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Addiction hurts. It hurts the person who is dealing with the addiction. It hurts the people in relationship with the addict. It creates shame and loss. No one grows up hoping they will be addicted to a substance, a process or a person. But if you are struggling, then we are glad you are here.
There are two categories of addictions -- substance addictions and process addictions. Substance addictions such as alcoholism/chemical dependency (nicotine, caffeine, narcotics - whether they are prescription or recreational drugs) or eating disorders, involve ingesting or injecting a substance into the body.
Process addictions include work addiction, compulsive gambling, spending and shopping, love addicted relationships, religious addiction and sex addiction, or you can be addicted to thinking, raging, rushing/adrenalin, creating crises/drama or being busy. Sometimes a process and substance are components of the same addictions.
‘Compulsive, addictive behaviours are not about being hungry, thirsty, horny, or needing work. They are about mood alteration. Compulsive, addictive behaviours help us manage our feelings. They distract us or alter the way we are feeling so we don’t have to feel the loneliness and emptiness of our abandonment and shame’, (Bradshaw, 1996, p.109).
Reference | Bradshaw, John. Bradshaw on the Family a New Way of Creating Solid Self-esteem. Rev. ed. Deerfield Beach, Fla.: Health Communications, 1996. 109. Print.
If you are an addict or if you love an addict, you know that living life has become a complicated business. Life deals us stressors that at times we find hard to deal with. Depending on how we learned to deal with life’s ups and downs in our childhood will depend on how we try to hide, push down, numb and medicate our pain away.
The initial decision to mood alter using various means, either drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, food etc., is voluntary. It becomes away of distracting, minimising and altering the way we feel.
However, after continued use, one’s ability to stop is severely impaired, this is the hallmark of addiction. Brain image studies from people with addiction show marked changes to the areas of the brain that are critical to learning, memory, decision-making, judgment, behaviour and control. (Fowler, et al., 2007, p.4-16)
Did you know that once changes are made in the brain's neural pathways the ability to choose is removed? The struggling person who once exercised their choice in taking drugs no longer has that ability or freedom.
As the dependence progresses, physiological changes are made to the brain structure, this in turn reinforces the dependency on the drug or process. These chemical changes strengthen the psychological conditioning and a cycle of addiction is formed.
Again, addiction hurts both the addicted person and the people they love.
You are brave to ask yourself that question.
Sometimes a process and substance are part of the same addiction. For example, there are many rituals in eating and serving food.
With process addictions people are engaged in ritualistic behaviours where the mood alteration comes from the process of performing a series of actions.
For example, the high that a compulsive gamblers gets when his or her horse wins is only part of the “payoff’. The rest comes from the ritualistic process of reading the form guide, phoning contacts for tips, selecting a book maker and placing the bet.
Similarly, for the sex addict, the seduction process - cruising, obsessing and fantasising become as big a “payoff” as the orgasm. Same with the porn addict.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Addiction is a very personal, complex and treatable disease. No single treatment is appropriate for addiction. It is necessary for each client to have a tailor made program specific to their unique background and circumstances. (Johnson,1980).
Please reach out if your addiction is making your life is unmanageable. There is hope and we can help.