You drink coffee every morning. You’ve done so since you can remember. It stared off as something you did when you got older… because that’s what older people do, right? Go to school, get a job, grab a coffee on the way. It happens matter-of-factly, which brings to light a very intriguing question: what’s the difference between a habit and addiction?
At its core, addiction is the search for happiness outside oneself. A habit is a repeated activity where very little thought occurs. With addiction, there’s a lot of thought… and a lot of pain. An addiction can start out as a habit and transform into an addiction once the desire for and/or the removal of the habit introduces pain to the relationship.
What is a Habit?
What are some common habits you have implemented in your life?
- brushing your teeth
- cleaning yourself after you use the toilet
- using a napkin at dinner
- going to work
- buying coffee on your way to work
- being home at a certain time to meet your ex
- certain texts/calls/messages you sent and/or received from your ex
These are all examples of habitual behaviors a majority of the world’s population engages in every single day, and there’s nothing wrong with them.
We are habitual creatures.
Because it’s easier that way.
“It sounds kind of lazy if my habits exist purely for convenience.”
Think about what your subconscious has to manage on a second by second basis. My, and yours too, most likely, conscious self might evaporate on the spot if I had to be in charge of everything the subconscious manages.
Imagine keeping your blood pumping, the lungs contracting and expanding, the stomach churning and digesting, the intestines filtering, creating hormones, burning sugar, or fat, dealing with foreign invasions, stress from the jerk that pulled out in front of you and the report due at work that you really don’t care about but a lot of other people do. Think about the DNA repairs and the cellular regeneration going on.
Enough? I told you it’s a mind f*ck 😉
Starting New Habits
The reason it’s so hard to start new habits is because your subconscious is already perfectly happy with the ones you’ve established.
It likes status quo, normalcy, boring, and routine.
It does not like friction, rocking the boat, and the most inevitable of them all: CHANGE!
Change is something new, something different. It represents a new set of variables with new intentions and consequences.
Stopping Old Habits
Stopping old habits presents the same challenges as starting new ones: namely, change.
Whether it’s a good habit or a bad one, your subconscious likes it.
It likes it because it’s habit.
That means it’s an established/set variable, and your body knows exactly how to handle that variable. It’s been doing so since you… started.
Subconscious: “Stop? What for? That’s stupid. Everything’s running smooth. Let’s just keep things here for a while longer. I’m running things fine without you interfering, so please go back to what you were doing… and DO NOT change.
What is an Addiction?
An addiction moves well past the habitual marker and into the territory of compulsion, need, and physical dependence.
This definition of addiction from the ASAM really caught my eye: addiction is a treatable chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences.
The ASAM’s definition seems clear, but its vagueness is cloaked in the complexity with which they attempt to describe it.
“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.” Bruce Lee
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein
The above two quotes summarize why I think the ASAM’s definition needs a little more “simplifying” which is why I’ll revert to the meaning given at the top of this article: addiction is the search for happiness outside of oneself. In this definition, we can substitute love, meaning, joy, purpose, or anything else you feel is missing from your life.
But therein lies the underlying problem.
Nothing is missing.
You are already whole.
We spend our entire lives looking to fill a hole that does not exist.
It is only when we strip away the programs we’ve installed that we realize wholeness and the thing we thought we needed to fill the emptiness ends up being an accessory to the very emptiness we tried to fill.
It’s a regurgitating cycle that does not stop unless you pull the programs that kick-started the cycle in the first place.
“I programmed myself that way? To be addicted?”
Unequivocally, yes! The things you say, do, think, and emote help take a habit and elevate it into addiction territory.
And it’s so subtle, 99.9% of the populations doesn’t realize they are doing it.
Can I be Addicted to a Habit?
Let’s examine one of the most common habits of adults around the world: drinking coffee.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be like my parents. I wanted to be a grown-up. When I was finally allowed to, I’d drink coffee on special occasions, usually for holidays when all the family got together.
The only problem: I hated coffee. I hated the initial taste and the aftertaste. The only way I could drink it was with enough cream to turn it off-white and then enough sugar to annoy the rest of the familyn.
I never fell into the habit, but… tea, on the other hand 😉
For most people, the coffee habit starts in college/university. They use it for all nighters, and the morning after to kick the mental (and physical) muscles back into gear. It starts as a tool.
A few consecutive mornings and you embrace the routine. You like the way it feels.
Then, one day that changes because…
“I need my coffee.”
“Can’t get my day going without my coffee.”
“If it wasn’t for coffee…”
“Coffee pot woke me up this morning.”
“I’m keeping Starbucks in business.”
On the surface, it’s an offhand comment about a brown liquid you use as a mild stimulant.
It seems as harmless as:
- “This job is killing me.”
- “The stress is too much to handle.”
- “My husband (kids, mom, etc) is driving me crazy.”
- “If i don’t…. I’ll lose my mind.”
- “My boss has it in for me.”
- “Life sucks.”
- “My car is a piece of sh*t.”
The way we talk, think, and feel all have direct impacts on the way we lead our lives. They are part of the ways we program ourselves.
Something that sounds as harmless as “I need…” is all the crutch your mind needs to hold on to and reinforce that something else is required, some…thing, person, situation, place, emotion, and/or energy is necessary for you to have that which you do not and is therefore keeping you from attaining a desired result.
In the above negative examples, life sucks forces your subconscious to cue responses to life that quantify and qualify that statement, so even if you’re just blowing off steam, you soon find more reasons life does actually suck.
The same goes for how you feel about your job, spouse, and, yes, coffee.
You also reverse engineer how people then feel about you by saying, doing things that then verify what you thought they think about you. That’s the slippery slope of self-sabotage and it’s a live in well in the micro actions you carry out each day, most of which you’re not even aware of.
What Is an Example of Addiction
Examples of addiction include, but are in no way limited to sex, alcohol, abuse, punishment, drugs, your home, pet, a pen, pain, and loneliness. Again, the vehicle of the addiction is only a tool which you use to satisfy something you think is missing.
How To Distinguish Between a Habit and an Addiction?
Both addiction and habit are habitual.
The habit is routine, as in subconscious and easily surmountable.
The addiction is vaulted from routine into the subconscious by conscious behaviors, thoughts, words, and deeds, connecting some variant of worth or lack thereof, ex. incompleteness, to the use of the vehicle.
How Can We Change Our Habits?
Conscious repetition helps change old habits and form new ones.
That gets easier the more unconscious baggage you find and let go.