This post about addiction is the first in a 3 part segment that looks at what addiction is, whether abstinence is the only option, and the role family and friends play.
Addiction is a complicated topic with many different intervention and treatment approaches. There is definitely not a one size fits all approach when it comes to working through and overcoming an addiction. I am not an addictions worker, but I have worked with my share of clients who have been battling addiction. An addiction is a compulsive dependence on a physical substance (drugs or alcohol) or behavior (gambling). There are specific criteria that need to be met according to the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual 5th edition (DSM-V) in order to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, but many individuals who meet the criteria are not formally diagnosed. People can also have an addiction to something that is not recognized by the DSM –V. Just because the addiction is not recognized as a mental health diagnosis, does not make it any less real for the individual. For example, sex addiction is no longer acknowledged in the DSM-V and gaming addiction is not either, though that may change. I would say that whether or not you meet the clinical definition or not for a substance use disorder, if your usage of the behavior or substance is bothering you, then it is a problem.
An addiction can be looked at on a continuum. On one extreme it is really severe, impacting an individual’s work, relationships, and health. It impedes an individual from engaging in life because the addiction is their life. On the other end, it might be something that the individual is using or doing more and more, yet they are still able to function as they normally would.
While there are many different ways to view and understand addiction, I usually see it as a band aide. The behavior or substance use started in order to fix or cover up something the individual is trying to avoid or forget. For example it might be a past trauma, a mental health issue such as depression, family conflict, or a death of a loved one. When we are not in a sober mind, we don’t have to think about or deal with tough stuff. Over time, I think some people find their substance use or behavior gets out of hand and leads to a compulsive dependence. While I’m sure this doesn’t fit for everyone who is dealing with an addiction, I have yet to meet someone battling addiction who hasn’t had some sort of major stressor in their life.
Overcoming an addiction is definitely a challenge and very difficult to do alone. For anyone who is concerned about a behavior or substance in their life, I would encourage you to seek help; help from friends, family, and professionals. No one should have to walk this journey alone. There is a lot more say about addiction so stay tuned for the next 2 weeks.