I’m a recovering junkie
(This week’s Addiction & Recovery column is hosting a guest article written and contributed by Audrey Holst.)
I’m slowly healing an addiction.
I never thought it would happen to me. I always thought addicts were people with issues with booze or drugs. I denied I had a problem for a long time. But it’s time I come clean.
I was addicted to my cell phone.
It was the first thing I looked at in the morning. My cell is also my alarm so as soon as it went off I already had my phone in hand. It was easy to thumb through the e-mails that came in overnight. Browse through my Facebook newsfeed. Before I’d even gotten out of bed I’d gotten my first hit. At any point in the day my e-mail made its distinctive ‘ding’ noise I would be reaching to read and answer it. Any action on my Facebook newsfeed or timeline called for contact, it didn’t matter where or when it happened. I checked it compulsively. Even if I wasn’t sure if there was an alert, I’d check my phone. Before I went to bed at night I’d check and re-check my e-mail. I’d check my newsfeed. I’d browse a few pages. I’d be plugged in until the very last moment before my eyes closed.
I left my phone at home one day and you would have thought I had lost a limb.
This may seem silly to some people since it’s such a regular part of our society. It’s an acceptable addiction because the majority of us indulge in it. But explain that to a boyfriend that I used to make feel completely de-valued during dates interrupted by “urgent” work e-mails. Explain those moments spent awake at night because I checked my e-mail right before bed only to find an irritating message that could have been dealt with in the morning. Explain hours of valuable time lost because I went down the rabbit hole that is going through people’s pages on Facebook.
Explain this to couples at dinner tables (and I’ve seen them) never looking up at each other, glued to their phone screens. Explain this to a sidewalk full of pedestrians walking into each other with their faces obsessively scanning their cells. Explain this to drivers all over the country weaving across highway lanes at high speeds watching the progress of their phone messages more than the progress of the road.
Just because so many of us do it, doesn’t mean it’s any less destructive to the quality of our lives. Nomophobia is an actual term first created by British researchers in 2008 to describe people who experienced anxiety when they had no access to mobile technology. Stress levels soared when people were unable to tap into their phones.
Some personal side-effects of my addiction? Unnecessary stress and obsessive uncontrollable thoughts at all hours of the day. My relationship ended due to lack of intimacy. Could I say my cell-phone broke us up? Perhaps not, but it was certainly a huge indicator of my bigger problem.
What was the addiction really asking for? I started to dig deeper into this while doing the inner work during my Life Coach training. I value living an aware and conscious life and I am dedicated to being present. Being at the beck and call of a small little electronic device was against my major beliefs. What was I really searching for every time I reached for my phone?
Every time I picked up my phone I was trying to satisfy the desire for connection, but without the risk that often comes along with it. In the case of my “urgent” work e-mail interrupted dates, I was avoiding face-to-face intimacy. It’s so easy to hide behind technology while sharing vulnerable details of your life but to do it face-to-face with a real person makes the experience so much more intense, and any perceived judgement for sharing yourself, so much more harsh. Every time I answered a work e-mail I felt needed and important. And who doesn’t want to feel needed and important? I wanted to be seen and heard and cherished but rather than meet those needs through my personal relationships, I buried myself in the technological ones.
There is a theory that addiction to cell phone use acts like a “gateway drug” to fuel the search for other substances that keep uncomfortable sensations at bay. In the past, I drank to deal with certain feelings. I also made a recent discovery that I use food to squash emotions I don’t want to deal with.
I’ve gotten to the point that I’m tired of dealing with my own B.S. and avoiding of things that challenge me emotionally. Time to cut through it and get real.
It’s an ongoing process, but the long story short of it, I’ve been tapping into my yoga practice to help guide me. Just like we encourage the body to be uncomfortable in yoga postures as a vehicle for change, there is nothing different about the mind or emotions being uncomfortable in everyday life situations. I have to be willing to lean into that discomfort. I’ve done work around my relationship issues with fellow coaches. I’ve discovered that being connected to nature is another necessary element to ground me and bring me back to a stable place to move from. I’ve cleaned up my diet and have a much healthier relationship to food. I’ve been working outside my comfort zone sober and with technology out of reach.
I still catch myself having ghost thoughts and compulsions of past habits but the pull is significantly less. My dedication to being aware and conscious is powerful. I feel more at peace. More in control of my life. I feel like a more authentic version of myself.
Our addictions are actually misguided attempts at self-care. We engage in them to fill a really important need. However, addictions don’t address the root problem. They are like putting a flimsy band-aid over a severed artery. When it doesn’t stop the hemorrhaging we add more and more band-aids. Until we are willing to get that artery stitched up, which usually requires asking for help and is often a much harder, and more challenging process than just piling on band-aids, we will continue to bleed out. I send love to all of us that are on this path.
Can you relate to this journey? What did it, or what will it, take for you to heal?