A few months ago, I was lucky enough to listen to the amazing Tommy Rosen speak about his past experience with substance abuse and addiction. Tommy is an incredibly inspiring guy that started a program called Recovery 2.0 to not only help end the stigma surrounding addiction but also share the gift of yoga and meditation to those struggling with addiction.
At the beginning of his talk, he asked if anyone in the audience had ever struggled with or was struggling with an addiction. I timidly raised my hand and was very much alone. He then gave his definition of addiction.
He defined addiction as “any behavior you continue to do despite it bringing negative consequences into your life”.
After he gave his definition, he asked again if anybody in the audience had struggled with an addiction and I looked around to find that I was in good company. Almost every hand in the room was raised.
If you were being completely honest with yourself, chances are you would find something in your life you are currently addicted to, or used to be addicted to in the past. At one point or another in our lives we all do things that aren’t in our best interest, suffer the consequences but continue to do the habit because we just can’t stop. We continue down a road of destruction and shame until we see our relationships and health fall apart.
In reality, you can develop an addiction to anything. Mine was exercise.
When I tell people that I was addicted to exercise, they usually say something like how lucky I was to be addicted to something “healthy”. Or they say how they wish that they could have that addiction instead of their addiction to In And Out french fries. And while I am usually able to laugh it off, I can’t help but feel a bit disturbed. Would they say something like that to a person addicted to heroin or cocaine? Probably not. But because my “drug” of choice was a socially acceptable drug, it made it not as stigmatic. I am here to tell you that in the world of addiction there is no such thing. Addiction to anything can not only destroy your relationships with the people you love but it can also be detrimental to your health. Case in point, I now have the bones of an 80-year-old.
I have osteoporosis.
The combination of my then-dangerously low body fat and unhealthy relationship to exercise reeked havoc on my hormones and depleted my bones, leaving them brittle and highly susceptible to fracture. I even suffered a stress fracture when I was 24 years old training for a half marathon.
My addiction will leave a lasting mark on my health and body, especially as I age, but it didn’t have to be that way.
In honor of Tommy Rosen’s 14 Days on the Wagon challenge (abstaining from addicting behaviors) and today being world mental health day, I wanted to share with you my experience with addiction and also challenge you to take the pledge to abstain from any addictive behavior for 14 days. What could this behavior be? Well, anything really. How can you tell if you are addicted to something or if you are caught up in an addictive behavior? Here are the 5 questions to ask yourself:
If you couldn’t practice this behavior how would you feel? Anxious, angry, restless, unworthy, out of control? If not doing a suspected addictive behavior leaves you feeling bad about yourself or agitated, it is a red flag.
Have you missed important social or family events in order to participate in this behavior? Have you backed out of important obligations because you wouldn’t be able to partake in the behavior? When you start to tailor your important events or responsibilities around a single behavior or back out of important obligations it might be time to take a closer look at things.
At the start of the day, do you plan to terminate the behavior only to find yourself right back at square one by the end of the day? Do you have a persistent desire to stop but day after day you are unsuccessful with stopping? With an addiction you might realize that the behavior is not serving you anymore but it seems not only impossible to stop, it is down right scary as hell to stop.
Do you spend most of your time thinking about the behavior or planning it? An addiction will preoccupy all your thoughts and make it really difficult to concentrate on anything else for too long.
Is the behavior having a negative impact on your health and relationships? Have friends or family negatively commented on your behavior? When you are dealing with an addiction there really is not time or energy left for real relationships.
This December I will be celebrating 7 years of recovery. 14 Days on the Wagon is an awesome reminder for me to keep moving forward. I challenge you to join me because there is no such thing as a healthy addiction.