Letting Go of an Addictive Behavior Will Set You Free
Written By: Mark Smith
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Asians have a very clever trap for catching monkeys. They hollow out a coconut, put something sweet in it, and make a hole at the bottom of the coconut just big enough for the monkey to slide its open hand in but not big enough for the monkey to withdraw its hand as a fist. They attach the coconut to the tree, and the monkey comes along and gets trapped. The only thing that keeps the monkey trapped is the force of desire, of clinging, of attachment. All the monkey has to do is let go of the sweet, open its hand, slip it out, and be free. But only a very rare monkey will do that.
Addictive behaviors do not just include the obvious of alcohol and drugs. The list of potentially addictive substances is virtually unlimited. My father's addiction of choice was actually playing Bridge. His whole life and our family's meager finances revolved around his next Bridge tournament. Food, sex, work, relationships, television, video games, the Internet, gambling, shopping, watching sports, Ipods, cigarettes, just about anything has the capacity to become an all encompassing addiction.
Do you have your hand stuck in a coconut as you clutch your particular special 'sweet'? Are you trapped by your clinging desire and attachment to your particular drug of choice? There are consequences to addictive behavior. If you eat too much, you will gain a lot of weight. If you are out of control sexually, you can very easily get your name in the paper at worst and you can certainly find yourself in a huge marital mess at best. If you work too much, your spouse will leave you eventually. Is there anything that has its addictive grip on your soul? If you have zero addictions, you are a rare individual. Most people in our culture have their fair share of issues and their fair share of addictive behaviors that they use to medicate their pain. Does your spouse complain about something that he or she feels that you are too attached to? Do you carry any secrets?
While I am not going to go into detail regarding my particular 'sweet', I will say that I know personally what it feels like to be that trapped monkey. When someone is caught in addictive behavior the last thing that they will ever consider is releasing their grip on their precious sweet. Letting go isn't easy. It might well be the most difficult thing that you will ever do. It was for me. But when you do let go of your addiction…of those cigarettes that are slowly killing you, of that chocolate cake that is killing your looks, or that 80 hour a week work schedule that is killing your marriage, you will face the opportunity to fill your life up with healthier options for self care. Take up a new hobby or rekindle an old one. Take the time to really talk with your spouse or with your kids. Take the time to invest in friendships. Get to the gym and work up a good sweat. Slow down and be present with yourself rather then being so addictively busy.
Addictions throw your life out of balance. They take you away from what you really should be focusing on. They take your focus away from your work (unless of course that IS your addiction), from your family, from your spirituality, and from your self. It is amazing how far away from themselves that people can get even they are in their own skins 24/7. The 12 Step groups say that addictions are cunning, baffling, and powerful; no truer words have ever been spoken. Does your day-to-day life reflect your values and who you want to be? My hope and prayer for you is that you would find the power to make your day-to-day life match your dreams, your values, and your true priorities. Be that rare monkey who takes your hand out of the coconut. Take good care of yourself until next week.
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