Psychiatrist Gerald May referred to addiction as repetitive willful behaviour. In this light, it is easy to imagine that we nearly all have addictions to some degree: towards food, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, exercise, worry…the list goes on.
Although my active imagination is an upside of bipolar, it can also contribute towards addiction. On those nights when I lie in bed and can’t go to sleep, my mind starts to bounce from one destructive image to another. My imagination attempts to draw me away from peace and contentment, so I need to be most vigilant.
In the field of spirituality, we are urged to be cautious when the devil comes cloaked as an angel of light (an old-fashioned term I know!). For instance, while I was working on a computer document, I was stirred to do some research on the internet. I was filled with apparent light, as this seemed like a good thing to do. Then I was coaxed into doing more research, and then more, and more. Before long, my mind became totally scrambled and I ended up turning to a repetitive willful behaviour. In the midst of my actions, it is wise to stop and examine where these thoughts are coming from. And if they are leading to a dead end, then I need to return to what I was doing before the temptations. I need to be mindful of this trickster!
Stepping on the brakes
Dr. Stanton Peele’s book 7 Tools to Beat Addiction taught me that it’s never too late to step on the brakes of my addictive behaviours. For example, I can stop before turning to the devalued activity in the first place. Or if I do happen to slip or fall, I can still step on the brakes to prevent the behaviour from going any further. Instead of viewing addiction as either black (indulgence) or white (abstinence), I am learning to see the many steps in between. My worst decision always lies ahead of me. Another preventative measure is to insert moments of calm throughout my day, for example, to practice mindful eating during my lunch break and to do meditation when I come home from work, thereby decreasing the chances of impulsiveness.
Concepts of good and evil
A mystic from the fourth century, Evagrius Ponticus, was an expert in introspection and discernment. He believed that it is not possible to receive the concepts of good and evil at the same moment. He recommended, ‘It is necessary in moments of temptation to try to move one’s mind from an impure thought to a different concept and from that to yet another, and thus to flee that evil taskmaster’. It is nipping it in the bud early, replacing desolation with consolation, e.g. shifting my consciousness to a red rose rather than to a false light. Sometimes our minds need action too such as going for a walk, making a cup of tea, or meeting a friend.
Giving addiction too much power
It is important not to give my addictions too much power, too much credit. Up until recently, they filled this huge space in my head, a space they did not deserve. Lately, I’ve been viewing them like black dogs instead of T-Rexes! There are many more positive influences that deserve credit such as my huge heart.
There is no need to be afraid of addiction. Personally, I am experiencing great freedom from coming to know myself and from applying the tools to overcome my unwanted habits. To become a strong nonaddicted person is a goal!