Recognizing Your Process Addiction and Overcoming Its Shame

“Addiction begins with the hope that something ‘out there’ can instantly fill up the emptiness inside.Jean Kilbourne, Can’t Buy My Love

Have you found what you need to make you feel whole in this life? Too often, when searching for this, we instead fall into unhealthy habits. You get past stress by walking through the mall and buying things you don’t need. You run away from emotional pain by spending hours on the treadmill. You fill up the void caused by grief with things or activities that aren’t really fulfilling, and suddenly there is no room for the person who was you. Now those lovely trinkets you purchased on your shopping adventure are tarnished, food doesn’t have any flavor, and the love you desperately craved at all costs isn’t really love after all. You are no longer a consumer of things or activities. You are consumed. This is an addiction, and it brings its own feelings of misplaced shame, guilt, and confusion. Understanding your actions and compulsions is the best way to begin the process of getting past them.

It’s just a pastime, how can that be an addiction?

It’s much easier to convince yourself you don’t have an addiction when you are just doing something many people do. It feels “normal” to shop, or to spend a lot of time on social media or the Internet. You probably joke about it: “I’m a chocoholic,” “a shopaholic,” “a workaholic.” If you are afraid to consider that you might have a behavioral or process addiction, it may be because, all joking aside, you feel shame about your activities.

That shame comes from your inability to do a normal activity normally, and it is hard to admit that to yourself, much less to others. You think people won’t understand how you could be addicted to shopping, when they shop normally all the time. It is one thing, you might think, for people to be addicted to drugs. But who could understand being actually addicted to work? Is that even a thing?

It is, and it can become dangerous for your well-being. Process addiction, or behavioral addiction, is an addiction to activities such as shopping, gambling, eating, sexual activity, or even working all the time. Process addiction is anything that causes you to risk all you have for that temporary fix of something you mistake for bliss. It’s a habit gone viral. When you have to do it, not want to do it, it controls your life.

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How do I stop my process addiction?

The same way any addict stops–by recognizing that you are powerless over your process addiction. Instead of a substance, you are addicted to an activity that may seem less debilitating in many ways, but when this addiction takes control of your life, you need support and treatment, and you can’t do it alone.

Process addictions can be just as painful and difficult as any other addiction, which is why you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. You feel just as much shame, and sometimes more, because you don’t think your problems should be treated the same as alcoholism. The actions are often the same, though. You become secretive and selective about how you live your life because you are living your addiction. It’s the same as hiding a liquor bottle in a shoebox, only instead, that pair of shoes is your addiction. Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol also have a co-occurring process addiction–so whatever it is you are hiding, there are ways to bring those behaviors into the light and into treatment.

Alta Mira collaborates with experts in process addiction who recognize that any form of addiction causes the same feelings of shame and has the same physical, emotional and spiritual challenges of withdrawal and recovery. That’s why we believe in a holistic approach that addresses your biological, psychological, social, interpersonal, and spiritual needs. We’ve opened a door to talking about shameassociated with all addictions, and we’ve provided resources where you can get the help you need.

Alta Mira offers comprehensive residential treatment for drug and alcohol addiction as well as co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Bay Area programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward recovery.