Desire and Addiction

Addiction is one of the hottest and most difficult problems in our
personal lives and in society today. You probably have at least one addiction
to something in your life. Think about whatever it is in your life that you
must have in order to be happy. Almost no one is totally free. But, it
is the degree to which that addiction limits you that matters. If you are
addicted to hugging your teddy bear in bed at night, it doesn’t limit you very
much, but if you have to carry it everywhere you go, it might cause you some
problems. If you “would die” if your partner left, you’re addicted to your
partner. If you have one of the “harder” addictions to alcohol, cigarettes,
drugs or food, you can be in for serious health problems if you don’t control
your desires. And if you have to have chocolate ice cream to be happy, watch
out! You could be headed for serious “chocaholism”.

This article will focus on the attitudinal change needed to release
addictions. So what is involved in the “gotta have it” syndrome? The two most
obvious factors which motivate most addictive behavior are the desire for
sensory pleasure and the avoidance of pain. Behind that, though, is a deeper
desire for love and acceptance which, when unsatisfied, leads to a wide variety
of addictive behaviors. Desire is necessary but dangerous. It motivates you to
pursue what you want, but, without awareness, you can be trapped into
repetitive patterns which are beyond your control. Pleasure and the avoidance
of pain , when carried to the extreme, can result in illness and pain . For
example, pleasure in the form of alcohol or drugs can result ultimately in
brain and liver damage, mental and emotional disturbance, and distruction of
career and relationships. The desire to be successful, powerful and have money
can be tremendously creative and productive, but, if overdone, may result in
anxiety, insomnia and exhaustion. The desire for a loving partner can result in
obsessive attachment to another person, ending in disappointment and grief if
they should leave you or die.

Desire is a two-edged sword, and it is necessary to be aware of when you
have desire and when desire has you. When you are no longer in control of
desire, and when your happiness depends on something outside yourself, you are
addicted. It is not possible to live in a desire-free state, but it is possible
to derive your happiness mostly from internally-generated states of love, good
feeling, excitement and happiness, rather than depending on the external world
to make you happy. You can always change your mind and your feelings inside
(though it’s not necessarily a piece of cake, so to speak), but you can’t
always changes the circumstances in the outer world. If you have to have
alcohol to feel relaxed and happy, you will be miserable when you don’t have
it. If you are hungry, you will be upset until you are fed. If you are a
smoker, two hours without a cigarette may throw you into a panic. When you
don’t have a lover, you can feel very alone and frustrated until you are with
someone again.

What is the way out? You have to take control of your own body, mind and
emotions and realize the most amazing power which you have to feel whatever way
you want to, regardless of the external circumstances. You happiness is really
manufactured by your own mind and depends very little on your outside
circumstances. You can feel good, no matter what you have or don’t have, if you
train yourself to do that. It may seem too simple, but just try this

Close your eyes and relax your body. Remember a time when you were
very happy, when you felt absolutely great! Actually step into the experience
and feel the feelings that you actually felt at that time. Remember as many
details as possible and feel the experience as vividly as possible. Now make a
fist with your right hand and squeeze it tight at the height of your good
memories. Already you are feeling better, but you can feel even better. Now
remember an experience of being intensely, but pleasantly intoxicated. Again
actually relive the experience with as many details and feelings as you can
remember. Actually be there. Feel the change in your body and emotions. At the
height of the sensations, again squeeze your right fist tightly. Now relax your
fist and come back to normal awareness. Wait until you have completedy
returned to your usual state. Then without closing your eyes or relaxing,
squeexe your right fist again. Notice the effect. If you can feel that good
just by squeezing your right fist, and that’s only the beginning of what you
can do, why would you spend all that money and take all that risk to use drugs,
alcohol or food to do the same thing?

You are trapped by addiction when you believeyour desire is
absolutely necessary for your happinessand you can’t imagine being happy
without it. So, when you don’t have it, you suffer. Most of this suffering can
be eliminated through awareness, letting go and reprogramming your beliefs.
Usually being addicted to something originally had some sort of positive
intention behind it. You wanted to get loved and accepted, fed, relaxed,
rested, or relieved of pain and chose a way to do it that seemed to work. But
when it worked, you then wanted to get more of it and the behavior that
produced the pleasure or relieved the pain became a habit. Pretty soon you
developed the belief that that was the only way to fulfill your desire, and you
were hooked.

In order to get free of your addiction, you need to honor your original
intention to feel good. Its not the intention that doesn’t work for you, its
the negative consquences of the method you use to satisfy your desires. If you
want to feel pleasureably fed, but you only feel satisfied when you eat
chocolate, and chocolate makes you overweight and gives you acne, that’s a
harmful addiction. You must find other ways to feel just as good by eating
something that gives you a similar feeling without the negative consequences.
This idea is why diet soda is so popular. It supposedly eliminates the negative
consequences of eating sugar, while preserving the satisfaction of the original
addiction to the sweet taste and stimulation of caffeine. A better way is to
try a variety of more healthful foods which may substitute for the addictive
food, like carob powder instead of chocolate, or natural sweeteners instead of
white sugar. What is even better is to find out what the feeling of eating
chocolate is a substitute for, like being loved or accepted, and try to
incorporate more of the real thing in your life. If that isn’t possible, or
would lead to another addiction, then try to generate the state you desire
internally through memory, visualization, guided imagery and meditation as
above. These processes will also tend to help your desired state to manifest
more easily in the outer world, if that is where you would enjoy it more. If
you can go back to the time when the addiction started and find out what was
needed then, you may be able to bring that into your life now, thereby
satisfying the original intention. For instance, one person we treated for
smoking addiction started smoking in order to be accepted by her peers when she
was a teen-ager. But she found now that smoking actually caused her rejection
by her friends. When she focused on accepting herself more and developing new
and positive ways to be accepted by others, the smoking was no longer

It is important to recognize that you may have a lot of emotional needs
and feelings around things you are addicted to. These needs and feelings may
come from your negative life experiences and hurts, which are often learned
from your parents and family, who may have had similar problems with addiction.
These have to be taken into account and dealt with effectively.

Hypnosis, focusing, guided imagery and parts therapy are all useful techniques
for putting yourself in touch with the feelings around your addiction. You may
have parts of yourself which are in conflict over your addictions, one part
considering the addiction to be absolutely necessary while other parts find it
disgusting. One of our patients was afraid to eat less and lose weight because
then he would be attractive and have to face his fears about sexuality. When he
worked with the part of himself who was afraid of sex and released his limiting
beliefs, he stopped eating compulsively and lost weight easily. Another
patient used alcohol to overcome her anxiety about her work. Through learning
relaxation, meditation and to take her work as less of a life and death
situation, she was able to gradually give up her dependence on alcohol. We
have helped many people to overcome limiting beliefs and to recognize the
original intention One very powerful technique for doing this is called
reframing, from Neuro-linguistic Programming, which uses reframing to either
substitute a less harmful set of behaviors which satisfy the same need as the
addiction or to choose a new context in which the addictive behavior is
acceptable or less harmful.

Abstinence by itself is rarely effective unless the underlying needs
and intentions are acknowledged and satisfied, or truly released. Sometimes
the benefits of abstaining in terms of removing the pain and problems caused by
your addiction are so compelling that the addiction is released for good. But,
most often it is necessary to use abstinence as an opening for working on your
feelings and changing behaviors until the addiction is no longer relevant to
your life. Many people find that getting in touch with their
spiritual side and surrendering to God or a higher power, as in the twelve step
movements, is very useful in helping them overcome their addiction. The reason
for this is that the pleasure and intoxication of communion with the Divine is
far stronger than any addictive pleasure in the outside world. Also, feeling
that you have the help of a will which is stronger than your own can give you
inspiration and faith that you can in deed survive the release of your
addiction and go on to have a better life. The support of relatives, friends, a
counselor or members of a support group can be extremely helpful in

providing love, help and the validation to get help you get past your

Homeopathy, herbs, nutrition, vitamins, fasting and cleansing can all
be very effective in helping to free the body form the need for addictive
substances, reducing physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms and releasing
the cumulative effects of long-term toxicity. We often use a coordinated
program of withdrawal and detoxification, emotional release work, hypnosis and
behavior change has often been necessary very successfully to help our
patients rehabilitate their body and mind from long-term addiction.

Ultimately, the most important factor in controlling desire and
overcoming addiction is loving yourself enough to want to be free and to stop
hurting yourself. It usually isn’t easy, but you’ve got the power to do it
and will feel great when you’ve licked it!

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)

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Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

Explore Wellness in 2021