Is Addiction Stopping You From Being Your Best Self?

FlowMotion is dedicated to taking care of our bodies, as well as taking care of our minds and hearts by encouraging healthy and meaningful relationships. Through our sexual relationships we can express our most real feelings. However, addiction can often come in the way of being our best, most authentic or fulfilled selves.

I recently watched a BBC documentary on the effects of porn on the brain (This is Your Brain on Pornography). Its maker, Martin Daubney, used to produce the UK ‘lads’ magazine “Loaded”, and he’s certainly no prude. But Mr Daubney expressed his shock at how much more hardcore porn has become since it’s hit the internet, and how it’s just one click away – from anyone. The documentary also looked at how porn stimulates the same areas as any addict’s brain and the increasing young age of porn addicts.

I then watched a video montage of what can only be described as the Zombie Apocalypse – ‘Black Friday’ shoppers in the US, crowding in the cold and dark behind huge metal roller-doors, a heaving mass waiting to stampede their way in to get sales bargains. Ironically, this near catatonic, smash-and-grab mentality runs rampant the day after ‘Thanksgiving’ – the day Americans set aside to count their blessings.

You might wonder what internet porn and looter-like shoppers have in common? Both are examples of addiction, no different than drugs, alcohol, sugar, sex, gambling, nicotine, etc…

All those things can be fun and enjoyable in moderation, but many of us feel an emptiness, an isolation or inner void that we seek to fill by constantly stuffing substances or external stimulation into our bodies or minds. When we do it repeatedly and can’t stop, we are slaves to an addiction. The problem with the sort of gratification that comes with addiction is that it’s fleeting.

First there is the nagging emptiness, like a gnawing hunger. Then comes the quest to satisfy that hunger and the build up of anticipation. The excitement grows as you fire up the computer in the darkened room and type in ‘porn’, or score the drugs, or the donut shop has a fresh warm batch with your name written all over it, or you hear the metallic clank of the roller-doors of Walmart being lifted, your heart starts pounding, and you shove your way in through the swarming crowd to grab whatever you can…

The rational brain may know it’s not a good thing to indulge in this behaviour, but the addicted brain is lit up like a pinball machine. “Go on, it will be exciting! It will feel good. You’ll be happy. One won’t hurt. This time you might win!” it says. The rational brain has now been flung into a darkened corner of the recesses of your mind, and you find yourself on amnesic autopilot as you blindly hoe your way through another box of chocolates.

In addiction you find momentary relief; the explosive orgasm, the long inhalation of nicotine, the warm heroin rush, the big sale… And for a brief moment (or until the substance wears off, or until the junk you bought is out of its wrapping), you feel sated, relaxed, content, maybe even smug.

But the high doesn’t last, because the nature of addiction is that you never feel satisfied for long. In fact, once the high wears off you might feel down right shitty – physically and mentally – beating yourself up for succumbing yet again to that uncontrollable part of yourself.

The low that inevitably follows the high has your brain seeking out even more satisfaction. In order to feel better, you do exactly what you just did that ended up making your feel like crap – and the insanity of the endless cycle is now running your life. Yet, you still want more.

But the same level of stimulant may not do it for you anymore – you need a bigger hit – the porn needs to be dirtier, you need to smoke more meth, you play the whole of your pay cheque on the pokies. “If I can just win back what I lost, I’ll quit.” you swear. Instead, you lose. You lose friends, you lose money, you lose jobs, you lose respect for yourself. The ‘happiness’ the addiction promised never pans out. Addiction is empty. Addiction is the lover who’s nothing but a liar.

So how do we change things? How do we break the chains of addiction and find a more soul-filling satisfaction? It’s sounds like an old cliche, but true happiness comes from within.

The first step to a healthier and more fulfilling life is to realise you have a problem. Sometimes you realise it when you are at rock bottom – when you are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sometimes it’s after a health scare or life-changing event. Sometimes common sense and self-worth just finally prevail.

If you recognise you have an addiction problem, seek help. There are lots of organisations and programmes set up to help people all sorts of addictions. But be prepared to pack your bags, because it’s a committed journey. Also be prepared to throw away some of that old baggage on the way! Getting rid of old baggage makes for a lighter and more enjoyable journey ahead.

If on that journey you can learn to fill yourself from within with a bit of love, contentment, compassion, generosity, kindness, humility, peace, forgiveness and acceptance (of yourself and others), there will be no room for the hollow spectres any addiction has on offer.