All of us are addicted in some way –  whether it’s work, wine, sex, cigarettes, drugs, relationships, internet, tv or shopping. Our smart phones have become the latest addiction. We pick them up whenever we get a second of down time. Yet the action in itself isn’t the problem. Anything can become an addiction because it’s not the behaviour but why we’re doing it.

Why? Addiction, no matter what it is, is a way to self soothe. It’s a symptom of the ache, guilt, anxiety or emptiness we don’t want to feel so we push it away. For the moment at least. But it doesn’t go away simply because we’re not feeling it. It’s just muted, waiting for the next second of down time. It’s as if there’s an alarm going off and we cover it with a blanket to mute the noise, instead of checking to see what set it off. (And of course, the blanket is fun, shiny and colourful) But the attempt to escape from the pain is what ends up creating more pain and often adds suffering.

Ekhart Tolle put it so well, “addiction starts with pain and ends with pain”.

Drugs, alcohol and Medication all do the same thing — they’re pain killers.

And surprisingly, our brain doesn’t know the difference between emotional pain or physical pain. It activates in the same area. So when someone says being betrayed is like being stabbed in the heart, it’s true.

What to do? –  It’s simple but also difficult…be with the pain rather than run from it.
We all know very well how to look for instant relief, quick satisfaction or distraction. Advil! But all the pills and shiny objects we’ve developed to distract u,s only quell the symptoms they don’t get to the real issues which more often than not is emotional trauma, loss or neglect.

Healing the pain. To be able to be with the pain you need to reach out and get support. Find someone you trust. Feeling another’s compassion makes the idea of facing the pain more bearable, and you’re more willing to stay with the distress knowing someone is there with you.
Only when you find a way to be with your pain, can you start to learn what it’s really all about. Then you can turn off the alarm and start the healing.

Liz Coleman, RTC, is a Registered Therapeutic Counsellor based in Surrey, BC. She specializes in anxiety, anger, insecurity, and relationship problems. If you have any questions about this article or would like to schedule an appointment, please call Ms. Coleman at (604) 809-8947 or use the convenient form on her Contact page.