Emotional addiction – I see it daily in my practice with those working on overcoming sexual addiction and intimacy anorexia. All too often couples quit recovery too soon, as the work is too difficult and too painful emotionally. They also quit recovery too early, because they are experiencing positive feelings which they believe are an indicator that they are healthy and no longer need to finish the bottle of medicine prescribed to them to totally eliminate the infection. Once the infection returns, the couple will once again temporarily seek help.
I defined emotional addiction as “an individual who chronically allows their negative or positive emotions to dictate and control their actions or behaviors, which may be caused but are not limited to previous life experiences or traumas while disregarding or discrediting factual information around them.”
Do you have an emotional addiction? Answer yes or no as it applies to you more often than not.
- You base your social and personal activities on your positive or negative emotions. Your feelings dictate how you act.
- You are often offended, stuck in judgment, accusation, blame, or critical thinking toward others.
- You have a difficult time hearing and accepting the word “no” from others. It is difficult for you to stay in relationship with those who disagree with you.
- Even though factual information and proof has been given to you, you refuse to accept the data, as this does not agree with your emotional reality.
- You find it difficult to finish things that you start, because they feel too difficult and/or you started to feel better and believed you no longer needed to continue receiving help that initially motivated you.
- Your feelings serve as a lie-detector in order for you to determine what is true about the world around you. Your good/positive feelings are a detector of what is “true.” Your bad/negative feels are a detector of what is “false.”
- You have a difficult time verbally expressing your emotions as well as staying calm and present.
- You use drugs, sex, intimacy anorexia, alcohol, gaming, shopping, internet, TV, etc. to chronically numb, oftentimes, feeling worse instead of better after use.
- You eat to medicate your emotions even though you are not hungry.
- You have had moments of uncontrolled anger that has caused you problems in your personal or professional life.
- Being alone causes you anxiety. It is difficult for you to be still, quiet and just be without trying to fill the space and time with doing.
- The daily success or failure of your career has a significant impact on how you feel about yourself.
- Rarely do you allow yourself to feel joy. You rather live disappointed than ever feel disappointed.
- You believe you have suffered emotional abuse from others. You believe if only they would change, your life would be better.
Answering “yes” to 7 or more of these may indicate you have an emotional addiction.
Here are some steps you can take to overcome an emotional addiction.
- Journaling is the best thing you can do to begin to learn how to take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behavior. It is the best recovery book you will ever purchase. Take time each day to journal your positive and negative feelings about the events of the day. Journal your nighttime and future dreams. As I have written before, journal about what you want your life to look like and begin seeing yourself accomplish these dreams.
- Prayer is a very powerful tool to get in touch with your emotions. Faith or no faith, prayer not only changes your circumstances, but it begins to change you. Use your journal to record and prayers and keep track of how they have been answered.
- Be teachable. Take time to read material that interests, grows and stretches you emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and financially. Find balance, shut off the TV and unplug from social media on a regular basis.
- Stop being so entitled by your emotions. Remember feelings are real but not always reality. Make a decision to let someone you trust who loves you enough to speak into your life even when you might not agree with them or like it. Choose someone who will hold you accountable. Twelve step groups or support groups are an excellent option.
- Make a deadline to begin the journey and get help by a lay person or a professional. The reason so many people fail at making changes in their life is that they don’t have a “buddy” system, and they never make a deadline for themselves. Make a deadline and stick with it. If you don’t make the deadline, have a severe consequence for yourself. If you make the deadline, reward yourself. (Read the blog on Recovering from your unmet Resolutions.
Make a commitment to stop allowing your emotions to dictate how you act. Finish the race you started. YOU ARE WORTH IT! Finish what you started and bring it to completion regardless of how difficult it might feel. Even though you feel better and the pain is gone, it doesn’t mean the infection has been eliminated.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.