When You're Addicted to Chaos


My girlfriend recently bought me a coffee mug with a quote on it that says, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” As I sit in the mornings drinking my coffee staring at this quote, I begin to wonder what peace looks like for me. Is it a stable job, enough money to survive, successfully managing my mental illness, having a family and a nice home?

The thing I’ve realized is I am at peace when things are hard. In a crisis, I feel calm, in control and I know what to do. It is those times where there is no chaos that I feel restless, uncomfortable and aimless. I have lived with chaos for so long, now I have no idea how to live when the storm has passed. I have even become so comfortable in chaos that when life is smooth, I create my own chaos. I self-destruct when life is easy. I am addicted to chaos.

Through childhood trauma, living in poverty and battling mental and physical illness, I have become so accustomed to thriving in a whirlwind of an unsettled life I have no idea how to live in peace. This mug reminds me of this on a daily basis. I am trying to understand how to unravel this addiction to life’s messes and how to truly be at peace.

Yet, as I work through these things, new self-destructive behaviors manifest. Urges to hurt myself, damage my relationship or abuse substances are constantly flying into my mind. I am undergoing intensive outpatient therapy, adjusting to new medication and being more open and honest about my struggle with mental wellness, all the while knowing at the end of this I will have to find a way to live in peace when there is no chaos.

The thought of that makes me so uncomfortable I can feel it in my body. My chest gets tight, my skin crawls and my mind races. I can physically feel the anxiety of this idea of peace. I keep telling myself to fight through it because there is a brilliant glimmering light at the end of this tunnel, but the confidence I will be able to thrive, to exist, to not self-destruct once I reach that light is not there. I have never been able to live in a place of peace.

One of the worst manifestations of this is self-destructing my employment. Over the years, I have left jobs or stopped performing once I felt too stable or too comfortable. Since I grew up never having enough money, I have continued to thrive on poverty in my adult life.

Chaos distracts you from the demons that live in your head. Constantly putting out fires in your daily life removes the pressure to actually deal with your own issues. When life is calm, all those buried emotions, all that ignored trauma, all the boxes and baggage that you have packed tightly away in the corners of your mind, come rushing to the surface and you are forced to face them.

I hope by dealing with them in therapy, working through the causes of this irrationality and unpacking those boxes, I will be able to thrive. I will be able to sustain a stable and meaningful life. The nagging thought of being addicted to chaos still haunts me, still calls to me, still draws me to it. The idea that I will constantly create fires in my life is so real to me that it has become a core belief. I take comfort in the fact that I am working on my issues, I did reach out for help, I am acknowledging this addiction and hope someday I will see peace in the calm and not in the storm. For now, this has to be enough.

With any addiction, we take it one day at a time. I try to remember this every time I feel impulsive or self-destructive. I try to hold on to the fact that I am dealing with the past and that I am untangling this mess of thoughts and believes. I continue to believe I will know true peace.

Image via Thinkstock.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

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