The first thing any of us needs to identify is what’s causing us grief. Is it a substance, event, or thing that has life-damaging consequences (definition of addiction) or is it someone with a bad habit that’s your focus?
The simplest test is to ask one question.
How do you feel immediately after you indulge in your habit?
Before the consequences hit and the remorse sets in.
In the moment of use immediately after, is it relief like, “Oh, I feel better now.” Almost a euphoria. Or are you still as pissed off, anxious, or afraid as you were before you did it? Only now you've added a pile of guilt and shame to the mix.
Early in my recovery, I heard the story of a couple who were fighting. He had been out drinking and didn’t call to say he would be late, it wasn’t the first time, and obviously it wouldn’t be the last.
When he came home, his partner met him in the driveway and a screaming match ensued. Suddenly, in a rage, he opened the trunk, pulled a tire iron, and started bashing in the windshield of their family car. In reaction, his mate grabbed a child’s baseball bat and began smashing the other side of the windshield. Of course, neighbors called the police and both were arrested, their children were taken into protective custody while they sorted it all out in the court system.
Which one do you think had relief from those actions?
They both went to jail, so the question for the addict is:
Which one felt better before the police arrived?
One of them (the addict) felt relief from venting and probably angry about the consequences that followed. The other (co-dependent) was struck immediately with a sense of reality and felt remorse.
In the addict’s world view, it’s someone else's fault. They are under-responsible.
In the co-dependent’s world view, it’s always their own fault. They are over-responsible.
So, first we need to know who we are. Which one are you?
Kim Halsey is a human resource professional and executive coach who helps people overcome life damaging habits, restore important relationships, and live their dreams without drama.