Why do we become addicted? We can place blame almost anywhere – our childhood, our parents, traumatic events, chronic health issues, abusive relationships, and even that we just got into the habit and couldn’t stop.
Addictions ruin our relationships, careers, mental and physical health, reputations, and finances. But do you realize that addictions serve a purpose in our lives as well?
While addictions create physical and chemical dependence of a substance or behavior – food, alcohol, nicotine, drugs, porn, toxic relationships, shopping, gaming – they begin as a need to fill a hole within ourselves. For example, if we are missing joy – we drink to feel high. We are missing love – we eat to feel satisfied. We have unhealed emotional pain – we take drugs to be numb. We overspend to fill our homes with the material in place of the missing spiritual.
Addictions help us hide our most painful truths from ourselves.
We use addictions to avoid the shadow in our lives – painful memories, loneliness, unhappiness, boredom, fear, shame, conflicting beliefs, and dissatisfaction with our lives. Addictions become the ways we soothe and comfort ourselves. They are one of the ways we manage to function without healing our wounds.
Addictions, at their very foundation, are about soul wounds and based in our spiritual health.
They become physical dependence and require physical treatment for healing . Changes in diet, medication, detoxing the body, abstinence, counseling, and medically supervised treatments are some of the ways we treat our body’s dependence on our addictive behaviors.
Treating the soul is not part of western medicine. Not yet anyway.
The Shaman say that soul loss is responsible for all our disease and ailments, including addiction. Something in our past, some trauma, caused a hole in our soul and we must repair it in order to truly heal from dis-ease.
I heard Alberto Villoldo say this about physical illness and the use of western medicine and soul healing:
If you get a snake bite, you go to the ER to stop the venom and remove the toxin from your body. Afterwards, you go see your shaman to see why the snake bit you in the first place.
We are fairly good at going to the doctor when we are sick. Even with addiction, it may take an intervention or a medical incident, but when we are finally ready to recover, we seek western medicine to help us.
It’s the soul healing part that we lack.
Some addiction programs, like 12-step/AA, have a strong spiritual foundation for support during and through recovery. Unfortunately, all addictions aren’t seen equally, and recovery programs are not as easily available or even seen as necessary for all dependency dis-ease.
Food addiction is my particular shadow and western medicine just does not treat it as addiction. Food addicts, or more specifically, sugar/carb addicts, are viewed as simply lacking will power or just need education on how to eat correctly. My doctor actually told me to just not buy sugary foods to have at home. That was his guidance for overcoming my sugar cravings and addiction. Well, that and prescribing me a bunch of medicine that would just enable my addiction to continue and my health to decline.
Can you imagine telling an alcoholic that they can cure their addiction if they’d only just not buy beer to bring home?
Can you imagine telling a nicotine addict that they should just reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke each day?
Can you imagine telling a drug addict that they just lack the will power to not take that drug?
Food addiction is a dependency that cannot be managed with abstinence so it’s tricky to maintain recovery. Additionally, food addiction kills more people than any other addiction because it causes diabetes, heart disease, hormonal dysfunction, fatty liver, kidney disease, and obesity. But we continue to only treat the symptoms and not the root of disease.
We mock overweight people and call them lazy, undisciplined, and stupid. We sell them costly diet plans and gym memberships. We do everything we can to ensure they cannot recover because we do not see their problem as a legitimate addiction. Failure causes more trauma and pain which leads to the addiction and resulting health issues to continue to progress.
Obesity is caused by addiction to sugar and carbohydrates.
Read that again. Obesity is caused by addiction to sugar and carbohydrates. Period. Full stop.
And for those who somehow stumble on to the realization that the food they eat is killing them, the recovery care consists of Big Food, Big Exercise, and Big Diet industry who are in the business of keeping you sick so you keep buying their cures. Even the “support” groups are expensive and run by corporations who are in it to make money first and help you second.
Western medicine is just not on board with the width and breath of the addiction issue. Neither my doctor nor my insurance company is going to send me to a 90-day program for my sugar/carb addiction – even if I could find one. I am left to swim in the ocean of corporate sponsored “scientific” studies, expensive diet plans, and hefty doctor bills.
While counseling therapy is available and a great idea for any addiction, those are hefty bills to pay and many insurances don’t cover much in regard to mental health services. Mental health counseling is nearly impossible to get if you aren’t insured or financially able to pay out of pocket.
There may be access to 12-step food addiction programs in large cities, diabetes support groups, obesity support groups and such; but in rural America where you can find AA and NA meetings happening in church basements all across the country, food addiction spiritually based recovery support is absent.
Shopping addiction spiritual support is absent. Relationship addiction spiritual support is absent. Porn addiction spiritual support is absent. Toxic thinking addiction spiritual support is absent. Self-Harm addiction spiritual support is absent. Work addiction spiritual support is absent. Gaming addiction spiritual support is absent.
Spiritual programs work. AA is a life saving program. But people understand that alcoholism is real and that recovery doesn’t work without spiritual healing too.
The answer to food addiction where abstinence isn’t possible is not easy to find and I’m not sure it has been found yet. Detoxing from a vital physical need is not something even your doctor can guide you through without offering empty suggestions. The 12-Step model can work for any addiction, I believe. There just don’t seem to be people with success in recovery, especially from food addiction, willing to step up and create community programs without adding a high price tag and corporate sales pitch.
Many self-help and spiritual leaders say we are in the midst of a spiritual revolution – that spirituality is on the rise. Healing soul wounds has got to be a priority for this to be true and those with addictions are especially in need of spiritual support and healing.
The spiritual community has some work to do here. We must create support groups that promote healthy behaviors, sobriety from addiction, and community – without the corporate price tag.
Afterall, what is spirituality if not helping each other to heal our soul wounds?