’s precisely how we all get well.  It’s our saving grace knowing others may have gone through something similar and found their way through it.  It’s a way of finding our own individual solution.

Yet from a wider perspective, think about a conversation you recently had and consider the content.  If you were sharing a problem of your own, were you doing so as a means of defining who you are or proving where you were emotionally? Were you sharing that problem to get attention or validation for having it?

If you were talking about someone else’s problem, were you using it to feel better about yourself by way of judgment or gossip?  Were you trying to solve the problem with or without their permission as a means to boost your ego?  Were you using their problem as a way to validate your own as being more difficult and therefore you win at some sort of twisted “your problems are nothing compared to mine” game?  Or were you talking about another person’s problem to deflect attention from yourself?

Sharing problems (personal as well as those of others) with an intention of being superior, judgmental or critical can be terribly destructive, hurtful and dangerously addictive.  It feeds the ego which in and of itself is a very big problem.  Yet if we chose to stay silent and live alone with our mentally draining issues, we become stuck.  We can’t see beyond and it’s painful.  Terribly, emotionally painful.  The trouble is, if we chose that path and stay silent, we end up trying to self-solve, going around and around in circles with no answer in sight.

It’s an addiction to which we all are susceptible to experience at some point throughout our lives.  We can avail ourselves to the right course of action as long as take the time to choose wisely.

So as much as we all try, it’s very difficult to get away from talking about problems.  In my case, it’s not like I don’t want to be supportive and helpful.  On the contrary.  My entire life’s work these days it to share my own experiences in order to help someone else.  However, for those who use their problems as a nothing more than a conversation starter or as a means of validation for their current temperament, I feel like I’m in some sort of vortex, getting sucked in with no doorway out.

Therefore, I need to have a healthy outlet.

Every single day I give myself the gift of a gentle meditative yoga practice.  I focus on how grateful I am to be relatively devoid of really “big” problems.  During my practice, I find a place of contentment.  I go inside where I’m able to rest my head and heart.  It’s quiet and I’m peaceful.

And then the phone rings or the email dings or the text message alert comes on.  I know it will only be a matter of moments before I’m encountering another problem.  But just prior to that, I was free.

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