How to Release Addictions

How to Release Addictions

People who struggle with compulsive addictions are, in fact, expressing a deep passion to live. Even though the substance or activity they engage in is destructive, their action to reach for relief is a life-affirming effort to end unbearable suffering. It may appear to others that the addict is self-destructive. But if pain becomes too great, finding temporary relief is preferable to unbearable pain and indicates a strong will to live.  This means that substance and behavioral addictions are a remedy for a deeper hidden pain. The drug problem becomes a distraction from the real problem which for the moment is overwhelming and inexplicable. 

When trying to understand someone who is struggling with addiction, it is important to note that the addiction problem is bearable, while the original problem the compulsive behavior covers up is truly unbearable. In this way, the addiction is preferred over the agonizing alternative. How do we address the deeper, hidden, unbearable pain? Where is that coming from and why is it not going away? The answer to these questions are unique to each family system and always reveal a deep, unconscious loyalty to someone in the family, even if that person is no longer alive. We not only inherit physical characteristics from our family. We also inherit emotional energy and psychological trauma. We call these emotional conditions legacy burdens. They are not a life sentence and can be lifted, but only when we stop focusing on the surface problem of one individual and start excavating the deeper injuries in the family system as a whole. One reason pain is unbearable is because it does not belong to the person who is trying to carry it.  The only thing to do in such a situation is to locate who the pain does belong to and place their burden at their feet.

It is often a total mystery to the addicted person (and those close to them) why they are not able to stop the destructive behavior, and it is a deeply confounding source of shame and frustration when constant effort does not lead to lasting results. Addictive behavior is the surface expression of a deeper trauma in a larger family system that is much larger than one individual person and often goes back generations. Locating how to release addictions involves realizing when we are part of larger hidden forces at work as well as realizing our deep loyalties to those forces. 

Everyone is a healing system. We heal inherently and are always governed by life-affirming movements. When pain becomes unbearable, it means our system is unable to heal it. This can only mean that the injury we are trying to heal does not belong to us. If it did, our biological nature would know how to heal it. We can not heal someone else’s injury for them. If I cut my hand, my body knows what to do. If you cut your hand, I can not be a part of that profound process of your own healing system.

The same is true for injuries of the heart and mind. Life-threatening traumas are hidden injuries that often do not find the support needed to heal. People who experienced trauma can carry that pain or block it out of their consciousness their whole lives, only to have that painful energy be picked up by a young child who senses the pain but who can not put words to it.

The only reason a pain is ever unbearable is because it does not belong to the person carrying it.  The only thing to do in such a situation is to locate who the pain does belong to and place their burden at their feet.

Most medical clinics focus on “breaking” addictions by pressuring the person to refrain from the addictive behavior. Recovery support groups try to help people maintain good conduct which requires constant monitoring and answering to someone else. This, too is a temporary solution that will eventually be rebeled against because everyone has the right to autonomy and independence. Well-meaning as the support groups may be, when we try to compel ourselves to proper behavior and refrain from what is truly a source of relief to what seems to be a never ending problem, we slip into a pattern of trecherous disappointment. It is only a matter of time before we will be pulled by a force larger than our personal will back into the confounding destructive behavior. Releasing an addiction is not about locating personal conviction. We are all born with sufficient amounts of personal conviction to resolve our own problems and thrive. When that does not happen, we must look for reasons beyond our own character. It is unhelpful to believe an addiction is due to poor self control or an inferior character. It can be demoralizing to focus on behavior control when working to release addiction.

Controlling one’s behavior is not the answer to “breaking” addictions. Addictions are not broken, they are released when we no longer need the relief they offer because the problem they try to solve has been resolved. An addiction goes beyond one person’s personal life challenge. Addictions are a larger struggle with trauma in their family system. The real question to ask any addict is, “What does the addiction bring relief from? For whom am I carrying an unbearable pain?” 

What specific problem is being medicated? The answer to this question will be emotional in nature and it will involve one or more family members, sometimes going back several generations without our awareness. It may seem strange that the solution to a substance addiction involves hidden energies of a family dynamic dating back several generations. But the truth is, no one exists in life without a family system. Noone’s problems began with their one isolated life. We are born into a fabrice of connections stretching back farther than our conscious awareness. Our parents were raised by parents who were raised by parents who at some point suffered a deep shock and overwhelming trauma. Those events were often unresolved and felt by the children. Legacy trauma confounds us because the reasons for the anguish are no longer visible and appear crazy. In truth, the person suffering the distress is a deeply loyal servant to the traumatized family system. The addict is managing the pain of a hidden trauma in the best way he or she knows how. 

Trauma energy needs a witness to be released and can be carried into several generations odescendantsts of the original trauma survivor. Those decendants usually have no idea that there is a heavy energy within their perspective that was present in the environment as they grew up. A member of a family system is deeply loyal to that system and will agree to carry the records of injustice for ancestors we’ve never met.

The phenomenon of trying to solve someone else’s problem for them is a strange and painful expression of love. It is not possible to resolve someone else’s emotional distress, but children try to do this for their parents all the time. Children hold a “crazy” kind of love for the family they are born to that will even die for that system. In his book, Even If It Costs Me My Life, Stephan Hausner describes dozens of situations where a descendant of a family member who experienced the devastations of war, torture, or other overwhelming traumas, often feel the same terror or anxieties in their modern lives even though the conditions of their lives are relatively peaceful and do not warrant such an intensity of feelings.

While it is not possible to heal someone else’s pain, it is not only possible for us to heal our own, it is inevitable. If a problem persists without resolution after many attempts to heal, it is safe to conclude that the problem does not belong to the person trying to heal it. It belongs to someone else in the family system who needs to be heard and honored. This family member could be an immediate relative or they could be an ancestor many generations back.

The solution to release oneself from addictive impulses and legacy burdens is to embark on the personal journey of the soul to discover who you are being loyal to and why. Hearing from our ancestors brings peace to our hearts in ways substances, gambling, or shopping never can. It will be a waste of time to try to refrain from the addictive compulsion until the underlying trauma it covers up is revealed. Restraint is crazy-making and abusive to a person’s spirit. The root cause of addictions are found in the family dynamics.

Breaking addictions happen permanently when the entanglement is brought to light and the loyalty burden is put down. If you have been trying to resolve an inner pain for years, it may not be your problem to solve. That emotional pain may belong to someone else.

If you have experienced a traumatic event in your lifetime that you also find will not resolve, it is likely that the event you experienced was also an echo, or a repeat of a family trauma that pulled you into the pattern that desperately wants to be broken.

It is well known by trauma specialists that someone suffering from PTSD will often set up reenactments of the traumatic event as a way to try to finally get a different outcome. Often these reenactments occur at the same time of year the trauma occurred. A man finds himself sitting outside a convenience store holding a gun on a sunny morning in spring because two decades ago, that was the time he survived while his platoon died all around him. Part of him wants to have that event happen differently. Part of him feels he should also have died with his unit. These reenactments are a kind of intoxication that overpower the survivor of a life-threatening event pulling them into confounding behavior only to leave them confused and filled with regret after the reenactment.

Reenactments occur across generations. Descendants of a soldier or a survivor can also find themselves pulled into even more confounding behavior because the reasons for the behavior are gone from consciousness.

We are much more than our conscious awareness. Our experience of life exists in a Field, connected and woven into past experiences of our family members. We are extensions of our family and it is in our power to resolve long-standing suffering when we realize our problems did not start with us but they can end with us.

We are not alive to suffer. We are here for joy. While we are not able to avoid pain in life, we can avoid ongoing suffering by clarifying what is in our power to heal and what we must put down and honor as none of our business.

We can differentiate ourselves from the patterns of our family system without having to separate from the family altogether. Being the descendant in a family means we are expanding that system farther than it has ever gone before. We can decide for our whole family to find the ways that choose peace not suffering. We can put down what is not ours to resolve and pick up what is our responsibility. This leads to empowerment. When empowerment falls into place, there is no need for substances or compulsions to distract us.

Addictions are a form of self-medication. They are a solution to a problem that inevitably becomes a problem in itself. When something is unbearable, we find a way to make it bearable by creating a smaller yet known problem to focus on so that we do not go crazy trying to release a larger, invisible problem we do not know how to resolve. Eventually, however, the compulsion to drink, smoke, gamble, or worse ends up recreating the very suffering that is trying to be avoided. If you struggle with addiction, it is important and helpful to understand that the problem you face did not begin with you and is not for you to resolve. Pain that does not eventually heal is not our pain to heal. Finding ways to release what is not ours to carry is what needs to be discovered for true healing to occur.

If you feel you are carrying a legacy burden because all your efforts to expand beyond a specific point of suffering have not been able to find release, a Constellations workshop may be a very powerful resource to gain clarity and separation from the hidden entanglement to buried trauma. 

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Jess. In my own experience when working through my own struggles in life, I found the process of traditional psychotherapy to be too formal and analytical.  I was frustrated with how talk therapy seemed to circle the airport and never land a solution or resolution.  When I found Constellations work I realized the importance of connecting to a greater mysterious power of Grace when searching for the healing movement. When I discovered IFS, (Internal Family Systems work) I realized the power of my imagination to heal and release buried pain. Resolutions to my struggles really began to land for me with Family Constellations and IFS work. Because I found real results in these alternative healing methods, I have dedicated my life to studying them and bringing these resources to others.

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How to Release Addictions