Hungry Ghosts – Addiction


Today a bit about my personal struggle with unhealthy addictions. I was listening to Tara Brach’s podcast all last week about addictions and looking at mine more closely. She included things I dont normally consider addictions like sugar, and it helped me have a closer look at my own addictions. And the weekend train-smash with alcohol helped with the motivation to take more care and responsibility.

I took a bit of a wake up call after last weekend and realised that I don’t want to continue harming myself by acting in a way that is in conflict with my goals of being kind to myself and healthy.

I engage in habits that that are not good for me, I have known this for a long time, but told myself that they were necessary ‘treats’ to get through the days.

Feel a bit lonely/bored/existential angst – have a nice familiar sweet cup of tea or a glass of wine or go check Facebook or have a nice big tasty meal. I know that I have the tools now to look after my ‘hungry ghosts’ as she calls the feelings that accompany urges. I can comfort them and be kind.

So what happens if I were to just let these habits fall away? This week is an experiment in that.

The most prominent of my addictions are:

  • the frequency of alcohol intake and overindulgence at times
  • way too much sugar
  • unnecessary eating in general
  • Facebook

Alcohol. This is the most damaging one. I wrote recently about the results of my weekend partying, and the inner carnage that created, and about the fears I had about giving up alcohol and saying goodbye to the last bit of social life. The answer to that excuse/fear arrived rather quickly.

I was invited by around by my lovely neighbours last night for dinner and drinks. ‘No thank’ you I said, ‘on a strict diet and so not drinking’. ‘Come round for a cup of tea then’ they said. ‘Okay’, and I did. I sat as they ate a meal with wine and then whiskey with another guest for a few hours and I felt completely fine. I didn’t feel tempted nor depriving myself one bit. I enjoyed the company.

It was also interesting being on the outside and watching what alcohol does to people, it was alright though. I can be just as open as them when they drink when Im not drinking, and I joined in the conversation fine. I really enjoyed that I was looking after myself and still having fun chat.

So that blows that myth/excuse my mind came up with that I would have to give up my social life. Not so. But the attachment isn’t just about my social life.

It is in myself, the hunger for ‘more than’ what is. It was a little bit of entertainment to fill in time, a ‘deserved treat’ at the end of the day. But fun at a high price. The dissonance of being a slave to habit, the empty calories, the health side and being over double the 14 weekly alcohol units recommended. And getting up to go to the loo in the night frequently after drinking liquids so close to sleep time. Then feeling more tired in the morning, and sometimes groggy and lacking energy.

Sugar. I drink about 12 mugs of tea a day and have a big teaspoon of honey in each one. Empty unnecessary calories and in conflict with my fitness and weight loss goal. The cognitive dissonance of indulging short term pleasures at the expense of long term goals is very painful to carry each day. This is not being kind. So this week I have reduced the sugar/honey intake to nearly zero. I’m not going cold turkey on this, just drastically cutting it down. Fat free milk too.

Eating. This week I have had a very carefully controlled diet. No getting a curry take away. Cooking for myself and eating only fresh vegetables, prawns, chicken breast. No bread, butter, oil, rice, pasta. I make a pot of soup/stew in the morning, and it lasts all day. I am being careful not to get hungry especially when I go out to prevent a dash for a snack in a shop. I am declining dinner invitations from the neighbours and my mum.

Facebook. Big addiction the last few years. I dropped it last week, as the cognitive dissonance of the addiction was becoming just too painful. I was checking my FB page so often, like 20 times a day. I know about the serotonin rush that ‘likes’ give, I get that, I felt it, the approval of others. I dont need those little mini hits though, and I can now comfort, nurture, give myself attention and ‘like’ myself!

It was breaking up my day and concentration so much. Reading endlessly what others are doing in their lives, when actually I am not really that interested. And also feeling ‘obliged’ socially to like others posts. So time consuming and for what? So I now use another account for maintaining my business and community pages, and no friends will be added! I feel much freer.

The outcome of this experiment, taking into account that it is barely 4 days, I am feeling good about myself, much more congruous. So far my sleep has been less disturbed, no loo trips. Energy and mood in a good stable place. In the evenings I go for a dusk walk in the woods along the river, much more enjoyable than drinking.

I wake up looking forward to each day of being kind to myself. I have lost over 2 pounds already, that’s and very encouraging. Im about 25 BMI which is within the healthy range for my height and age, but on the upper end. I have wanted to feel a bit lighter on my feet for ages. I just know how much healthier that is, and I like not being plump, and enjoy the wider range of clothes that I can wear.

So a good start.

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