Sense of Wrongness is an Addiction Alarm

I did not give up drinking alcohol because I was afraid or because it seemed the logical thing to do. I probably would have continued drinking indefinitely if it wasn’t for a nagging sense of wrongness that would not leave me alone. This uneasiness with alcohol may have been there from the beginning, but by the time I’d hit my twenties it was impossible to ignore. It spoiled drinking for me, and the more I tried to ignore this uneasiness the worse my life became. I can now see that this sense of wrongness was part of an internal alert system that could only be deactivated by ending the addiction.

Learning to Live with an Alarm Constantly Blaring in Your Head

I can’t see inside the minds of other people, but I bet that it is this sense of wrongness is the usual reason for why people will end addiction. It isn’t because they have come to their senses or that they suddenly realize that drugs are bad for them. People just become so fed up with feeling wrong all the time that they are motivated to do something to fix the problem. A life of getting drunk and high probably wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t for this nagging sense of moving in the wrong direction – it is always there like an elephant in the room, and there is only one way to escape it.

The main benefit of giving up alcohol or drugs is that this sense of wrongness goes away. This might not sound like much, but it is completely life changing and wonderful. The only reason it does not seem that big a deal is that we don’t even realize how much this sense of wrongness has been impacting our life. It is like there has been this bleeping alarm constantly blaring in our heads for years and now it has been switched off – ah, the blessed silence. Our load in life has been lightened, and we now have the freedom to move forward with a skip in our step.

The Addiction Alarm Has Been Installed by the Universe

It appears likely to me that the universe has a purpose and that humans (just like everything else in the universe) are part of this purpose. We can speculate that the force behind the universe is intelligent – we might even like to imagine that it is a man with a flowing white beard – but I don’t think it really matters in regards to what we are discussing here. The universe is moving in a direction, and the best thing that we can do is go with the flow.

The sense of wrongness that exists in the mind of an addict is a warning signal from the universe, and this discomfort will continue until we take the necessary action to turn off the warning signal. For whatever reason, the universe is against the idea of humans getting pissed or stoned all the time, so it has fitted us with alarms to discourage us from doing this. Now we could argue that the universe is a fussy prick, or that I’m some type of religious nut-job for even suggesting that the universe might have a purpose, but that’s the way it seems to work.

Acceptance is How We Turn Off the Addiction Alarm

I’ve been talking about acceptance in a few of my recent posts, and this is a topic that I misunderstood for a long time. This approach to the world has nothing to do with fatalism. It is not about meekly accepting whatever is going to come our way in the future without any attempt to move things in a positive direction. It is really about accepting what we already have right now and becoming willing to work with this.

While I was caught up in addiction the thing I needed to take notice of was the sense of wrongness – it was there and my attempts to ignore it only made things worse for me. I’d get drunk and the disquiet would fade, but it would still be there waiting for me when I got sober – by the end of my addiction the sense of wrongness was there no matter how drunk I got. It was only by acknowledging this wrongness that I was able to do something to end it. I realized that there was a reason for this alarm constantly blaring in my head, and the way to shut it off became obvious to me.

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4 thoughts on “Sense of Wrongness is an Addiction Alarm

  1. Hi Paul – love the podcast thank you it helps me alot. I’m recently in recovery from alcoholism only 5 weeks I’m 34 been drinking since 15. For a minute there i thought I’d already headed into the abyss too far and couldn’t turn around but I’ve managed to hold onto the cliff with a finger and drag myself back up. Anyway my first question to you is do you believe in Karma? In the Buddhist sense or otherwise. I too meditate and am a voracious learner of Buddhism now which is how I stumbled onto you in iTunes. A lot of what I’ve heard from you whether meaning to or not is very similar to Buddhist beliefs or philosophies. It’s not important I’m just curious. Also I go in and out of believing i can be sober forever. I read and hear about addicts who’ve quit and say they never touched it again. How is that ? I feel like its only ever going to be an elastic band that I can learn to stretch out but never be free from. Is that because I haven’t been sober for long enough? My only fear is complacency at the moment but I would love to know that one day I will have a day where I say I don’t want to drink it doesn’t interest me. I had it initially but it’s already gone and i feel the pull again. It’s abit like Dante’s inferno abandoning hope if I stay the way I feel now I know I will probably fail. I’m scared that this is it I’m sober and this is just how I’m going to feel forever. Is it attitude or brain chemistry any advice would be great.

    1. Hi Cian, thanks for the questions.


      Do I believe in karma?

      If you asked me this question a few months ago, I would have automatically said yes, but I’m no longer even sure what karma means. It does seem obvious that my actions have consequences, but when I look back on my life it all sort of looks inevitable – like a jigsaw that fits together nicely. I don’t disbelieve in karma, but it is not something that I think much about these days. I feel it is more about there being a flow to life, and that the important thing is for me to fit in with that flow.

      I know that I’ll never touch alcohol again. I understand that feeling of being attached to alcohol by an elastic band, but when I finally gave up that stuff for good the elastic band snapped. I not only gave up alcohol, but I also gave up being an alcohol. I stopped fighting, and I removed alcohol as an option from my life. I know what alcohol has to offer me, and I’ve no interest in it. I think that we can finally end addiction when we fully wake up to the truth of what is happening to us – when we understand that the sense of wrongness that we feel while drinking is never going to go away, and that we will be unable to move forward with our life so long as alcohol remains an option.

  2. I can’t say I’ve ever felt a sense of wrongness. If anything the opposite, a sense of rightness or completion. Reading this triggered me fairly strongly, and I’ve been reflecting on it a while. Perhaps for me, alcohol was a way to see the possibilities. I need to reflect a while longer I think. One thing I got from AA was the idea of looking at similarities, rather than differences.

    I get what you say about the jigsaw. It sounds very similar to ideas I’ve picked up from exploring Jungian psychology. Synchronicity and the shadow.

    1. Hi Faffin, that’s interesting. I doubt that I would have ever been able to give up alcohol if I felt that it made me feel right or complete. I suppose we are all on our own journey.

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