disarray, disorganization, confusion, mayhem, bedlam, pandemonium, madness, havoc, turmoil, tumult, commotion, disruption, upheaval, furor, frenzy
I lived in a state of chaos and turmoil for many years of my life, not just during my active addiction, but even years before the onset of my alcohol dependence. However, I never realized that this behavior was an addiction in itself.
In sobriety I thought that being busy would help me stay sober. I believed that if I became a doer and a planner, and got things done no matter what they really were, it would make me feel accomplished and make my life feel exciting too. No longer fueled by my alcohol addiction, I thought that by running around and being busy I was finally working towards a successful and meaningful existence.
But in therapy, I discovered that I was actually addicted to chaos! I did not even realize that my addiction was so exhilarating that I literally was not able to stand still! And all the running around was also creating the internal chaos that always kept me in a state of fear and panic, with anxiety through the roof and a constant worry, just waiting for the next shoe to drop.
How did this happen?
Well, when I got sober, I started feeling uncomfortable when everything was going well and things were calm. That was not normal to me; normal was keeping busy and worrying about things getting done! Not realizing this, I subconsciously sought out excitement and drama because that was what I knew as normal in my drinking days.
But it was not just my drinking days! I grew up in a chaotic household. I threw myself in all and any activities in my school days. I sought out relationships that produced chaos and I stayed in jobs that were high energy and fast paced.
It all just seemed normal until, in sobriety and through recovery, it finally did not.
While in therapy I was able to recognize that every environment that I have been in and every relationship I had since I was a child to include my family, was chaotic and abusive. That was my normal and I had subconsciously recreated the same environment over and over and over again.
The article Addicted to Chaos by Barsky, R. (2007), explains this phenomenon clearly.
“Despite the appearance of everything being under control, we experienced continued chaos, developed a tolerance for chaos and I believe became addicted to chaos. I think it is important to say I have never done a scientific experiment to investigate this theory. It is based on observation of numerous people and their behavior.
During the recovery process life becomes more manageable and less chaotic. The addict begins to feel a sense of autonomy and safety. A feeling of calm settles over their life. The paradox for the addict is that feeling calm is so unfamiliar it induces anxiety. There is a sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop. When there is a crisis, whether real or perceived, we actually experience a physical exhilaration and it feels remarkably like being active.”
Learning to slow down and get out of my addiction to chaos has been a long journey!
- It took becoming comfortable with just existing.
- It took finding new outlets, like coloring, crocheting or reading.
- It took observing situations around me without acting on them.
- It took many days of trying and failing and trying again.
- It took strength to avoid chaos when it was around me.
- It took setting firm boundaries and sticking to them.
- It took learning how to say No and saying it often.
- It took practicing Mindfulness as often as I could.
- I took reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.
- I took breaking the old habit by creating a new one.
It also took some time to develop, and I am still work in progress but let me tell you about the amazing changes that had happened in my life! I am no longer running around frantically in a need to fix things. I no longer have a need to control everything. I no longer need to be physically on the move all the time. I no longer need to be in everyone else’s business and I no longer seek out chaos at all situations.
I can now sit through an entire movie and even binge watch TV! Today I am truly able to sit still, find peace and enjoy some time smelling the roses!
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)*, please check out the Sober Courage menu at the top of this page for an extensive list of support groups and recovery related articles.
*Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using (Ref: NIAAA).