Have you or someone you know ever been challenged with or suffered from an addiction? I have. I used to be addicted to the internet. Key words here being, “used to be.” Today I’m going to share with you my journey and the practices I used to break free of the debilitating addiction I found myself in.
Internet Addiction Disorder, also commonly known as Problomatic Computer Use or Compulsive Internet Use, effects 6% of the world’s population which is equivalent to about 420 million people. Though it’s not officially recognized as a disorder, it’s prevalence within cultures around the globe is staggering.
The most commonly observed types of internet addiction can include: information overload, compulsions, cyber-sex and cyber-relationship addictions that can come in many forms such as the news, shopping, gaming, gambling, chat rooms, web-surfing, and pornography. And let us not forget, social media feeds.
There’s no question the internet has made life a lot easier giving us instant access to a wealth of information as well as the opportunity to build and develop connections around the world, but it has also led to a lot of people spending excessive time online.
My internet addiction came in the form of cyber-relationships. The healing from my addiction initiated a journey or quest if you will, to take back my power, to reclaim my identity, my self-worth, my self-respect, and to integrate new and healing practices into my daily life.
The day I signed up to be a Premium Member on Bill O’Reilly’s website was the day my addiction began. For those unfamiliar, Bill O’Reilly is an American journalist, author and political commentator. He was the host of O’Reilly Factor, the highest-rated cable news show at the time and I watched the show religiously. Becoming a Premium Member gave me access to the message boards. The message boards were a place that members could meet, debate, talk, share, support and maybe even collaborate.
There are a host of reasons or causes why one becomes addicted to something or someone. Some of those reasons include depression, feelings of overwhelm, lack of emotional support, loneliness, anxiety, and even stress.
I’m still not sure what I was trying to avoid back then or why I was using the message boards as a substitute for life, but I honestly think it was boredom. I was bored in my job. I had a lot of time on my hands and I sat in front of a computer all day long.
In retrospect, I understand there was an unconscious need looking to be filled and I was looking externally to fill it. My cyber-relationships became a priority as I slipped further away from my integrity and my truth and my family. To this day I still actively practice the art of forgiving myself for the countless moments I missed with my family because my thoughts and energy were focused on what was going on online.
After close to three years, when the misery and unhappiness became too much to bare, when my soul was screaming out for change, when I was sick and tired of compromising myself and taking the words and actions of others personally, I made an appointment with a licensed professional. As he reached across his desk to hand me a prescription, I knew it was wrong. I knew medication wasn’t the answer. I needed something else. So I started talking to God.
One afternoon I walked into my manager’s office to talk with her and noticed a book on her desk. The book was You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. I picked it up, started thumbing through it, drilled her with questions and stopped at the local Barnes and Noble that afternoon to buy myself a copy. Here is it. Read cover to cover three times. In fact, I still refer back to this book today.
I truly believe the angels placed that book on my path for the very reason of healing my addiction to the internet. You Can Heal Your Life was the catalyst for my increased spirituality and my journey of healing and self-discovery. Two practices that were introduced to me through the book, I continue to use to this very day. They are the use of affirmations and mirror work.
Affirmations are positive statements that help people to overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. Through repetition and belief, one can re-program the mind and use affirmations to drive positive change in all aspects of one’s life. This is what I began to do. I evaluated and assessed my patterns of thought and my belief system, and I started the process of re-programming.
Here are the first lists of affirmations (and prayers) I composed and printed over a decade ago. These lists stayed in my handbag and went with me everywhere I went.
What I discovered through this practice is that I was looking to those cyber-relationships to fill specific needs. I needed to be liked, wanted, funny, appealing, needed, loved and desired. Strange thing is, I WAS, by those nearest and dearest in my real life! How did I lose sight of that?
Working in tandem with affirmations was mirror work.
Have any of you heard of or actively practice mirror work?
The primary purpose of mirror work is to reprogram the mind, develop self-love and increase self-care. A practice of mirror work can help foster and develop a deeper relationship with yourself. It’s pretty simple. You stand in front of a mirror looking deeply into your own eyes as you recite positive affirmations. Simple, but not always easy. I was in such an awful dark place that every time I stood in front of the mirror to do the work, tears would pour down over my cheeks. I was a hot mess, but I kept at it.
Those first few months I stood in front of my mirror repeating affirmations such as ….
I am needed.
I am wanted.
I am funny.
I am liked.
I am appealing.
I am loved.
I am desired.
These were basic affirmations I used. As I journeyed and discovered more about myself, the affirmations shifted and expanded to specific areas that needed healing.
Over a decade has passed since my dark days of addiction. As I reflect I feel a sense of gratitude for the experience as painful as it was. Additionally, I feel neutrality, I feel neutral, which resonates with me as healing from my addiction and the experience. The practices of affirmations and mirror work were guiding forces in the emerging of the newest and best version of my Self.
Today I am less likely to take things personally, but hey … we all have off days, right? I keep tight boundaries around the time I spend online and I do my best to remain present around family and friends. The experience and my journey had gifted me the opportunity to reclaim my power, my truth and my self-respect. I no longer compromise Who I Am.
I invite all of you to be open and honest with yourself about what needs to shift in your own life. I invite you to evaluate your belief system, assess your patterns of thought, acknowledge your limiting beliefs and begin to heal. I’m not presuming you suffer from addiction, but we can all find areas of our life in need of healing. Next time you’re standing in front of the mirror, be sure to look deeply within your eyes and say something super-positive about yourself or your life. I invite you to acknowledge what’s not working, to integrate new practices, and to live the very best version of YOU!
A speech composed for my next Speaker Sisterhood Club Meeting. My story.
Self-Awareness and Transformational Coach, Inner Child Advocate, and Yin Yoga Teacher.