Sunday, May 14, 2017

5/15/17—Breaking the Addiction

I smoked for 20-some years. I smoked like a chimney. And each time I would fail my quit and pick up a cigarette, the first couple would make me sick and dizzy. Then I'd be right back to my old smoking self again.

The observation I would make each time was what a powerful drug it was. You don't feel the power like that after a few cigarettes. You only feel the power of it two times—when you want to quit, then when, after a few days into your quit, you start back up again. The rest of the time, it has way more of a hold on you than you're conscious of.

The general public doesn't seem to see nicotine as a drug in the same way alcohol and heroin are. But ask a recovered heroin addict or stand outside an AA meeting one day and you'll see the one drug they can't seem to quit. They embrace nicotine so they can have it to comfort them while they get over their drug addiction and figure they can always quit smoking. But then when they try to quit and try to quit and try to quit, they see how dependent they truly are on getting their multiple fixes each day. It's much easier and cheaper to get a nicotine fix, so that may mask the depth of the addiction, but many studies indicate that only heroin is more addictive and tougher to quit than nicotine.

But this isn't about smoking. I have been nicotine-free for fourteen years and it no longer holds sway over me. Still, I can't ever smoke a cigarette again, because I'm an addict.

This is actually about other "drugs" I cleansed myself and didn't see the power of until I quit and put my toes back into the water. Now, I use the term addiction more broadly than is scientifically correct. I use it to identify habits in our lives that compel us, regardless of how bad they make us feel. So it may not even involve a drug at all. In the past I have been "addicted" to man, a resentment, a line of thought, etc. The same is true as with addiction. We have no idea how much of a hold these choices have over us until we quit or start back up again.

So I left Facebook a few months ago, and on top of that, about a month ago, I stopped reading and watching the news. As for the news, all I did was skim the front page of the Washington Post each day...30 seconds max, once a day. The "pain" in quitting the news came mostly from the fear of not knowing if our president nuked someone, sold our country to the highest bidder or defected to Russia. I got over that quickly.

In the past, I've never had an issue with the news. I never really followed it and, in the past, it was easy to just look away and trust. But we have a volatile, out of control man in charge and it has our country at an elevated level of anxiety. And I wanted to separate myself from all that. And I did. And with both of those compulsions out of my life—the Facebook and the news—I was more at peace, more balanced, more objective and happier.

It turned out to be easy, because I somehow picked a few weeks where nothing too terribly untoward happened. But that was before our president fired the man in charge of the investigations looking into his possible collusion, then admitted that he fired him because he didn't like the investigation. Which is otherwise known as obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense. Then he kind of threatened the man he fired that he better not say anything untoward because he has "tapes". Personally, I think they need more than that to impeach, but my, what fodder Trump gave his enemies this week! And he just handed to us without us having to do anything. This man's inability to keep his mouth shut will his undoing...if it doesn't become the death of us all before that can happen.

But anyway, the first day of following the Comey thing was OK. After that, I started to see how powerful a drug it is. My mood and energy and desire to accomplish things quickly went into a downward spiral. I started staying up way too late again. I stopped spending time outside (aided by a rainy week.) I commented on news stories online and allowed others to get under my skin. I started becoming distracted again. I started feeling the power and the pain of the "drug". When I quit, I felt cleansed. Now I was beginning to feel toxic again.

It wasn't until I quit and became "cleansed" that I could understand the full breadth of its effect on me. Before I would have said "the news isn't helping my mood." Now I have to say, "the news is the major contributor to my negative mood." And now that realization is awakened in me, I either consciously choose to be more at peace or I don't. I can't claim ignorance anymore. I sat outside yesterday and turned my attention the universe and that's when I realized how quickly I had let go of a sense of balance that was prevalent just a week before.

Now, I'm not going to say I'm addicted to news or Facebook. But I am saying that both have a net negative effect on me similar to an addiction. At times they totally fuel a more positive feeling. Honestly, I have SO given up on Trump having anything positive to offer that I was quite happy as last week unfolded. I tried many times to be objective and give him a chance, but he has just proven to be a disappointment each and every time. I would be a fool to keep holding out hope. The writing is on the wall. And I'm not alone. No president in modern history has met with greater disapproval.

But none of that is a reason to hand my sense of balance and inner peace over to something with a net negative effect on me. The good times do not outweigh the bad times. It is my choice to decide what I want. And, knowing what I know, if I don't hand my sense of peace over consciously, then it's my fault for ignoring what I know. Not Trump's. Not the news organizations. It's all on me.

Maybe news doesn't do that to you. Maybe it's fixation on some slight that has been perpetrated upon you. Maybe it's a romantic partner that hurts more than they love. Maybe it's a job situation you continue to tolerate. Maybe it's a friend who always brings you down. Or maybe it's a habit of negative self talk that you perpetuate around some issue or fear. You'll never know just how deeply it affects you until you free yourself of it. And if you're considering going back to it, it will no doubt hold the same unhealthy sway as it did before.

Becoming more conscious and self aware requires us to get at the root of the things that drive us. Drawing the connection between the news and a continued fear of what's going to happen next is easier than, say, recognizing why we keep befriending emotionally broken individuals. But these things that leave us with a net negative effect must be explored. It's not enough to just remove the stimulus from our life. We have to figure out what is going on within us that perpetuates the issue.

With the news thing, I can see how it preys on my fears. What our president does is completely out of my control and because his presidency has been marked by instability, broken promises, lies and sketchiness, it preys not just on my control issues, but also on my sense of safety in this world. There is little I can do to protect myself from anything that may come. And while some of my fears are warranted, some are fed by the sensationalism around the subject. I also have to look at the state of my faith in a higher power and my belief that what goes around comes around. Those are things that bring me peace, and so I have to ask myself why I'm choosing fear over peace.

The fact is, I will know if something big happens. A friend tipped me off to the Comey thing and my daily scans of the paper also keep me informed. So it's my choice. And whatever brings fear or pain  into your life is your responsibility, too. That may be because you refuse to examine it in favor of being in denial or it may be because you are conscious, but choose to ignore it or not fix it. There is always fear and stakes involved with making changes in our lives. But when that change is a move toward peace and happiness, the pain is only temporary and we quickly realize we've given it far more power in our lives than is reasonable or healthy.