Breath Addiction

jewellFace it: humans have addictive personalities. Our very first addiction is to breathing. I can just see myself at a 12-step meeting confessing: “My name is Geri, and I am a breath addict. I took my first breath at 8:34 a.m. on September 13, 1956, and I’ve been taking breaths ever since. I even breathe while I’m asleep.”

In fact, our addiction to breathing is a good thing. To stop would be the death of us. So clearly some addictions are positive. I think that knowing the difference requires us to be consciously aware of our intentions as much as possible and to pay heed to what we do with each breath we take. Awareness is the most powerful gift we have to navigate our lives. We should bring that awareness to our choices, even though some decisions are more difficult to make than others.

Addictions can be positive if the intention behind them serves a higher purpose. Addiction is bad when it becomes harmful to mind, body, spirit and/or soul undermining our ability to live abundantly. If truth be known, we have to consciously choose to be happy so that life will reflect that choice back to us, allowing us greater contentment, higher self-esteem and more opportunities to honor each breath we take.

Not all of our addictions are so easily identified and even the ones that are obviously bad, such as drugs, alcohol, food, sex and gambling, often require that we hit rock bottom before we recognize that we need help. However, there is one addiction that is the supreme baddy of them all. Unfortunately many of us are unaware of the degree to which this one feeds into every other negative addiction.

Can you guess what it is? It’s the addiction to unhappiness. Yep, unhappiness is an addiction. Like breathing, unhappiness is a part of the human condition. But unlike breathing, we won’t die if we give up being unhappy. The problem is that we feed the addiction of unhappiness by amplifying our grievances and honing our anger. Most of us fail to see that this is something we have the power to change. We believe we are victims and expend an enormous amount of energy complaining. This is how the addiction to unhappiness grows around us like a cloying vine, choking off the joy.

So why do we not have a 12-step program for our addiction to unhappiness? If we did it would far surpass all the other 12-step programs and people would attend meetings in droves. “Hi, my name is Jose, and I am addicted to unhappiness. I first became unhappy when I was forced to share my toys with my sister, and then…and then…and then… But in 2006, I realized that I had to sober up, and stop drinking the unhappiness Kool-Aid. I’ve been happy now for seven years, three months and two weeks.”

Unhappiness Anonymous would probably not work because unlike other 12-step programs, this one would only reinforce the addiction to unhappiness. Every time we utter past grievances, anger and despair, we tell the universe that we expect more and the universe gives us just what we expect.

So what is the prescription for our addiction to unhappiness? The path is unique for each of us, it could be getting therapy, eating properly, exercising, putting acts of kindness in motion and making daily choices that court happiness. More importantly, we must be aware of when we are slipping. Have we spoken ill of someone? Have we rehashed a time when we were victimized? Do we believe that a person or situation in our past is still harming us in the present? Are we waxing our pain to a high-gloss shine?

Those of us who’ve been abused, bullied and/or hurt deeply are more challenged than others to avoid repeating those experiences. Manifesting the same old-same old can become a vicious cycle and we might not think to interrupt it because we aren’t surprised when we encounter a situation that makes us unhappy again. Primarily because the scenario is so familiar, on some psychic and unconscious level, we are co-creating what we have experienced in the past.

The prescription, therefore, demands that we become aware of when we are slipping into unhappiness and quickly counter that misstep with positive action, thought or comment. The more we do this,

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the easier it becomes to truly experience happiness. It takes daily effort to achieve, but the good news is that the process of embracing happiness is attainable to us all.

We can’t control other people’s choices, or the negative things that can happen to anyone from time to time, but we can control our reactions and remain aware of how they feed into our unhappiness addiction. Just remember though, that it takes courage to let go of our damaging patterns. It’s a lifelong process and I urge everyone who struggles with the effect of this destructive behavior to summon the will to move forward, find inspiration and embrace the things that make you happy. Go for it. I dare you!

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by Geri Jewell

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