Soft Addictions: We all have them, don’t we?
My daughter, on our way to medical detox last August, asked if she could have a beer? I said no. She responded with, “Isn’t beer better than heroin?” Hmmmm. Yes and no. She did have a point, especially from a hard core drug user’s perspective. If your qualifier is primarily an alcoholic, then no, alcohol would not ever be considered “ok”. But if your qualifier is a heroin addict, then maybe a beer isn’t so bad? Is it analogous, in some ways, to Tom at Recovery Help Desk, advocating for methadone use, itself a very addictive drug, to help get someone off heroin, out of the risky lifestyle, and lessen the addict’s craving? I don’t know. I’m merely posing the question.
I got to thinking about so-called ‘soft’ addictions, the insidious, more culturally acceptable crutches we all use to get through our days and lives. What exactly is the difference between a habit and an addiction?
Have humans always used something to alter their consciousness in some way? I think so. And why? Perhaps it’s because life is hard, and we all need coping mechanisms. Some of these are healthier than others – but they all have a similar purpose – – – to numb and/or fill some kind of hole.
I have come to believe that we are born (nature) with a certain outlook on life – that is usually reinforced (nurture) by our life circumstances and family dynamics. For me, life is hard. We all, in my opinion, ‘use’ something to ease the burden of life’s everyday stresses and demands.
Yes, my heroin addict daughter represents the extreme in regards to this topic, but I ask the question – – – can you relate? In many ways, I can.
Webster’s New World Dictionary defines habit as: a pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break; an addiction, especially to narcotics.
And what about obsessive-compulsive behavior? Where does that fit in to the habit/addiction continuum, and can’t OCD become harmful to relationships and life?
OK – let’s look at ‘soft addictions’.
After a tough day, do you come home and flop in your easy chair, grab a bag of chips and zone out in front of the television? Or maybe you compulsively check your e-mail, spend hours surfing the internet or stay up late chatting with strangers in chat rooms. Whether you get lost in cyberspace, over shop, watch too much TV, gossip, bite your nails, daydream excessively, procrastinate or over-exercise, you may be caught in what Judith Wright calls a “soft addiction”.
Soft Addictions are seemingly harmless habits that rob us of our time, zap our energy, numb us from our feelings, mute our consciousness and keep us from living the satisfying, meaningful lives we desire.
Soft Addictions can be activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable. Many soft addictions involve necessary behaviors like eating, reading, and sleeping. They become soft addictions when we overdo them and when they are used for more than their intended purpose.
Identifying Soft Addictions is just one of the eight key life skills shared by national best-selling author, speaker, and educator, Judith Wright in her new book, There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions.
So – let’s look at ourselves. Are you involved in a regular activity, avoidance, mood or habit that is a soft addiction?
Take this ‘Soft Addiction Quiz’ and find out, if you’re interested.
These questions, regarding addiction, are things to consider when evaluating if behavior is a habit, compulsion, or addiction:
- You are no longer comfortable around your old friends
- You surround yourself with people who live their lives “high”
- You have given up previously enjoyable activities – playing baseball, swimming, dancing, etc. to get high instead
- You find yourself isolating yourself more and more – you spend countless hours totally alone and non-productive
- People who love you (trusted family and friends) are telling you they think you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol
- The only people that agree with your assessment (you are not an addict) are the people you use with
- If you have lost jobs due to drugs/alcohol
- If you have lost friends due to drugs/alcohol
- If you have tried (time and time again) to control your habit … “I’ll only drink/use on weekends” … and you have failed repeatedly.
- If you sleep something like 2 hours or 18 hours each day
- If you have gained or lost a significant amount of weight rapidly
- If you have ever been jailed because of substance use or issued a DUI
These are only some indicators that might suggest you have an addiction. Maybe the best indicator is how happy are you? Or, are you miserable a great deal of the time? As stated earlier, only you can determine if your substance use/regular behavior is a habit or an addiction.
“Our” heroin addicts are, of course, living with and exercising ‘hard’ addiction. But how big of a jump is it, really, from our culture’s socially acceptable “soft addictions”, to the ‘big time? What is the tipping point? How many soft addictions are we allowed? Which are ok? Just wondering.