[00:00:00] Welcome to today's TLC. Whether you found this podcast on my website, through the emails I send, or simply from a friend, I'm glad that you've decided to add some TLC today.
[00:00:16] Okay friends, today we are going to talk about the basics of addiction. I have some thoughts that I want to share a little bit less filtered today. So, if you have little ears, you might want to throw on your AirPods so that we can have a more candid talk about addiction. There's a woman that I've been helping recently whose husband has been cheating on her for many years. And as I have been supporting her, some of the things that she's said has reminded me of how important it is that people understand the basics of addiction. So let's cover that.
[00:00:49] If you don't remember, I have a history where I used to work with nonprofits that helped people through addiction recovery know what to do to find healing for themselves or for their loved ones. And there are some basic relationship patterns that almost every addict and their partner gets stuck in. And I want to make sure that you understand that so that you don't get stuck in this cycle yourself. Or in this cycle, as you're trying to support someone else.
[00:01:17] Here's where you throw your airpods in if you don't already have them. So this woman was telling me her story about how her husband has been cheating on her and I'm not going to go into all the details because that would not be appropriate or honor her story. But I do want to say that one of the things she shared with me is that she didn't know whether or not to keep having sex with her husband. Because up to this point, she kept having sex out of fear that if she didn't have sex with him that he would go out and find it somewhere else. And this sweet woman was just trying to do something to avoid the pain of that betrayal.
[00:01:57] Now, this is so typical of someone who's in a relationship with an addict, specifically a sex addict, because they think that if they get what they need at home, that they won't go out and get it somewhere else. But here's the problem. Sex is the addiction. If you were married to an alcoholic and the alcoholic said, "You need to give me a ton of alcohol at home so that I won't go out and get more alcohol somewhere else." What's the problem here? The problem here is that we're still feeding the addiction. You're still partaking of the alcohol. And addictions are always progressive. That means that each time you experience it, it takes more to get the same physical response because your body and your brain become numb to that level of substance. So they need it to increase.
[00:02:50] So you keep giving an alcoholic alcohol at home and he's going to eventually want to shake it up and go outside of the home and get more alcohol. That's a very typical addiction cycle.
[00:03:02] So the first thing I want to point out about addiction is that feeding the addiction—whether it's in your home or whether it's outside your home, whether you're feeding it to them or they're feeding it to themselves—it's still gonna grow. You can't control that.
[00:03:20] So instead of trying to saturate them, so they won't desire the addiction (or if you're the one struggling with the addiction instead of trying to binge, so that you'll be satisfied) there's a different way to solve this problem.
[00:03:34] Let's talk about what addiction really is in the first place.
[00:03:37] *Why do people get addicted?*
[00:03:40] *Well, anything that's addictive helps numb or escalate your feelings. *
[00:03:47] Think about it: porn, alcohol, drugs, shopping, food... all of these things create some sort of chemical response in our bodies that either help us numb our feelings. So we don't have to feel them or gives us a feeling so we feel something pleasurable.
[00:04:05] *So why do we crave these addictive experiences? *
[00:04:10] One, because there is pleasure in there somewhere. If we're addicted to food, eating a bunch of desserts tastes good. Right?! So there is the immediate satisfaction of something, but deeper than that, the reasons why things become addictions is when we turn to that thing outside of ourselves to make us feel better and we become dependent on it to neutralize our feelings.
[00:04:38] So I have a hard day at work and I come home and I feel terrible about my life and pour myself a drink, get a piece of cake, watch some porn, go shopping.... whatever it is because I don't know what to do with that feeling. Or, I don't want to think about that feeling and so I distract myself with something that will help me feel better.
[00:05:00] But here's the problem: that feeling is still there. You just didn't look at it. It's like taking that beach ball and pushing it down. I talk about this all the time. Right? We're pushing that emotion down until it builds the pressure and then it hits you in the face. And then you have an even more intense feeling a more intense desire to numb out or avoid it or replace it with something more pleasurable. You see the addictive cycle here? Going outside of ourselves to make ourselves feel better.
[00:05:31] So that's what the problem is. It's not that we don't have enough of the substance to satisfy us. It's that the satisfaction isn't lasting because you still have those feelings and you still have to take care of them. Or avoid them and create a whole bunch of mess along the way.
[00:05:50] Now I want you to think about this from the angle of the woman that I was talking about earlier. Her husband is addicted to sex. He uses that in a way that numbs out his feelings about himself and about his life, because he doesn't want to feel the hard feelings. He goes outside of himself and tries to make it feel better. Now let's think about that same pattern and ask yourself this question.
[00:06:15] What is the wife addicted to?
[00:06:20] She also is going outside of herself to try and feel better. She's addicted to the control of her husband. She's dependent on him and his behavior for her to feel better about herself. For her to feel okay he needs to act a certain way. Now, I'm not saying it's okay, what he's doing and I'm not saying that she's the only one responsible for the experience that she has, but I am saying her focusing on him and trying to change him is what's making her crazy. It's what makes her feel overwhelmed and depressed and literally out of control. Because she's trying to control something that she can't and she's addicted to that feeling of control.
[00:07:13] I see this all the time in loved ones of addicts, because they're so afraid of feeling pain that they will do anything to avoid it, including going against what they feel is true and honest and aligned with their values to try and control their spouse from going and having sex with someone else, or looking at porn, or turning to alcohol, or whatever it is... They try and fit themselves into this picture perfect view for their spouse so they won't want something else. Reality check: it's not about you. It's about their inability to feel their feelings and your inability to feel yours.
[00:07:53] *So what do we do? *
[00:07:54] How do we get out of this cycle? Well, it's actually really simple. People make addiction so much harder than it has to be. And yes, it is an uphill climb and I'm not going to say it doesn't take effort. But the simplest answer to any addiction is this:
[00:08:13] *Learn to feel your feelings. *
[00:08:17] Learn to feel your feelings. If you can learn to feel your feelings and be responsible for your mental and emotional health —putting things in place that will actually help you feel better instead of temporarily numb the feeling—that is where the money is. That is how you heal from addiction. Or from the betrayal of someone else's addiction.
[00:08:40] Both this woman and her husband needed to separately learn what to do with their feelings.
[00:08:49] Then they would have space for more connection in their life. Connection to self, connection to others, and connection to God.
[00:08:58] I want you to think of any relationship that you have with someone else as a triangle. It's you on the bottom left side, the other person on the bottom right side, and then God at the top. The closer that you get to align your actions with your values or you feel connected to God you go up the side of that triangle to get closer to the top. Now, if the other person also chooses to go up that side of the triangle and get closer to God, then they will naturally get closer to you.
[00:09:33] The most loving thing you can do for an addict is to let them go, to give them the responsibility of their journey, and to focus on your own healing and connection to God. That is the way that you tap into that light inside of you and let it fuel you and heal you from whatever chaos has been around you. And guess what light attracts? More light.
[00:10:04] Naturally the people around you, including whoever is in addiction, will see that light and if they have any space for growth, any space for healing they will start to desire it too. Now you can't make that be your reason for getting healing is to try and get the other person to then want to be healed too. You've got to find healing for you. You've got to let them go. Your happiness cannot be based on their actions.
[00:10:35] When you show up for you and you connect with God the path forward will be so clear that you won't even question it. You'll know.
[00:10:44] So many times the women I help the immediate question they ask me is, "Should I get a divorce?" And I say, "I don't know if that's the right path for you. But I know that if you get a divorce right now, you will take your current mental and emotional health with you when you go. And you'll just find somebody else that you need to act a certain way for you to be okay. And they'll just be in the same pattern because you are attracting that to your life. So you want to find healing? Find it before you make big life decisions."
[00:11:20] That's recovery, according to Stephanie. So you get to decide if that's aligned with you. But from what I've seen with the women I've helped in the last decade is that true healing, true progress, recovery from addiction that lasts only happens when each person lets go of the other person's journey and focuses instead on their own healing. Their own mental and emotional health.
[00:11:50] If you're in patterns of addiction, or you have loved ones who are in an addictive pattern, stop trying to control your emotions. Let them teach you. Learn to feel them. Learn what to do with them. Have self care patterns that help you heal and honor what you truly value. Learn to listen to be guided by that light in you that says, "This is healing or this is damaging."
[00:12:25] I can't tell you if this woman should stop having sex with her husband. But I can tell you that the way that she said it to me was not aligned with her values. It was from a place of fear and control. We got to let go of the control and process the fear.
[00:12:45] *There are so many resources for how to do this and people to help. *
[00:12:50] If you are really struggling with addiction, please find a certified addiction therapist. They\ know these cycles and they know how to help. If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, there are so many resources for the loved ones of addicts to know how to focus on you and let go of the codependent relationships with the addict.
[00:13:14] As you do, you will heal your relationship with yourself, grow closer to God and naturally invite your loved ones to connect with you along the way.
[00:13:28] No matter how prominent addiction is in your life, it's somewhere. There is something in your life you're trying to control to make you feel better. It might be your kids. It might be your work environment. It might be the way you actually say your prayers or participate with your church... Are you doing things because you have to do them to feel okay? Or are you engaging in their relationships in your life because they align with your values, with who you are, with what feeds your soul?
[00:14:01] The last thing I want to share is this: you may have heard the saying before, "Once an addict, always an addict." And I have to tell you that I 100% believe that this is not true. Because I've experienced the change in my life and my loved ones lives.
[00:14:24] *You can uproot addiction. It's hard. It takes effort. *
[00:14:31] But guess what else is hard? The mess that comes when you don't take care of your feelings. When you turn to addictive substances for relief. When you push down that emotional beach ball until it hits you in the face. That is hard. That is messy. That is hopeless. That is overwhelming and traumatic. And you don't have to live there.
[00:14:56] And your heart deserves to be heard. It has a lot to teach you and it's not against you.
[00:15:03] It's helping you understand what you need next. Listen to that instead of the pull to addiction. One little step at a time. If you need more resources, let me know. I've got a lot of them.
[00:15:18] But the ultimate resource that matters most is listening to the light in you.
[00:15:25] God will guide you to know what to do next.
[00:15:29] I know true healing is possible. And I know that we can win this fight against addiction. One choice at a time.
[00:15:39] Life after therapy can be simple. Come learn how to think, light feel light, and live light at www.thelightcoach.com. I offer five free discovery sessions each week and one of them is for you. Together, let's discover the joy that's possible in life after therapy.