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Weekly Mindfulness Support Blog - Intoxicants

Updated: May 15

Hello and welcome to this glorious Friday, May 14, 2021. Today is a rare and precious day that will never come again.


Merriam-Webster defines intoxication as, "affected by alcohol or drugs especially to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished." The dictionary goes on to say that it can also be an emotionally excited state. The legal definition suggests that intoxication is, "a state in which a person's normal capacity to act or reason is inhibited by alcohol or drugs. Generally, an intoxicated person is incapable of acting as an ordinary prudent and cautious person would act under similar conditions.” “I was drunk” is a common excuse for questionable behavior while under the influence.


Considering these different definitions, I feel like it’s safe to say that when someone is intoxicated, their judgement and ability to function is impaired. Alcohol and drugs, therefore, lead to bad judgment and dysfunction. But is intoxication limited only to alcohol and drugs?


As a recovering opioid addict, my mind goes straight to drugs and alcohol when I think of intoxicants. However, there was a time in my life when gambling was also a problem. Though alcohol was usually involved, the emotional excitement of gambling impaired my judgement in such a way that I occasionally gambled away money needed for mortgage, food, and other household necessities. The effects of a gambling addiction are so pervasive that it has its own 12-step program. Gambling, like the intoxication from alcohol and drugs, has the capacity to impair one’s judgement and their ability to function. Gambling creates dysfunction in the lives of so many people and their families.


The more I think about things that have an intoxicating effect – things that impair our judgment and our ability to function in healthy and meaningful ways – it becomes obvious to me that intoxicants include far more than drugs and alcohol.


Does our relationship with our phones impair our judgement and ability to function? Would a “prudent and cautious” person text while driving? Would one normally sit and stare at their phone during dinner with friends or family? In the moment, the emotional excitement of a text notification is so intoxicating, we tend to lose sight of what’s happening around us and succumb to the desire. It's as if we can't [not] pick up our phone!


In addition to gambling and phones, a few other obvious debilitating intoxicants include video games, sex, pornography, and money. Just like drugs and alcohol, these worldly things can impair our ability think straight and make healthy decisions. I wish I could stop here. Unfortunately, there are less obvious forms of intoxicants that can impair judgement and are a significant source of dysfunction. Anger may be one of the most pervasive.


Not that anger is inherently bad, it is a normal human response to certain situations. Nevertheless, how many times have we done something out of anger and later regretted it? How often have we yelled at someone in anger and were astonished at what came out of our mouth? If our anger gets out of control, it can lead to road rage, for instance. The faculties of good judgment and value-based decisions fly out the window faster than we can flip the bird. But it gets worse, we don’t let it go. We hang on to anger in the form of a resentment which further diminishes our ability to make healthy choices and see clearly. When we are intoxicated with resentment, it’s as if we see the world through a dirty and bitter lens. Sadly, we share our anger and resentments with others.


Fear can be another insidious intoxicant. So can love. How many hasty and unhealthy decisions are made under the influence of love? We can also be overcome by self-defeating and/or grandiose thinking. Yes, our very thoughts and emotions can be intoxicants.


Again, these emotions and their associated thoughts are all part of the normal human experience. However, without the awareness of their potential deleterious effect on us and how they have the capacity to impair our judgement and ability to function, they can in fact be toxic to our well-being. “Toxic” is the root word of intoxicant.


There are tools and skills within a comprehensive Mindfulness practice that can help you to identify and let go of the intoxicants in your life. We are each susceptible in our own way.


You are worthy of living a life free of impairment. I am here to help.


You are Loved by me, Unconditionally!

Dan


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