Your Addiction & Its Home Gym

This short piece is about addiction and its home gym in your living room.

Like it owns the place.

Cuz it does.

I’m writing to the people who struggle with compulsion and addiction. Although “compulsion” is not in the title, but “addiction” is, I’m going to use the terms interchangeably in a working (not academic or clinical) explanation: you’re doing harmful things over & over that you don’t want to do, but you cannot stop. You’re a compulsive, an addict.

Before we talk about why your addiction/compulsion is performing calisthenics in your front room, noisily moving the furniture, arguing with the TV, leaving piles of dirty dishes, and leaving empty Chinese food takeout boxes strewn everywhere, we need to unpack that working explanation.

First, as a working explanation, it assumes you have the bare minimum awareness to perceive some of what you’re doing. Note: if you refuse to heed this sort of self-awareness, don’t read any further — I don’t address your underlying issues. Meanwhile, the second assumption is that you’ve arrived at some insight that what you do is harmful — as a minimum, to self. This does not make you any less of an asshole, you just had two or four moments of semi-clarity where some of the costs of your compulsion landed on you. The third assumption (there are four) is that you’ve resolved you ought to stop acting out — doing your shit. However, for most people mired in addiction, this resolution is practically a bridge too far. The fourth assumption is that you attained enough perspective as to understand that absent a lifelong cessation, you’ll ultimately drown in the pool of destruction your compulsion produces. For some things, a life preserver isn’t enough.

So what are the takeaways of the above working explanation? When boiled down it gets to this: while you self-medicate, act out, harm others, and occasionally experience fragmented clarity, your addiction feeds on you. Did you ever think of addiction and compulsion as a vampire? Addiction and compulsion suck the life out of you. Before addiction and compulsion bleed you dry — the moment of body and spirit collapse, they come to you as an intriguing then indispensable guest.

As that guest, early addiction/compulsion brings a pattern of compulsive and addictive behaviors. Here, acting out — doing our compulsive “thing,” seems to do what other things cannot reliably do: numb us. Numbing works. Until it doesn’t. Over time addiction and compulsion require more fuel, then too much to dull your pain. Then, no cost is too high to attain even momentary relief. At that moment, you’re hurtling toward a bottom. It’s not that addictive energy velocity that kills. It’s the 144G sudden stop of hitting your bottom. Too many don’t survive.

The fuel you feed your addiction is money, time, relationships, others, your sanity, your integrity, your body, and your spirit. These are the things you heave into the wood chipper of compulsion. It’s called insanity for right reason. Addictive thinking is the loudest voice in the room. It out shouts and shouts down every healthy reason or helpful idea offered by others.

With a bottomless addiction to be fed, you’ve got a budding marshal arts compulsion/addiction athlete that converts your apartment, house, condo, car, office, etc. to a gym. The athlete turns maniacal and hijacks your life — of course, you give it the keys and unopposed access to the controls. Why? Because at first you’re thrilled; later you’re terrified. The faustian bargain is you get the relief you want, on call. Delusion. Things won’t actually work out that way. Meanwhile, your addiction is rehearsing its moves and doing workout circuits in your front room. Why not your bedroom? It doesn’t want to sleep with you, it’s not interested in the sex. Compulsion won’t tolerate excuses like, “I have a headache,” or “Not tonight, I’m tired.” Your addiction is better than sex. It performs.

You don’t yet understand that your compulsion screws you over by doing what it does, out of your sight — hoping you will not or can not notice it bulking up in the next room. If you decoded your addiction behavior, you might attempt to live out one of the myriad New Year’s sobriety resolutions you’re unable to keep. Worse yet, perceiving an extant threat from the out of control addiction athlete in the house, you may attempt to banish the compulsion from your life. You underestimate your opponent. Addiction is clever. It’s aware that you may attempt sobriety. To avoid hope-inspired outcomes that spell the demise of addiction in your life, your compulsion will instead chaperone you down the boulevard of chronic self-sabotage. You’ll go.

If you think your addiction will play the part of the nice roommate — that you can negotiate with it, you’re deluded. Your compulsion is going to arm wrestle your ass, and show you again and again who’s in charge. Hint: it ain’t you…yet. This dynamic will progress to a moment, or string of moments where it lords over you as you suffer in your inner darkness, induced stupor, or inebriated unconsciousness. It won’t register what your addiction says next. It will brazenly whisper in your face: you’re pathetic and I own you. Do what I say when I say. You will. Why? Because “here” is the outcome you could not see coming. Then there’s the pain. You cannot remember when you ever felt good about life…yourself.

Given that you have all the worth, purpose, and value you could ever need, how could you be this dim?

A leading question: who in the room with you now decided to invite compulsion/addiction into your life? Hint: see the mirror. But this fact is potentially an unfair judgement. Sure, you extended that invitation, but that was you — then. The problem is that the you of today lacks a plan and logic for liberating self from the compulsion that is eating you alive. Insight: addiction is not out for your body. It wants your spirit….your body follows. Before it abducts your capacity, you have the decision authority to extinguish the dumpster fire and reclaim your life. To do that, you’ll need something bigger than you.

Here you are. This sucks. You’ve got an addiction gym and a budding compulsion/addiction athlete where you live and work. What to do? Throw the son of a bitch out. Now…while eviction is a winnable confrontation. What if you waited too long and your compulsion has the strength and moves of a blackbelt jujitsu athlete? Get help. Get reinforcements. But don’t try this: don’t move into your friend’s basement hoping to elude your compulsion. This tactic will doom your friendship and delay sobriety. How? Because wherever you flee, the calls will keep coming from inside the house…within you.

Home gyms are cool. You need a gym that is not part of a plot to kill you.

I want you to be well. But you’ve got to want it for yourself…before all other people and all other things. Period.

A recovering addict with all the bruises, breaks, and scar tissue…and hope.