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James O'Halloran holding multiple cigarettes in his mouth.

Breaking the Chains: Exploring Modern Addictions Through a Business Coaching Lens

In the book Hungry Ghosts Gabor Maté, a former GP in Canada and now expert on Trauma, describes the 20 years he worked in downtown Canada treating addicts hooked on Heroin and Crystal Meth etc. He painted the picture of his day treating these people. But he also discussed his own compulsion and realised he had an ‘acceptable’ addiction but an addiction, nonetheless.

While Gabor was treating his patients all he could think about was getting to the music shop and purchasing the latest classical composition. He was addicted to buying music CDs. Might seem innocuous by contrast with Heroin but he realised that it had the very same unmistakable grip on him. His compulsiveness impacted his life in many unhealthy ways, especially in his relationships with his wife and children.

His definition of addiction broadened my view of what it is:

“Any behaviour that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up.”

So, what are you addicted to? I.e. what is it that you would have real difficulty being without? 

What about:

— Thinking – I reckon 99% of us are guilty of ruminating; compulsively and continually thinking and yet most of it is useless

— Checking your phone. Or ‘doing’ something on your phone. Again, 99%  of us I reckon. Just try and go a day without it. Or even an hour…

— Coffee. Or Tea

— Alcohol

— Sex

— Sport / Gym / Exercise

— Listening to music or podcasts or the radio

— Food

Of course, some of this is harmless you might say. And -sure- it’s not necessarily causing overt damage.

But, anything we are addicted to, driven by or compulsively need to do is a way of avoiding pain. It’s an escape from feeling.

—We can’t heal what we don’t feel!—

As we run towards one thing we are running from something else.

Inquiring into what that ‘something else’ is is worthwhile. Go gently with this. Get support with it. See a therapist or a coach or a good -non-judgemental- friend. It does help to talk about things with someone who feels safe and will care for and respect you no matter what you expose.

But, in the meantime, see if you can delay your addiction even by a few minutes. For example, when you feel the urge to check Instagram see if you can delay that, even by 1 minute. If you manage this –well done! Do congratulate yourself. It’s important that you acknowledge and celebrate this moment of conscious awareness after all you broke the habit. Keep going…

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