In a recent conversation with someone very close to me who has been struggling with an eating disorder for quite some time, we explored her “addiction” and how to work through it.
This may be useful to you if you’re battling an addiction or if you’re supporting someone who is going through one.
In her case, the first thing to understand was this:
Food is NOT a problem.
Food is NOT your problem.
Food is THE solution.
Let me explain…
When we acknowledge that we have a problem with food (either indulging too much or fiercely avoiding it) we are basically in the middle of an addictive pattern.
You can replace food with alcohol, drugs, sex, work, exercise and even books!
An addiction is whatever we are using to disconnect, numb and distance ourselves from reality.
The opposite of addiction is connection.
Addiction numbs, connection feels.
Addiction bypasses and ignores, Connection sits with, understands and loves.
However, addiction is not a “bad” thing.
Addictions are NOT the problem!
Alcohol, food, sex and even drugs are not the problem.
They are only unsustainable and unconscious solutions that our body and mind have found to cope with a deeper issue.
Our addiction is THE SOLUTION that we have found to navigate a larger problem.
It is just not a very good one.
In my friend’s case, we explored that food for her was not the problem.
Food was the way in which she found comfort, pleasure and instant satisfaction.
Thinking about food, overeating, worrying about food, and so on… make it very easy for people to think they have a food problem.
I asked her the following questions:
” What do you not have to deal with, look at or feel when you’re focused on food? “
” What is the emotion that has you think and obsess about food? “
” What is your body really asking you for in those moments? “
Only by sitting with these questions and exploring what her body, mind and soul really want moment to moment she will be able to address the core issue.
It may be that she feels an enormous amount of weight and anxiety because of the current situation and her family challenges, and food provides a handy, quick comfort.
If that’s the case, working on sourcing her sense of security, safety and trust from within are the only ways in which she’ll stop unconsciously resorting to food.
Perhaps she’s overwhelmed by the lack of direction in her life, the lack of clarity around what she wants to do mixed with her inner desire to be seen, to be impactful, to matter…
And then food provides not only comfort but it literally makes you a “bigger” person. It makes you more noticeable, easily seen, it gives you more matter.
The opposite is also true – when we are afraid of taking space in the world – our body will adapt to reflect that.
Do you see where I’m going?
Food (or any addiction) is the cheap solution that we’ve temporarily found to a deeper challenge that we are facing.
And until we face that challenge, the addiction will persist.
Until we provide our body and heart with a healthier and conscious way of navigating the situation, it will do what it can to find whatever readily available solution.
So as long as she focuses on food as the problem, she will (and actually has) spend years of her life chasing her own tail.
Trying to fix something that is not broken.
Paying for help and placing her attention on the smoke instead of the fire.
So what do we do when facing an unhealthy habit?
1) You realize that this addiction is not a problem. It is the solution you found to something else and acknowledge it and thank it for trying to take care of you.
Zero judgement is necessary before we go to the next step.
2) Compassion and exploration. You ask yourself the deeper questions and you listen – no matter how uncomfortable it gets.
Next time you feel the compulsion to indulge in _____, you slow down, ask yourself what is really going on and go down the rabbit hole.
There may be a lot of things we’ve been brushing under the carpet and we must learn to sit with the pain and anxiety in order to understand it.
3) Once we understand the root of the pain and disconnection, we start working on healing it.
We can do it on our own or ask someone experienced to support and guide us through the process. It is important to not bypass and address every emotion, sensation and situation that comes up.
We do this until we’ve reached a point of acceptance and self love – where we no longer judge our addiction but understand it and embrace the process that happened and why it happened.
NOW we are ready for new, conscious and focused action.
We become curious about healthier alternatives and structures that can support our healing process. If the addiction was linked to toxic relationships, this is the time to end them.
If it was linked to a lack of self-care, this is the moment when we implement a self-care plan.
This is where emotion meets direction – Where feelings and planning cooperate in order to integrate what we have learned.
You can’t skip any step.
If you jump straight into action without working through the emotional layers first, you will feel like you’re running uphill.
We must acknowledge our emotional world so there is space and release.
It is only on a blank canvas that we are fully able to paint something new and create the beautiful picture that we choose.
So remember, your addictions are not the problem.
They are often a nudge that your body and mind are giving you, so you can slow down and care enough to look at the real issue.
They are the way your body has learned to survive and cope with a reality that perhaps you didn’t know how to navigate better at the time.
So don’t overthink them.
Thank them instead.
Accept. Understand. Love.
And only then, you’ll be ready to let go.