It is the human condition.
We are all addicted to something. I have not been addicted to substances, but I identify with people who have been. I have had conversations with those who have been and I understand. My addictions have been to a few actions and emotions. One action was running away or storming out. That was my way to cope with a fight, to run away. Instead of running away it could so easily have been drinking. I became more and more stylish with my running away, designing trips and moving cities in an effort to stay away from being present to emotions of fear and sadness. That’s what substances cover up too—fear and sadness and loss of connection, and the having to confront them.
That’s what addictions allow us to do: addictions are simply self-rewarding habits which keep our minds occupied long enough to ignore what’s going on inside us.
Anger blinded me to them just like a few beers might have for someone else, or sex or TV for someone else. I was for the longest time, and many men can understand this, addicted to anger. That and the negative attitude that surrounded it, those were my MAIN addiction. I was short-fused, quick-tempered, temperamental. But how long could I have continued with that story? How long could I’ve continued telling that story, the one of “Oh, I just have a short fuse.” How long could I say this in order to NOT grow?
As one of many changes I made when I began working with a mentor and meditating like a fiend in the end of 2015, I began to let go of this story. After years and years of feeling the rush of feeling anger, the dopamine surges began to not be enough. My hedonic set-point needed more. But luckily, I didn’t take it to the next level. That might’ve meant harming others or self, or trading up for a substance addiction. No, instead it simply crumpled inward. When I began to want to change my short temper and rotten attitude, it came from a place of burn-out. I was so burnt out with who I had become. So sick of myself. Creating fights and then running from them. Letting myself feel angry just sitting by myself! An idea or memory would come up and I would let myself “get worked up” about it. Needlessly!
Anger in itself does nothing. If it is political and inspires social activism, great. If a parent gets angry with a child over something and it inspires them to develop a language surrounding the thing for future purposes, great. But holding onto anger? It hardens you, spiritually and physiologically. As my spirit and temperament have greatly softened, so have my attitude and body language and words! It percolates up into every dimension of our life!
I am so grateful for the people in my life who, whether consciously or not, gave me Permission to Let Go of that way of being. I heard them say, whether they said it aloud or not, I love you anyway, Cary, and you don’t need that to define you. Character is greater than some recurring behavior. It is humility and self-awareness and loving acts done regularly. Character is growing and dynamic, incorporating a look back at old ways of being only for “educational purposes,” and to provide us with gut-wrenching and beautiful contrasts to who we have become.