Week #21 Topic: Addiction and Obsession:
I would first like to say a big, Thank You! to Melanie C., of “Sparks From a Combustible Mind”, for suggesting this week’s topic. This particular topic is one I can relate to on so many levels.
One thing, I couldn’t quite decide to either ask questions pertaining to addiction/obsession or continue with the format that I’ve been using for the last few weeks, which has been writing a narrative of one’s experience.
With much consideration, I did lean towards either a narrative and/or a creative piece with regards to the following topic. I leave that choice up to you the blogger to decide which route you’d like to take.
Beckie, over at Beckiesmentalmess has a fabulous series going on right now “Working on Us” this is week 21, – Addiction and Obsession. Now I’ve been lurking around these posts for weeks/months but I don’t generally join in the discussion. Mostly because my own mental illness is full of triggers and I am very, very careful not to let myself get triggered. Why? Because a trigger episode leads to an obsession episode. That’s nasty downward thought spiral that leads nowhere good.
But I digress. Now addiction — that’s one I’m intimately acquainted with. I suffer from Acute Sensory Sensitivity, aka I’m a Highly Sensitive Person, what some people call an Empath and I feel too much. Yes, it’s an actual medical diagnosis, no I’m not running around absorbing other people’s pain like that chick on Star Trek. It simply means that I have an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and deeper cognitive processing of emotional and physical stimuli. In a nutshell, I over react to, well, everything. I have asthma, an autoimmune disease, sensitive skin and yeah crowds, noise and dark places can freak me out. I also have an I.Q. in the 95th percentile and an empathy rating that “can’t really be measured” because it’s so far off the charts.
HSP’s have a tendency towards addictions just because of our personality traits. An HSP will use alcohol (or other forms of self medication) to dull the constant barrage of sensory input we experience. BUT and this is a big BUT, we don’t necessarily experience the changes to brain chemistry, the compulsion to repeat the experience, or suffer from withdrawl symptoms. None of this means that it affects our lives any less than a physical addiction. I’ve been through a LOT of 12-step programs. AA, Al-Anon, ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics), ISA (Incest Survivors Anonymous), SAA (Sex Addicts Anon.) and OA (Overeaters Anon.) to name a few.
At the age of 16 I underwent extensive physical and psychological testing. I had “unusual” brain activity for someone my age. Originally I was thought to be an undetected “Indigo” but ultimately, I just wound up with the label of “Hyper Sensitive Child.” Don’t you just LOVE the way they slap labels on teenagers who are already struggling anyway? It was not until my mid 20’s that the addictions started to become obvious and for nearly 15 years my need to self medicate was a constant battle. For me the epiphany came from a psychiatrist who felt that, given my history as an HSP, perhaps “group” therapy wasn’t the only avenue to recovery. I learned to meditate, I took up Yoga and Bellydance, I changed my playgrounds, I changed my playmates and I learned to embrace my sensitivity. I learned to be comfortable being alone, that it was OK to need solitude to recharge, and most important I learned that my “feelings” can’t actually hurt me. I used addictive behaviors to try to NOT FEEL. I only got well when I learned that whatever I’m feeling is OK, I am not helpless, and feelings pass.
So that’s my experience with addiction. It’s been nearly 20 years since I’ve had a drink, been involved in a dysfunctional relationship, blamed my problems on my mother, been plagued by nightmares and flashbacks or practiced inappropriate sex. I do still struggle with overeating but it’s not really an addiction, it’s just a stress triggered behavior (I eat a LOT of sugar when I’m stressed out). On the road to recovery, there are many pit stops.
Til next time ~Peace ~JPP