My brother and I are total caffeine addicts. I once successfully quit coffee for two weeks; I think I’d prefer Chinese Water Torture. I dream extremely vividly and am not a morning person at all so it takes several hours for me to “acclimate” to the waking world. If I don’t have it, I turn into….well….Attila the Hun comes to mind. It has been a mere two weeks since I quit drinking. Now that I’m past the difficult transitioning phase it has been surprisingly easy. I don’t even miss it. But coffee, that’s quite another story. I feel like a baby in her playpen who keeps losing her toys. I just have one little jack-in-the-box left in my playpen – my very last toy – and if it’s taken away I’m going to be lost.
My brother has no glaring vices (to my knowledge) but if one day he didn’t have coffee pulsating through his veins I would be convinced that he would break into hives or convulsions – perhaps even stop breathing, who knows. As evidence of his obsession, one only need peruse his Facebook page which mentions coffee in practically every update, several times throughout the day: “Sleep is lame, where’s my coffee.”, “Coffee and music videos…wow, I love music.”, “Seth is coffee and IUDin it.”, “Coffee and charts…” If you can believe it, he might even be as addicted to coffee as he is to Facebook and that’s a sad state of affairs. (No offense bro, you know I love ya! :))
So being the impish provocateur of a big sister that I am, I publicly challenged him on Facebook to a 10-day No Caffeine Challenge, knowing that it would probably be more likely for my sandwich to strike up a conversation with me than for my brother to agree to 10 days without coffee. The money we would save on coffee for that time would be donated to our favourite charity and whoever breaks first (not gonna be me) has to triple the pot.
I was on a conference call last night with a great thought leader who is truly an expert in universal laws and he was talking last night about the nature of addictions. He said that all addictions have a common thread. It doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, work, Facebook, shopping, cigarettes, clothes, Twitter or coffee. For something to be an addiction, there has to be a compulsive attachment to it – one that feels difficult, if not impossible to break. The common thread of all addictions, he says, is this: we are using the addictive substance to run from feelings that cause us discomfort, or feelings that we are hiding or running from which make us depressed, anxious, sad or all around uncomfortable. We use the addictive substance or behavior as a buffer to avoid and run from these uncomfortable feelings. The solution then is to recognize what the feelings are, feel and relax into them, then totally embrace and accept them without masking or stuffing them down, and finally truly feel them, which in essence, lessens their power or totally eradicates them. Let’s face it, we all have addictions of some kind and although some addictions may cause more harm than others, they are all the same in that we are using this obsessive attachment to avoid something we are stuffing down. And let’s get real, we all have things we’re stuffing down or running from.
How many times have you seen someone’s addiction evolve in direct correlation to a great personal loss, or trauma? On the other hand, addictions can also creep in without notice, so covertly, that we have no reason to think anything is ‘wrong.’ But any compulsive attachment is nothing more than an effort to run from something we don’t want to face.
I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but let’s take coffee as an example. Why do I have an obsessive-compulsive need for coffee in the morning? Coffee is a drug and I know that it’s horrible for me, wreaking havoc on my kidneys and GI tract and depleting my body of vitamins and minerals, and possibly causing high blood pressure. Yet I don’t care and find it absolutely necessary. Insanity. What feelings am I running from? Well, if I’m forced to get up in the morning and go sit in a cubicle like a robot and be a drone and a cog in the wheel of ‘The Man’, then I need a buffer to run from that feeling that I’m not doing what I love or using my talents. In a way, coffee perks me up and makes the day ‘tolerable.’ Also, taking the drug caffeine has narcissistic benefits. It makes me feel 150% ‘on’. My brain chemistry is (temporarily) manipulated and I can feel invincible, uber on top of my game or with a rapid-fire mind. This, coffee-induced God-like feeling, of course, is also an illusion. If I’m depressed or lethargic about something in my life that I don’t like – No matter! – coffee will save the day and give me an instant pick-me-up. I’m not forced to face these emotions and go through them, thereby healing them permanently, because I’m just running from them and putting the Coffee Band-aid on them.
We all have different addictions and the reasons we default to these attachments will be different for everyone. Is it worth exploring and overcoming? Absolutely, I think so. To be free of attachments and addictions is to be totally liberated. We can’t hide from ourselves for the rest of our lives, because at the end of the day, we will always be there waiting.