For those of you who don’t know, the X-Files and Californication actor David Duchovny recently checked himself in rehab for sexual addiction. In Tuesday’s Metro article, “Tackling `addiction’ ” journalist Josey Vogel isn’t convinced those obsessed with sex are addicts.
According to the Health A to Z website, they define addiction as, “a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance.” Furthermore, they separate addiction into two categories: substance addiction and process addiction.
Substance addiction includes the abuse of chemical substances like alcohol and drugs, such as nicotine, marijuana and sedatives. Process addiction includes obsessive behaviour like gambling, spending, shopping, eating and sex.
Vogel disagrees that excessive people can be called addicts. She argues that behaviours like sex are a natural way to enjoy a full life. She suggests that sex is, “just one of many appetite-related activities we have to learn to enjoy in a moderate and healthy way.”
It’s true that chemical dependency is easier to accept. It’s because the addict physically requires the chemical to avoid experiencing painful withdrawal. Vogel says that behaviour addiction is problematic because, really, who has the power to define “too much”? Potentially, and this is a scary thought, everything we find pleasurable in our lives has the power to become an addiction!
The caveat for addiction lies in the outcome. Christina Grof (a former addict herself) writes in The Thirst for Wholeness :
“Eventually we find ourselves caught in a ruinous addictive cycle that threatens our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being. We can no longer control our relationship with whatever substance, activity, or relationship we have chosen as an answer to our problems. We think of it incessantly, plan for it, and habitually participate in it. We become increasingly helpless when faced with the object of our obsession, until something forces us to change.”
David Duchovny and Lindsay Lohan may have started partaking in earthy pleasures moderately, but like other addicts, ended up using these activities as a means of coping with life. Even though they use different means, their coping mechanisms take over and become more important than certain aspects of their lives: health, family, friends, their jobs, etc. Addicts, the lucky ones, realize that they’ve lost control.
What does David, Lindsay and other addicts have in common with the rest of the world?
Grof explains that after she got clean, other various enticements threatened to replace alcohol. S he felt as if she was a hopeless addict. She noticed that while some of the things she did in her life were definitely addictive and had drastic repercussions, there were other activities that did not obviously harm her or others:
“Some of them even bring genuine pleasure and enjoyment. However, just as with alcohol, these activities, substances, or relationships do bring pain, however mild. When I do not have them, I feel pain. If I want them but cannot reach them, I feel pain. If I get them and realize they will not last very long, I feel pain. If I have had them and want them again, I feel pain.”
Vogel’s uncertainty about process addiction is answered through Grof’s insight and memory of a central theme in Buddhist teachings: “the root of all suffering is attachment or clinging to other people, places, objects, or behaviors…that life contains suffering; the cause of suffering is attachment or craving…”
People cause themselves and others grief by creating drama through emotional attachments. Even those who do not consider themselves addicts can be attached to money, success, their life roles (like being a parent or spouse), their jobs, goals, attitudes, prejudices, denial systems, religion and even spirituality!
Grof speculates addiction and emotional attachment are two aspects of the same phenomenon. At one end of the spectrum is extreme addiction and at the other, mild attachment. In this theory, every human grapples with certain aspects of this continuum in their search for happiness. She says our reoccurring dissatisfaction stems from a vague sense of emptiness that we all share; and tend to use addictions and attachments to fill this void.
What is this void? Well, that’s another blog post. But, Reader, do you ever feel this emptiness that she speaks of? And what do you think it is?