· By Amber Elizabeth Dodzweit
HABIT OR ADDICTION?
I received an email a couple days ago from someone asking for such simple advice. They were hoping that I had a solution on how to trade one “addiction” for another. In the moment it sounded so cut and dry like taking your old clothes to consignment and getting money to buy new ones. It struck me in a pretty unexpected way- not because I thought I’d have the golden ticket, but because I would like to know the answer to this myself!!
Fortunately or unfortunately, when you search for help on addictions, most of the search results that come up are in reference to alcohol, tobacco and drugs. These are obviously the most intense battles fought among people worldwide.
What about sugar?
Or, an overly restrictive diet?
Selfies? – I mean for REAL!!
These are all definitely addictions. Ones that may not have a 12-step program to overcome, yet so many people don’t know how to trade them in for something else, maybe something a little better. If you’re struggling in deciphering whether something in your life is a habit or an addiction- be prepared to get brutally honest with yourself because that thing in the back of your mind as you read this is probably the thing you’re addicted to. Even as you skim over it in justification that you could cut it out at anytime- you’re kidding yourself.
The truth about habits and addictions is that they’re not all that different. Brushing your teeth is a habit, but you’re not addicted to it. I’d dare to say that some habitual behavior is waiting to become an addiction however- the culprit? Dopamine.
So dopamine is released in the brain when you engage in something you love, something that makes you feel powerful or even relax (among other feelings). It’s called the “reward chemical” and once the body experiences it’s release it can become dependent on whatever it is that you are engaging in be it drugs, sex, rock and roll and yes- even exercise. This is my favorite part. Because exercise releases so many incredible hormones and chemicals in the brain, it has actually been PROVEN to help overcome some seemingly impossible addictions and psychological conditions. The key to letting exercise play that role is interrupting your usual routine with a new and improved dopamine release. i.e. if you struggle with drinking alcohol after work to unwind, try switching your workout routine to interrupt your usual wine-thirty ritual. By allowing your body to become accustomed to endorphins instead of alcohol you have a great chance to kick a habit and get in the shape of your life – uh, win win anyone? I think so.
All addictions or “habits” have a root. There’s an originating time in which this “thing” had it’s birth in your life where you grasped onto it in saying “ooooh, I like this”. 6 months down the road you couldn’t imagine your life without it. I’ll just get super real here in saying that some of you need to apply this to people that you cannot seemingly get away from. They too are an addiction that maybe you need to replace…#realtalk
There are undoubtedly specific steps that anyone that is experiencing any sort of imprisonment should go through. Beyond walking through these practical steps, I believe, is a cognitive process in identifying where and why these dependent relationships started.
As an example, I’ll use my dad. He was born second to last into a stringent German family with an incredibly nurturing mother. Because his dad was so frugal with money and a dictator of sorts regarding sugar in the household…my dad’s mom would sneak him sugary treats and slip him a coin on the sly for ice cream as a special surprise to show her love. Sadly, when my dad was just 12 years old his mom passed away from cancer. Suddenly, in his moments of sadness, vulnerability or insecurity he would reach for those sugar-filled treats that reminded him of the love and comfort his mother represented.
Today, over 50 years later, my dad still struggles with sugar. Even after 3 stents inserted into his heart he can’t seem to kick his habit. This isn’t to say anything about his strength as a man- as he has also lived much of his life in some of the most inconvenient circumstances all over Africa and never blinked an eye. This is just a perfect example of the beginnings that some of our oldest and hardest habits can have. Food in so many cases becomes an addiction that is directly linked to emotional trauma.
The power in mindfulness is beyond anything we can comprehend. To be “mindful” basically means that you become fully aware of your emotions in the present moment without allowing any sort of judgment to creep in. If you have something in your life be it a person, a food, a vice or anything that you feel has a hold on you- start to think when it started, begin to think who you were at that time, what you were going through and possibly what that thing could have represented to you in that moment.
As you move forward in life being mindful of the roots of the things you are allowing to continue to function in your life, I hope that you come to some revelations about how different you are today. In small steps, it is completely possible to move closer to habits that are more suiting for who you plan to be in the future. Fitness is a powerful tool beyond what it can make anyone look like. I don’t really care if I sound like a broken record in saying that, the fact that people continue to demote it to just a way to make them happy with their own reflections grosses me out. It is so much more than that!
If your exercise habits have gotten out of balance and you fear that maybe you’ve become obsessed with working out- I truly encourage you to examine the seed that was planted to allow it to take over your life. Was it a harsh word from someone else about your weight? If so- that’s a whole lot of power to give away. Gaining that power back is going to require forgiveness on your part and setting yourself free from the opinions of small-minded people. Gain perspective that true power lies in balance. Finding equilibrium in all habits and revealing truth within your addictions will bring you the fulfillment you’ve been seeking. Like any habit, it requires repetition and commitment. You may want to think about someone you trust to fill in on your new journey so they can encourage you along the way and hold you accountable. After all, this is why we have the #clutcharmy. Have a wonderful week ahead and as always if any of you need guidance, we are here.
Powerful message! Love this! Thanks for posting!
Sami Jo on
Amber, thank you so much for this amazing read, & for keeping it real. This inspires me to examine the reasons for some of my behaviors. Your Dad sounds pretty awesome….you get it honest.
Allyson Acker on
Our mind is strongly connected to the body.
Knowing your self is the best cure for any sycorogical problem.
Facing a truth looks scealy but it’s the first step to solve the problem.
Chiharu Aoki on