Photo of a man standing on a railway platform

First, a recap…

The word ‘addiction’ is often considered a dirty word, something that only affects other people. Truth is, I reckon we’re all addicted to something.

The NHS website defines addiction as…

“…not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you.”

This is the second in a series I’ve committed to writing, about how addiction impacts my life. It’s part of a new-found commitment to make life decisions based on hope rather than fear, however nerve-wracking this may be. Why am I doing this? To play my part in breaking down stigmas and being more open about the realities of real life.

I was intending to leave this part until last, though feel it’s the right time to publish. So, here goes…

Note: this post is also on LinkedIn — please read and interact here if you use this platform :-)

“Addicted to escapism”

“And what does it feel like, this sense of drivenness within you?” they said, as we walked together along the seafront. “It’s hard to explain” I replied, “it’s like a magnetic pull within me, drawing me towards a goal or outcome I’m fixated upon achieving”.

I’ve always known this sensation, this energy. It’s not there all the time, but when it is I feel both pulled and pursued by it, captivated by a heady sense of purpose and mission. It’s also when a tendency towards perfectionism steps to the fore, fuelled by the excitement and anticipation of doing or creating something new, something different, something I can be proud of.

The drivenness is bittersweet. On one hand, it brings energy, clarity and a wonderful sense of colour. But, whenever a light burns brighter, the opposing shadows grow darker.

‘The shadow side’

Throwing everything you’ve got into a particular pursuit for good will often bring with it a ‘shadow side’ – like a pendulum swinging hard left or hard right. Look around and you’ll see this happening; someone giving everything to their work, to shining in their career, at the expense of relationships back home. An extreme sports athlete seeking to achieve longer distances, faster times, to push harder at the expense of everything else*.

Thing is, this shadow side is typically hidden, beyond the eyes of the outside world.

I’ve been there, felt the guilt, and become determined to do something about it.

Just keep on keeping on

For others, the challenge of drivenness brings an inability to switch off at the end of each day. So, they simply carry on and find ways to mask and silence their shadow. Some people turn to exercise, others to food, drink and more – anything that brings distraction and creates an illusion of control. This can become a cyclical thing – excessive exercise for a few months, followed by a season of too much food and booze.

I’ve been there, felt the guilt, and become determined to do something about it.

And so the addiction to escapism gradually develops – always looking for the next checkpoint, at which a ‘reward’ is stationed, before the next leg of the race begins.

Lights out

Sometimes the energy and colour drains away altogether, sometimes quite suddenly, and it becomes a struggle just to maintain face and go about the simplest of life things. Many become adept at hiding this, but it’s there, gnawing beneath the surface, devoid of joy.

I’ve been there, felt the guilt, and become determined to do something about it.

Age brings wisdom

Thankfully, growing older offers wisdom, the wisdom of knowing who you are, of your true nature, your real capabilities, your actual capacity, your boundaries, and how to spot when you’re pushing too hard or reaching too high.

For me, I’m also learning how to live contentedly within the boundaries of reality, to stop myself needing a quick-release valve and means of escape, from slipping into the grip of “…not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you”.

‘An always thing’

I know this will always be a lifelong challenge for me, and maybe for you, too. I will always have a tendency towards a driven mindset, towards extremes, towards the brighter lights, as well as the darker shadows. I choose to celebrate and welcome the opportunities for good this brings, whilst being wise and honest about my shadow side, exercising care and self-control in the way I live my life.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Stephen Covey, which often comes to my mind…

“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”

I’d love to see more people talking more openly about life-related stuff like this, hence my vision for something called MakeLifeClick, previewing June-August this year.

Get in touch?

Fancy a coffee and a chat about people, purpose, vision, business ideas/opportunities and perhaps even life in general? Drop me a message — you never know, we may have a few things in common…

* I’d recommend watching ‘Darkness: how ultra running can strip away our emotional barriers’ – beautifully written, filmed and narrated account of what leads some people to compete in ultra running events