Monday, May 30, 2011

It's All Unhappiness

OK, there are going to be folks who say, "of course", and those who say, "WTF", but try this one on for size: the root cause of chronic drug abuse, alcohol abuse, cigarette smoking and overeating is unhappiness, not addiction (read physical dependency) nor illness. Nope, all these "addictions" bloom from one seed: unhappiness.

For those of you who are not nodding your heads saying, "Sure, so what?", I'd like to explain a couple of things. In the past, when I've shared this perspective with friends and family who've participated in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or Overeaters Anonymous, I've received a less than enthusiastic response. I've heard dozens of explanations as to why the challenge was physical or genetic. How it was something that couldn't be overcome without great effort and support. How, when one was once and addict, he was always an addict.

The idea that all the pain, angst and destruction caused by substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarrettes) could simply be the result of unresolved unhappiness seemed preposterous and (if I read the tone correctly) insulting. However, if you think about it, you need only know yourself to know that what I'm talking about is true (not in the absolute God-said-so sense, but in the Hey-he-might-have-something-there sense).

What do you do to unwind after a really stressful day? Do you meditate? Down a couple of martinis or a nice glass of wine? Grab a smoke? Eat some ice cream? Get a massage? Go running? A big bowl of pasta? Watch TV?

Whatever it is, why do you do it? To feel better. Whether it's Rocky-Road ice cream or hot sake or a fine cigar, the experience causes you to relax, to feel better, to become happier. It it didn't (or more correctly, if it hadn't at some point), you wouldn't do it. But it does (or did) and so you do.

Now you may say, "But, I don't drink only when I'm unhappy. I drink at parties where I'm perfectly happy already."

However, even then, you'd be drinking alcohol versus water or juice, because of the anticipation of becoming even happier.

Alternatively, let's say that you were in a persistent state of euphoria. Would alcohol or nicotine or marijuana or cheesecake have the same appeal? Absolutely not. There may be some appeal if you lack creativity and simply use them to combat boredom, but that would be it.

So in the absence of unhappiness (or relative unhappiness) addictions lose all their power. When you feel happy (stress-free, satisfied, clear, comfortable, present, positive and optimistic), the things that bind you loosen. On the flip-side, when you feel unhappy (stressed, dissatisfied, scattered, uncomfortable, lost in thought, negative and pessimistic), then you can struggle all day against those bonds and they'll be no looser at the end of the day than when you started.

Why is this important? If you've been trying to quit smoking or to lose weight or to watch less TV and have had little success or not been able to sustain success, then you might want to forget about addiction and work on happiness. Get happy and the addictions will take care of themselves.

Happy Monday,

NEXT: Getting Happy

1 comment:

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