There are many ways to escape a negative emotional experience: alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, food, gambling, shopping, sexual experiences,sleep, and work to name some.
If you use or have used one or some of these methods to escape, you probably don’t know how else to cope. Don’t be hard on yourself, because you were just trying to get by in the only way that you knew how.
When you deal with an upset in a constructive way so that you feel better, that is relief. Tools on this blog that provide relief include CREATING A POWERFUL INNER RESOURCE, and EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE. With the help of such tools, you can feel better by, for example, no longer taking something personally, feeling safe as you feel that the danger was in the past, no longer worrying but instead trusting that things will be OK and that you will be able to handle things, feeling that your best is good enough, being able to forgive yourself/another, etc. Talking to someone trustworthy can be helpful. You may want to see a therapist for some help. Programs that provide support have helped many.
Think of your psyche as being an infant that sometimes has an unmet need, making it cry a shrill cry that you cannot stand. Taking an escape route is like listening to loud music with some headphones. You no longer have to hear the crying temporarily while the headphones are on, but the baby’s needs remain unmet. Ignored, the crying becomes more intense and frantic. Relief is like picking up the baby, determining what it needs, such as milk, a burp, a diaper change, some rocking, etc., soothing it by giving it what it needs, and enjoying the peace of a quiet content baby. Not only are you not hurting your ears with the loud music, but you haven taken good care of your precious baby. The baby is your emotional self, which is indeed precious. It deserves to be well cared for, and if it’s ignored, the built-up unmet emotional needs add up and cause more distress and trouble.
Also, when there is addiction, there is often another mental health issue that a person is trying to cope with. Examples of this include ADHD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (excess worry), depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, panic disorder, and social anxiety. These are all treatable with medication as well as therapy. So seeing your doctor is a good idea.