What if addiction was not about the alcohol, sex or other people’s problems, but about a choice to go unconscious? Are you willing to make a different choice … a choice for consciousness and you? What if you could have the freedom to be the person you’ve always known or hoped you could be? Whether its food, a substance or overspending, your future does not have to reflect your past.
Marilyn Bradford, therapist, teacher and author of “Right Recovery For You,” offered “Living an Elevated Existence Mind, Body & Soul Summit Season 2,” participants tools and techniques to facilitate them in choosing and reclaiming themselves.
“You don’t have to buy into all these so-called expert points of view about what’s right for you and what’s not right for you,” she said. “A lot of addiction counseling is focused on the idea that the experts know and you don’t—but don’t judge yourself as less than and give yourselves over to them thoroughly.”
Addiction takes many forms, and while most think of drugs and alcohol, addiction can also involve shopping, gambling, cigarettes, sex, over-eating, overworking, or even being addicted to drama, or to playing a victim. However it manifests, Bradford believes addiction is a default we go to in order to forget, to go unconscious for a time.
“It’s a kind of coping skill we use because nobody gave us other coping skills. We use addiction to escape our realities,” she said.
Because of this, she does not look at addiction as a disease but rather as something we fall into—and something we can escape from. We weren’t born into the world with addictive behaviors. We acquire them, and we can get rid of them.
“This isn’t about someone who does a lot of drugs going cold turkey,” she cautioned. “But it is about rethinking how we deal with addiction.”
The Root Cause of Addiction
But first, how do we know if we have addictive behaviors? When should we be worried that a behavior is negatively impacting our lives? “The way you can tell that something is an additive behavior is if when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed it’s what you go towards. It’s a default place where you don’t really have to exist,” she said. “If you feel a compulsion to do a certain thing and you don’t feel okay unless you do that, then it’s probably an additive behavior.”
She asked us to consider, “If I wasn’t about to do ‘blank’ then what would I be aware of?” It’s about discovering what we’re trying to escape from that she says is the first key to recovery. All addiction has a root cause—usually stemming from a sense of being wrong or different, along with a tendency to judge ourselves unmercifully all the time. This root cause is what Bradford calls, the “primary addiction.” The secondary addiction is the one people tend to address, which is the actual addictive behavior and how the primary addiction manifests itself, but we can’t ignore the root cause if we want to fully recovery, she said. The more we ask questions about the root cause of our addiction the more we can work towards resolving it, she encouraged.
As an example, she shared a story of a woman she worked with who drank two bottles of wine a day—but the drinking was her secondary addiction. She finally revealed the drinking helped her deal with the fact that her marriage was falling apart. The woman could “receive” what she was missing from her life and marriage via the alcohol—it filled a need.
The first step is to look at what the behavior is contributing to you. Then look at how you can fill those needs in other ways, Bradford shared. One of the first questions she asks of her clients is, “How would you like to create your life?”
As a tip she also advised we should never take on the identity of an addict because we are putting that intention out there. “If you say I’m a smoker or I’m an alcoholic you become that,” she said. “But, if you say, currently I’m drinking more alcohol than I would like to, but I’m changing this behavior,” then we are separating our identify from the behavior.
“What I discovered…is that anyone whose truly willing can walk away from any addictive or compulsive behavior,” said Bradford. “Recovery is not about stopping a substance…true recovery for me is about stepping into the greatness of you, and looking at where you’ve created limitations, and then clearing those so you can have more and be more.”