What’s your (distraction) drug of choice?

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on November 30, 2016

in This is Life

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“And so I began to peer into the darkness, that plunging sense of deep inadequacy. It’s always been there. Frankly, I didn’t know other people didn’t have it. I thought that at the center of all of us was black liquid self-loathing, and that’s why we did everything we did – that’s why some people become workaholics and some people eat and some people drink and some people have sex with strangers To avoid that dark sludge of self-loathing at the center of all of us.” – Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect

What’s your drug of choice?

I spent two evenings in fellowship with drug addicts, alcoholics, and criminals at a halfway house in Ingram, Texas. Every introduction ended the same way:

“What’s your drug of choice?”

I felt like the most sane, smart, responsible person in the room until my new friends started talking about how they experienced their addictions.

“The craving became so strong I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function, until I satisfied that craving.”

“I’d suddenly realize, like I just woke up from a dream, that I’d been on a three-day binge. I didn’t even remember the first hit.”

“I do good for a while, but then old memories, old relations, old feelings come up and my first thought is to make the feelings go away as quickly as possible, and the only way I know how.”


Food is my addiction. I’m a hundred pounds overweight and have been since my early 20s when I injured my lower back. As my new friends talked about their addictions, I realized how I use food as self-medication: Bored? Eat. Upset? Eat. Happy? Eat.

Maybe you can relate.

When I read the above quote from Shauna Niequist, it struck me how many photographers I’ve visited with over the last 8 years who start with superficial questions like, “What should I name my business?” or “What camera and lens should I buy?”, and by the end of the conversation are asking, “What’s wrong with me?”

What’s wrong with me…

What a damning question, right? Convicted without trial. We’re our own worst judge, jury, and executioner.

Some (many?) of us working artists are addicted to the superficial. To busyness, to excuses, to feeling ignorant and unable.

Two important questions I’ll be working to answer this holiday season, and I invite you to try them on for size:

  • What questions are you asking, what are you staying busy with, so you can avoid dealing with your more serious, central pain?
  • Why are you scared and resistant to opening up your heart and healing that pain?

You aren’t holding back from launching your photography business, or taking that next step with your art or your life, because you don’t think your art is good enough, or your camera, or your web site.

You’re holding back because you don’t think YOU are good enough.

You don’t feel worthy of clients. You don’t feel worthy of their money. You don’t feel worthy of the success you dream of.

A hard truth: your art, your business, your work is never going to be good enough until you learn and accept that YOU are good enough. Because a failure to take action toward your dream is almost always an emotional problem, not an intellectual one. You don’t lack knowledge, or ideas, or dreams. You lack confidence. You lack a feeling, a faith, of your worthiness.

If you think this message doesn’t apply to you, take 30 minutes of undistracted time to journal on the idea and play “What if?” What if what’s really holding you back is a lack of self worth? Why would that be? What feelings and thoughts do you have because of this? How is that lack of confidence stopping you from taking brave, tangible steps forward with your art and business?

A good therapist could take apart your heart and find the broken pieces, then give you the tools and blueprints you need to rebuild stronger than before. And you don’t have to have a mental illness to get a good therapist on your team. All of the successful people I know count coaches, therapists, pastors, counselors and other professionals as a vital part of their lives. But the odds of you seeking out a therapist because of this e-mail are one in a hundred.

So here are a few ways to start breaking and rebuilding yourself from the comfort of your own home:

  • Journal nightly. Explore your feelings. List your accomplishments and failures in the day. Choose three words to live by, each with special meaning to you and your goals. Answer nightly, “How did I honor or fail in these goals today?” Take conscious account and control of your life.
  • Start a morning routine that sets your mindset for the day. Meditate, read affirmations, visualize your goals and your habits to achieve them, exercise, read inspirational books, and journal your thoughts and feelings and intentions for the coming day. Even just a few minutes spent with each programs your heart and brain for the entire day.
  • Listen to the voices in your head. Most people spend most of their day suffering negative internal dialog. The gremlins never shut up for some people, or in hard seasons of our life when we’re hurting or weak. Stop letting these voices run as constant background chatter and bring them to the front of your thoughts. Write them down. Share them with a friend. Recognize how violent and abusive these thoughts are, and how little connection they have to reality. Disempower the gremlins by shining a spotlight on them, to be seen as the mean, ugly, powerless little horsesh*ts that they are.
  • If you’re an introvert like me, you spend a lot of your time “in your own head.” Start sharing your fears, your pain, your worries, the things you don’t yet understand about yourself and how you hold yourself back, with close friends, or a good group of people like Live Your Legend members. Be a little more honest, open, and vulnerable. Let your friends help – it’s a blessing to them to be there for you.
  • Practice self care. The little things: slow down, say no, build margin into your life, let yourself sleep, let yourself rest and recover, take breaks, take walks, feed your body and brain healthier food, phone a friend, read, figure out what makes you happy and purposefully get more of that into your life.

We’re all addicted. We’re all broken. We’re all hurting, and scared.

And we all have the agency and opportunity to seek help or begin helping ourselves to heal.

Start today. Start with any small thing that helps.

Are you here for a reason?

Do you have a responsibility to do the best you can with this life?

Do you want your life to have purpose? A legacy?

“I used to believe, in the deepest way, that there was something irreparably wrong with me. And love was a lie. Now I’m beginning to see that love is the truth and the darkness is a lie… I can’t hear the voice of love when I’m hustling. All I can hear are my own feet pounding the pavement, and the sound of other runners about to overtake me, beat me… Most of my regrets center around being overwhelmed or stuck in my own head, worried and catastrophizing, endless loops of proving and shame, pushing and exhaustion.” – Shauna Niequist

No more regrets. Make a change.


  • BRAINSTORM SESSION: Get out your pen and paper. Play “What if?”. What if there’s a deeper reason behind your failure to launch? What’s holding you back? Now…what’s really holding you back? Go deep. If you don’t believe it, pretend. See if some truth doesn’t pour out in your words. File this away in your Brainstorms folder.
  • SUBSCRIBE TODAY: Book yourself solid shooting clients you love for pay you’re worth. Don’t miss out on my best stories and ideas: subscribe to my e-mail newsletter today at the top-right of any page of this site.
  • DO THIS NOW: What’s the biggest challenge holding you back? E-mail me at james@banderaoutlaw.com. I read everything, and I look forward to helping you make a breakthrough today.

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