Addicted so as to avoid feeling depression, low self esteem and anxiety.

In my work as a psychotherapist I have come across addiction in different forms and I believe that people become addicted to drugs, alcohol, porn, gambling, shopping, exercise, computer games, sex and work in order to avoid whatever life is presenting, and to NUMB THEIR FEELINGS.

Whatever their ‘drug of choice’, the need for it is created by their desire to avoid painful feelings. We have labels for anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder, etc., but we do not have a diagnosis for overwhelm, yet I see a great deal of overwhelm in my therapy room and people often turning to substances or behaviours that ease these feelings of overwhelm.

Here one woman, “Jennifer”, shares her personal experience of addiction due to overwhelm:

“On the outside everything looked fine and dandy: I had what looked like an enviable life – a hardworking, considerate though somewhat absent husband who was not abusive, two lovely sons and enough money to live very comfortably. However, on the inside I was feeling completely overwhelmed and unable to cope with simple housekeeping and raising children. I couldn’t really explain, even to myself, why I felt so miserable. I just knew that there was something major missing from this seemingly perfect set up.”

What was missing was Jennifer’s connection to herself. She had made a choice to disconnect from her true self in order to cope with her own chaotic childhood environment and had developed a false persona which had got her through life until this point.

Before having her children, Jennifer did not experience overwhelm. She was a high functioning worker with a wide social group. She and her husband travelled extensively and enjoyed their life together.

However, becoming a mother meant Jennifer began to identify as a ‘mother’ (her mother was old and an alcoholic) and her children triggered her own chaotic and overwhelming childhood.

Addiction To Gaming

“I chose to distract and numb myself with a card game on the computer. Initially I chose it and then it felt like I had no choice. I spent hours of my day and night playing this game. It was not about competing with others or bettering my own scores, it was about obliterating my feelings by racing through it and clicking on endless ‘next games’. I became adept at lying about why things were in disarray in the house, I was sometimes rude and unpleasant to my husband and my children – their needs were an interruption to my overbearing desire to numb myself because I felt tightly contracted, squeezed, extremely anxious and unable to cope with my role as a woman, wife and mother. I had no sense of who I really was or what I wanted. The relief I got from numbing myself in front of the grey screen was all I craved.“

For Jennifer, this resulted in:

  • a disregard for self and family
  • a lack of care around diet, clothing and the state of the home
  • a general unloving attitude

Jennifer shares:

"When my family confronted me, I felt exposed and shamed and would react defensively with the bitterness of my own self-disgust. I knew I wanted to quit – I just didn’t know how to. The self-disgust made me want to numb even more and this cycle continued to spiral. I told myself it was not fattening or damaging my health – but it was damaging my emotional health on which hinged my self esteem, the wellbeing of my family and my relationships”.

In a recent study scientists discovered that feeling connected to others was the most successful treatment of people addicted to drugs. In this article Professor Peter Cohen shares:

“If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find”.

Before we can connect with others – we must first reconnect with ourselves. However, connecting deeply with our own bodies and the pain and hurts within them, means allowing ourselves to experience these unbearable feelings which made us disconnect in the first place.

With support and encouragement it is possible to understand that we are not these painful feelings and hurts – we are not the hopeless failure we feel ourselves to be in the turmoil of the overwhelm. These feelings stem from what happened to us and underneath them it is possible to connect to our full potential. A beginning to building your connection to yourself is to breathe your own breath, and this can result in a warmth and expansion in your body – the beginning of re-connection.

Jennifer continues:

“Fortunately, I sought support and learned to reconnect deeply with myself and my own divinity. I learned that the unbearable, overwhelming feelings can in fact be borne. Once I could bear these feelings I no longer needed to numb myself and avoid my life; I was then able to stop the addiction and begin to take responsibility to bring back love and joy into my life and my family."

It is possible for all of us to discover this innermost connection, should we choose to commit to healing our hurts and living from a deep and intimate relationship with self. Seemingly ruined relationships can be turned around and become increasingly intimate and loving.

Even though we may still have many moments of reaction and tiredness in our everyday life, there can be joy and purpose as we continue to develop our connection with self and others.

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  • By Anonymous

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.