Sunday, October 9, 2011

Addictions: The Greatest Enemy to Modern Men.

Addictions are becoming a massive problem in our society.  Drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, over eating, gambling are just some of the many addictions that plague our modern world.  I honestly don't know if it is any worse today as it was 100 years ago but regardless it is a problem.  In my work as a therapist I have not met a single person who does not suffer from some sort of addiction, and all of those addictions are affecting the lives and the lives of the families of those individuals.  They curse these compulsive behaviors but often feel they lack the ability to control them.  How do you know if you have an addiction?  What makes an behavior an addiction?  What is the difference between why someone drinks when he goes out to dinner and another becomes an alcoholic?  Why can one person go to Vegas and gamble a bit on vacation but another can't seem to control the urge to place a bet?  The answer is in what an addiction actually is.

Everything we do in life we do for a reason.  We eat to live and to socialize and we exercise to keep our bodies healthy. If food tasted disgusting and made us unhealthy we would not eat.  If exercise made a us gain weight and brought us closer to death we would avoid it.  My point is, as stated above, that everything we do, we do for a reason.  That includes addictive behaviors.  Addicted individuals do not just engage in their addictive behaviors for fun or leisure.  If that was the only reason they would be able to control the behavior.  Addictions serve a purpose for the individual they are a way for a person to self-sooth.  It is a way for an individual to leave behind something that is difficult for them to deal with.  Even if just for a few minutes their mind can be on something other than their lost job, their divorce, the bills, the loss of a loved one, or a million other things that could plague an individual in life.  For a short time they can retreat to a place where they feel "safe" from their worries.  When someone is looking at porn they are not thinking about anything but the image and the feelings of endorphins running through their body.  When someone is on drugs they receive a small dose of overpowering pleasure that overwhelms any feelings of stress or sadness.  For a few minutes they are free from the pain. 

We live in a high stress society.  We work long hours at jobs and come home to more responsibilities.  We engage in outside activities such as teams or clubs in order to alleviate the stress but many times just causing more.  We deal with the worry of our families and the negativity that they are exposed to.  Divorce rates are high and financial strain is nothing new to people.  Some are dealing with things much deeper such as abuse, or self-hate stemming from a lifetime of contributing factors.  We create a world of stress with very few outlets, so we turn to alcohol, drugs, sex and food to escape.  The problem is that these activities will never provide us with happiness.  They might give a small taste of manufactured happiness but all that is, is pleasure and pleasure doesn't last.  The effects will wear off and then we either need to address the problems or continue avoiding by delving into more addictive behavior.  The problem is that this pleasure coming from addiction doesn't fix what is under the addiction so no matter what we do the root survives and the addiction keeps popping up.  We may go to step-meetings or remove ourselves from our friends who support the activity but unfortunately if the root is never killed the weed of addiction will always grow back.

So deal with your problems, that sounds easy enough?  So why do so many people struggle year after year with compulsive addictive behavior?  The problem lies in the sad fact that our hectic society creates stress which leads to addiction but our society also tells men that it is unmasculine to deal with your problems, especially those that are emotional, which many are.  Men are not permitted to feel so they suppress their feelings with alcohol, drugs, sex, or, fill in your addiction _________.  They feed into the lie that men don't cry and men don't feel anything except anger and happiness.  So what is a man to do?

Well, a man needs to be a man and stop running from his problems.  That may sound harsh but I believe it needs to be said bluntly.  Stop being a wuss and face yourself.  The most courageous thing a man can do is face the battle within.  It is a place that many men fear more than any other place in the world.  The realms of our soul is where the true battle to freedom lies.  Many men are bound by their addictions and lack the confidence to break free.  Interestingly the word for addiction in Dutch in verslaved meaning enslaved.  I think this word describes addiction perfectly.  Someone who is addicted has no freedom.  Their life is controlled by something outside of themselves.  Men, take your lives back and free yourself.  you will never reach your potential or your goals in life until you are able to break the bonds of your addiction and face your problems head on.  How do you know what you need to address?  Take a good look at yourself and address the thing you want to avoid the most.  That is likely the main root of your problem.

In dealing with the problems under your addiction you are going to have to break another societal norm and that is you need to trust in your buddy.  You need support from other men and that does mean you might need a shoulder to cry on.  If you are married you will need support from your wife as well but the support you can get from your brothers is irreplaceable.  Depending on how deep you are willing to go you could join a men's circle such as The Mankind Project, or you could see a therapist to help you sort out some deep rooted problems.  Whatever you do, do not face these shadows alone. 

So, in conclusion, be a man and do  what you need to do to be a better man!  Stop letting your addictions control you, take control of your own life and your own destiny.

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