Smoking. Drinking. Partying. Eating. Shopping. These have been my addictions. Today, I’m opening up to share my own experiences with addictions and vices, and how my family helped me win these battles.
The man who changed everything
I struggled with an eating disorder for many, many years and I still find myself struggling with body image from time to time. But the days of starving myself or eating until I threw up are definitely over. I remember the last time I made myself throw up after eating. I was just a few months into my relationship with my now husband. We had just finished a lovely meal together and out of habit, I waltzed into the bathroom to purge. I sat there on the floor, with the tap running so he couldn’t hear, and I thought “what a sad sight I am.” I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, just disgusted.
I realized that I was, for the first time, in a happy and functional relationship. If I wanted to keep this man in my life, I needed to have a little more self-respect. Right then and there, my mind raced ahead to the future – marrying him, settling down, and having kids. I wouldn’t be able to be a good partner or mother if I continued down this self-destructive path.
When I met him, I had also been smoking for 6 years. I LOVED it. He, on the other hand, did not. He was never opinionated about it, but I could tell he was not into a chick who smoked. I tried my best to not smoke around him, but the smell lingers and as we started taking trips together, it became increasingly hard to keep my nasty habit away from him. It got to the point where it was really difficult to concentrate and just be with him because I couldn’t stop thinking about when I could have my next cigarette. Annoying right?
I’d love to say that I quit smoking because of the health risks or for love. But in reality, it just came down to becoming less of an enjoyable habit and more of a pain in the ass. I won’t go through the details on how I quit, but once I had made up my mind, I was able to throw that habit away for good. And then, in true former-smoker fashion, I gained 15 pounds. Each time I would have reached for a cigarette, I reached for food. That’s when I realized I was not only orally fixated but had a very addictive personality. Why was I jumping from vice to vice?
Jumping from vice to vice
All addictions spark up that part of your brain called the “pleasure center.” So it’s no surprise that I went from diet pills & starvation, to binging and purging, to smoking, to overeating, to shopping, and then to alcohol. Although I had found freedom from one addiction, there was still an anxious part of me that needed to be calmed by something else. I was substituting one addiction for another in an attempt to fill a void that I didn’t even know existed. I needed to find the underlying cause of this constant need to self-destruct.
When I finally realized this pattern of compulsive behaviour and constant need to self-destruct, I thought I would seek out a professional to talk to. At the time, I was so ashamed to admit to seeing a therapist. But it set me free from so many burdens that I’m proud to say that it’s a practice that really worked for me. I only went to a few sessions before realizing what these underlying issues were. From there, I was able to openly talk to my husband about them and for the first time in my life, I was able to let go. I let go of things that happened so long ago that I didn’t even realize were still affecting me, but actually were. I no longer felt the need to fill an emotional void because I was able to identify it and talk about it and be listened to.
Changing our habits to serve others
Everybody’s motivations are different. Although I’m internally motivated, I find that I do need that extra push from loved ones around me. I need to know that I will be better able to serve those around me if I end up changing a habit, breaking an addiction, or leaving a vice behind. My husband and my kids are no doubt my biggest inspiration. They inspire me to leave bad habits in the past and continue down the road to a happier and healthier life.
The ability to realize patterns, connect those life-changing dots, and then to take action is one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. I will always have more work to do and get excited about self-improvement. After all, isn’t that why we’re all here? To be the best versions of ourselves so that we can better serve those around us.