NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
I don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior. I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.” While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do. I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!
Do What Works!
It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy. I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps. My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by. My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.” Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.
This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior. I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”
Louise Hay on Addictions
Louise Hay believes that addictive behavior is another way of saying, “I’m not good enough.” When we engage in compulsive actions, we are trying to run away from both our uncomfortable feelings and ourselves. Some feelings we have are so painful that we do not want to look at them, so we drink, abuse drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much money, or any number of other actions which serve to numb our feelings and allow us to escape from reality.
Louise believes that the first step to overcoming what we’ve termed addictions is to acknowledge that there is a need in us to engage in these self-destructive actions. In order to stop the compulsive behavior, we have to release the need which is underlying it.
Fearful and “Not Good Enough”
According to Louise Hay, the addictive personality is generally a very fearful one. People who are consumed by their compulsive behaviors tend to be highly fearful of letting go and trusting the process of life (“control freaks,” anyone?). They often believe that the world is an unsafe place full of people and situations that are just waiting to create stress and pain in their lives. They also tend to be highly critical and unforgiving toward themselves and may even suffer from acute self-hatred.
People who suffer from addictions never feel that who they are and what they do is “good enough,” so they punish themselves day after day. The addictions are a way of both punishing themselves and suppressing uncomfortable feelings and memories. The addiction becomes “the problem” and the person may focus all of his or her energy on that instead of looking at the underlying issues, which are most often related to a lack of self-love and self-approval.
Keys to Releasing Addictions
As with all problems that people experience in life, Louise Hay believes that loving and approving of oneself are the keys in releasing addictions. Also critical is learning to trust both yourself and the process of life. Of course, these things are easier said than done, but that is the reason for “You Can Heal Your Life” and The Healing Project. It isn’t easy to release addictions and heal our lives, but it IS possible!
The exercises in Chapter 6 of the YCHYL Companion Book provide a good starting point for examining the beliefs and attitudes which underlie compulsive behaviors. One of the exercises asks us to list ten secrets that we’ve never shared with anyone regarding our addiction. The objective is to look at our very worst actions and to be able to love the person who did those things.
My Secret Addictive Behavior re: Shopping
The main compulsive behavior in which I engage at this point in my life is shopping and overspending. I realize that this behavior is compulsive because I often feel ashamed and remorseful for my actions. Many of my actions are secretive and manipulative. My husband has entrusted me with managing the household finances, so my subterfuge is not all that difficult. However, since the goal of my “healing project” is to heal myself and my life, I want to overcome my compulsive shopping “addiction.”
In the service of that goal, I will share a few of the secrets I listed in the exercise described above. I realize that I may be harshly judged for my behavior, but I am a big believer in the notion that “the truth shall set you free.”
- I hide new clothes and put them away when my husband isn’t around.
- I use “creative accounting” to make it look like I’ve spent less money. I put clothing and accessory purchases in other “buckets,” such as gifts, beauty, and household.
- I change the dates of purchases so that it won’t look like I’ve spent too much money in any given month.
- I use store credit cards (and sometimes even open new accounts) so that the bills won’t come until later. I know I will have to “face the music” later, but at least I’m able to get my “fix” in the moment.
- Sometimes I buy something for myself along with a gift for someone else and account for the entire purchase under “gifts.”
- I buy things to get the thrill in the moment and later return them so that I can shop some more (this is a more recent behavior but is happening a lot).
Insights and Forgiveness
Although I am embarrassed to reveal some of my secrets regarding shopping, it feels liberating to be open and honest with my readers. Now that I look at my secrets again, I realize that they are not that bad. I am able to follow Louise Hay’s advice to look into the mirror and tell myself, “I forgive you, and I love you exactly as you are.” I may not fully mean what I am saying just yet, but the important thing is that I want to mean it.
Beating myself up for my past actions doesn’t solve anything and only serves to make me feel worse, which may lead me to compulsively spend more money. It is far more productive to face the music, forgive myself, make amends where needed, and commit to loving myself more and doing better in the future.
Some Final Words from Louise
We don’t have to keep punishing ourselves for our past wrongs, either real or imagined. Holding on to the past only hurts us because we are not living in the moment and experiencing all of the good things which life has to offer. The past is over and cannot be changed! By reliving the past, we strengthen our emotional attachment to it and punish ourselves today for what cannot be undone. As we let go of the past, we then become free to use all of our mental power to enjoy today and create a bright future for ourselves.
I close with a few powerful affirmations from Louise Hay on the topic of addictions:
- “I am willing to release the need for ______ in my life. I release it now and trust in the process of life to meet my needs.”
- “No matter what the past may have been, now in this moment I choose to eliminate all negative self-talk and to love and approve of myself.”
- “No person, place or thing has any power over me. I am free.”