Escaping reality is a quick and easy way of avoiding a problem or making difficult decisions that one doesn't want to deal with.
Escapism can also be a dependency on something that helps to avoid one's pain and brings temporary pleasure. When the pleasure wears off, the problem remains. In some cases, the happiness or good feelings require more and more sensation but the pain is still there.
Examples of common escapes are smoking, porn or sex, shopping, eating, watching tv, drugs, alcohol, partying, working, etc.
A good rule of thumb to see if one's behavior is becoming an addiction is to stop this behavior for one week. If the craving is not there at the end of the week then you are not dependent on the stimulus. If you are unable to stop the behavior for a week, then you probably have become dependent on your coping mechanism.
Why Do We Avoid Our Pain?
There are many reasons why people avoid their pain. Examples can include shame, guilt, fear, failure, embarrassment, public humiliation, loneliness, etc.
It is normal to feel these feelings but if the pain or discomfort is ignored too long then it becomes destructive. It's better to discover the source of our pain so we can face it, deal with it, and move on with our lives.
Addictive behavior becomes a band-aid but doesn't heal our inner wound. No matter what the addiction, it adds more pain and suffering in the form of financial problems, health problems, and relationship problems. Not only does it destroy our lives but it destroys the lives of our family and friends.
My Addiction To Stress Eating
I must confess that my addiction is stress eating. Food comforts me and has for a long time. If I'm feeling sad, mad, frustrated, or even happy, food comforts me. I'm still trying to figure out WHY food comforts me but I'm learning to recognize my triggers and find positive replacements for food.
In the past, my kryptonite was baked goods. In fact, to control my impulsive cravings I always kept the ingredients on hand to make cakes, cookies, and pies from scratch which meant I had to put forth the effort if I wanted to indulge.
One night after a stressful day at work my craving for chocolate chip cookies with pecans wasn't even thwarted when I realized I was out of chocolate chips. I quickly replaced my pajamas with some clothes and ran to the grocery store at 10:30 pm on a weeknight to satisfy my craving for chocolate chip cookies with pecans. That's when I knew I had a problem with stress eating.
Facing My Addiction
Ever since my breast cancer six years ago, I've had to change my eating habits due to my heart issues after my chemo treatments. Now I eat more fruits and vegetables and less dairy and high sodium foods like my beloved queso, greek yogurt, ice cream, and BBQ. I eat more whole food, plant based meals and have found a healthier, non-dairy version of my beloved queso, and chocolate "nice cream". I even discovered an alternative to BBQ using jackfruit. It tastes great on a baked potato.
For more information about eating a whole food, plant based lifestyle, I highly recommend the documentaries Forks Over Knives (the science behind eating WFPB) and The Game Changers (how professional and amateur athletes' performance improved after switching to eating WFPB).
I'm learning to recognize my triggers that prompt me to stress eat so I can replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts and actions. I picked up crocheting and quilting to keep my hands busy which helps when I want to eat out of boredom. I have better choices I can make rather than stress eat. And that's the key: better choices.
As I mentioned earlier, it doesn't matter what your addiction is but left untreated, it can wreak havoc on your finances, your health, and your relationships.
Merriam-Webster defines addiction as "a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence : the state of being addicted."
If you think you can't face your addiction or dependency on your own then please seek counseling. There are also so many support groups out there to help many types of addictions.
Breaking The Cycle Of Escapism
The permanent way to break the cycle of escapism is to change your perspective of reality into a positive light. If you associate reality with suffering then you will constantly seek some form of escapism. Reality doesn't have to be bad.
Find the good in reality instead of the suffering from your problem. You can always find one good thing in every situation. Pain ends, suffering lingers. To learn more about this difference you can read my blog Pain vs Suffering Part 1.
Escapism is a choice. Developing a positive perspective about reality is a choice.
When I found out my husband wanted to end our 27-year marriage two months after my heart transplant, I would have rather escaped into the world of Netflix and Hulu than have to plan moving in with my twin sister and what I could bring into her one bedroom apartment. But my escape from reality wouldn't have changed my situation of being the third person in my husband's other relationship. That was a very difficult time but I'm so glad I took action and moved out of a toxic environment. I have a strong heart and new opportunities to help others transform their adversity into positive growth. My life is so much joyful now.
Your Past Doesn't Define You
What happened in your past is your past. It doesn't have to define you.
You are always in control of three things: 1) your thoughts or attitude, 2) what you say, and 3) what you do. With this power, you can change your circumstances.
You don't have to be a victim, choose to be a victor and look at reality with a positive perspective. Don't focus on what is not in your control because you can't change it. That's equivalent to rocking in a rocking chair expecting to move down the street.
Focus on what you do have control over to change. Ask yourself "What can I do right now?" Focus on what is in your control to change.
You can choose to change your perspective on reality from negative to positive and prevent escapism and addictive behavior. Once addictive behavior takes root, it requires more effort to abstain and recover.
Again, if you find yourself in addiction, please seek counseling and/or a support group. You always have choices. Choose to change what's in your control, you will be better for it.
Question: Are you struggling with escapism or addiction? What is a positive step you can take to turn negative habits into positive ones?
Daily Mantra: Hunt the good stuff, find the humor, stay positive, and focus on your blessings. God can bring good out of every situation!