Addictions Revisited by John Cali

We received some interesting comments about last week’s newsletter article, Addictions. Here are a couple of excerpts from two different people:

“What does Spirit have to say about AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and similar organizations? I mean, if by joining AA (someone) gains a clearer understanding of the precious Being that he/she is, isn’t that a good thing?”

“I remember my mother telling me, ‘Therapy is supposed to be a way back to life, not a way of life.’”

Then I received an email from my dear friend, Mikala St. Germain. Here’s part of what she said:

“Hi Johnny, As I was reading this, I thought of positive addictions, like your jogging. Not all addictions are negative, and (Spirit) says that, kind of…. “

I replied to Mikala that I had never thought about “positive addictions.” I hadn’t considered my jogging an addiction. But I do love it, and would find it hard to give it up. So does that make it an addiction?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines addiction as the “compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be physically, psychologically, or socially harmful….”

Here’s part of what Spirit said in our Addictions article last week:

“…we believe addictions are a good thing. Because they temporarily take you away from your pain and help you feel good. You will — you must — ultimately come to the point where you know you don’t need anything or anyone outside yourselves to feel good. But, in the meanwhile, any light is better than the darkness.”


So is jogging an addiction? Can you become addicted to therapy that’s supposed to help you quit your addictions? Are there negative and positive addictions? Please comment below.

We welcome your comments and thoughtful opinions. Please keep them kind and compassionate. If needed, we’ll edit for clarity. Also, we’ll delete anything we consider inappropriate.

20 Responses

  1. Sandra

    I’m addicted to…and high on life! Where would we all be without it…I’m head or heals in love with it! ; )

  2. anny

    I grew up in Holland, not long after WWII, amidst the ruins of a bombed city and people who did not quite know how to handle the guilt they subconsciously felt after discovering that more than 100.000 Jewish people had been taken away from Holland during the war and murdered in German or Polish concentration camps. Although there were people who had done their best to prevent this, the majority of the people had looked away and did not know how to handle that. I picked up on that and from the age of about ten years old I started studying what had happened, not only during the war but also during the 2000 years before that. And the picture was not pretty. I got more or less obsessed by it (addicted?) and somehow felt,, if not guilty, at least responsible for what happened next. So when a couple of churches in Holland, Germany and Switzerland, and also some people or organizations in the USA, decided to establish a settlement in Israel where Christians would live and work and be in contact with the Jewish neighbours around us on an equal basis instead of trying to convert or persecute them, I was interested from the start. When I was in my early twenties, I decided to join this settlement and left for Israel, not because I was excited to do this, but … indeed, because it was the right thing to do, according to me. At first I felt very lonely and not at all at ease but slowly things changed. I did indeed grow to love it because it brought me so many good and interesting things. It brought me love too as I met my husband there and we got married on top of mount Carmel (what Christian can say that?), where the Dutch consulate happened to be at the time. And three of my four children were born there.
    Also we did not only meet Jewish people but Arabs as well, both Muslims and Christians. It was a very enriching experience and was really the start of the process of my looking at things from all different angles. In spite of the many difficulties, wars among them, I would not have missed this experience for the world.

    So what I mean to say is, even an addiction, or compulsion to do the right thing can lead to something beautiful. And somehow, after staying put in a dangerous part of the country during the Jom Kippur War, and meeting with the inhabitants of our neighbouring village, whose inhabitants were all survivors of the concentration camps and who were so glad we stayed during a time in which they had been afraid it was all going to happen again and they felt totally abandoned, my ‘addiction’ to everything related to the Holocaust had stopped. After that I could be there on more normal terms and no longer out of a feeling of guilt.



  3. Kathelena

    Wow, such a loaded topic. Kudos to you for taking it on! I’m of the belief that we should stop labeling each other – and ourselves – and drop the word addiction completely. It’s so emotionally loaded with guilt and hopelessness that I don’t know if we can ever use the word without its negative connotation. Or maybe that’s just me .. 😉

    I’m kind of thinking out loud here, but I notice that my own “addictive type” behaviors come from “I can’t stand feeling this way and doing this other thing makes me feel better”. The response behavior is automatic and generally instantaneous – grab the cigarette, reach for the drink, inhale the chocolate. No savoring involved, just an automatic response to not wanting to feel however we’re feeling. To me, that sounds like self-preservation, and I have a hard time seeing self-preservation as a bad thing. The key, (again, to me) is knowing that the automatic self-preservation behavior, whatever it is (yelling at the kids comes to mind, even though that’s not considered an addiction) isn’t the only way to feel better. We know that the ultimate feel-good comes from inside, but it can take awhile to reach that level of awareness. I know I’m still working on it! :p

    That’s where I think working together is so important. Each of us helping each other to reach the levels of awareness that allow us to love ourselves unconditionally. You mirror for me that I am magnificent just the way I am, and I mirror that for you until we each believe it! At that point everything we do is because we want to enjoy an experience, not because we’re feeding a need.

    For example, do you run because you love the way your muscles respond, because you love seeing the beauty along the way, because the wind feels good on your skin? or do you run because you’re afraid you’re going to get flabby and die if you don’t? In one case the action is based purely on feeling good, in the other the action is based on fear of some expected consequence(s). It’s a small, but I think important, distinction.

    For me the question is “Am I eating this because I love the taste and texture, or am I eating it because I had an upsetting conversation that has me feeling like crap, and eating this makes me feel better?” My goal is to find a way to feel better without going into the automatic feeding frenzy. I always have the opportunity to choose my response. If don’t catch myself in time, or if I choose to follow the automatic path anyway, I have an obligation to my own well-being to not feel guilty about having done it. I had a choice and I made it, whether I did so automatically (unconsciously) or consciously. My job, as I see it, is to resolve to choose differently next time, and keep doing that until the new choice becomes the automatic one.

    Great topic, thanks for giving me a place to flesh out my own thoughts on it!

    • John Cali

      I agree with you, Kathelena. Labels, in my opinion, do more harm than good. In fact, we wrote an article on the subject a while back.

      You make a good point about my jogging/running. When I first started doing it over 40 years ago, it was mostly because I was afraid of what could happen if I didn’t do it — there have been lots of folks in my family with serious heart problems. But now I do it simply because I enjoy it — and for the reasons you mention. That’s a great distinction to make, and one I think we all should be aware of in our daily activities.

      Thanks very much for sharing with us, Kathelena.


  4. Micki

    I guess I have an addiction and that is the joy of living and doing what feels good, a lot might say what I do is some sort of addiction…but at the end of the day if it give me joy it can’t be to bad. So I certainly agree with what you said to George.
    Hugs to you,

  5. Berna

    Hi John,
    I agree with your criterion.

    Years ago I saw a documentary about a woman who was addicted to jogging. When you jog very regularly certain chemicals are released in your body, which give you this nice feeling. She wanted to experience this feeling so much, that she got a big problem in her social life, because she neglected her family (husband, kids) and friends etc., so in this case something positive and not harmful for the body ended up in a drama. But it ended well, because she was helped with discovering that she didn’t need it to feel good.

    • John Cali

      Hi Berna,

      Thanks very much for your comments. You reminded me of a similar story I heard years about a woman jogger. She really was addicted to it in a harmful way. Even though her body appeared to be in good shape, the many hours she spent jogging every day had begun to negatively affect her health. (Not to mention her social life.) So in that case, jogging was a negative addiction.


  6. Colleen

    Hi John,
    Love your weekly articles with Spirit.

    I must say that addictions, as we know them, smoking, alcohol, drugs, etc., are a real problem in our society. However I dont think Jogging is a problem….do you?! 🙂

    Positive ….yes!!!!!


    • John Cali

      Thanks so much, Colleen!

      I agree — negative addictions are a huge problem in our society today. And no, I don’t think jogging is a problem. Not for me anyway. 🙂

      Hugs back to you,

  7. jerry pottle

    John, that is a good question that I feel applies to everything we desire to experience. I fluffed-up both sides of my brain and came to this conclusion…. It depends! If you feel like you HAVE to do something for the RIGHT reason…or you feel compelled to do something and you feel GUILTY… then it is an addiction.

    If you do it because it brings you JOY… then go for it… = )
    As Yeshua says through Judith Coates… there is NO ONE to judge you!

    Ain’t life grand!

    Love to all

    • John Cali

      That’s an interesting perspective, Jerry — thank you for sharing it. You reminded me of me — the way I was years ago. I almost always did the “right” thing because, well, it was the right thing. Never occurred to me back then to do something for the pure joy of it.

      Yes, indeed, life is grand!


  8. Judith Anderson

    But under the larger definition put forward by Mikala would not prayer or meditation itself be an addiction? I certainly would not want to give up my divine connection.

    There are certainly things that we all love that are good to us but might seem addictions to others. Chocolate, anyone?

    I have never used illegal drugs but am in favor of decriminalization and letting everyone decide for him or herself. In fact, I would like to do away with Rx and have all drugs OTC for every adult to freely decide what to take with no need of a doctor or pharmacist standing in between.

    • John Cali

      Good question, Judith. George, in an earlier comment, said we may define addictions any way we want.

  9. George

    We may define addictions any way we choose. While it may be better not to have any addictions that we are wedded to as a matter of life or death and, as Spirit tells us, negative addictions may serve a positive purpose, perhaps it’s best that we focus on loving ourselves and working toward managing our addictions, whatever they are, for our maximum benefit and with consideration for our love for our loved ones and our neighbors.

    • John Cali

      Thank you, George — I agree, we can define addictions however we choose. For me personally, whether something is an “addiction” or not, my criterion is whether it’s good for me without harming anyone else.


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