What is the true meaning of addiction?

The dictionary defines addiction as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma”.

According to Psychology Today addiction is “a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (e.g., gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities”.

The first thing that pops into our mind when thinking of the word “addiction” is drugs or alcohol.  Using the actual definitions perhaps we could all fall easily into the category of addiction.  I mean some people are addicted to eating habits that can endanger their health as much as alcohol or drugs.  Some people are actually work-a-holics or shop-a-holics etc.

I’m sure you’ve heard the age old adage a thousand times. It’s quite an anomaly when you think about the statement: she / he is nothing but a drunk or nothing but an addict!

It is at this point I have to ask: so what comes first, the chicken or the egg?  Without the chicken there is no egg but without the egg there is no chicken. Thus in turn the words: “nothing but an addict” is illogical.

Question without an answer
Question without an answer

How Does Addiction Happen?

I think most us would say that having an addiction of any kind doesn’t just happen. The person just doesn’t decide one day to take up drinking or drugs.  I believe each one of us has the ability or inability to deal with life’s devastation, illness, and grief, but the strength given to us by our creator can be adversely affected by our genetics or family background.

The Drug of Choice in America   

In America today alcoholism affects more than 14 million people; 4% of them women and 10% of them men. Alcohol has become the drug of choice by most people today. If you took a survey of how many people have at least one drink per day or one day per week that they drink, the results would be astonishing. We know teenagers turning the “drinking” age of 21, often binge on their special birthday and some have even died from alcohol poisoning. So are we a society that must have liquor to cope with life or do we enjoy life by having liquor?   

Drug of Choice

You’ve heard it said that if you have a parent or several family members that are alcoholics, you should avoid at all cost even social drinking.  Others say if you keep it in moderation and are aware of the weakness in your family, you will probably survive without becoming an alcoholic yourself.

An Abuser or an Alcoholic

This question is interesting as one often coincides with the other. First of all, we must realize that alcoholism is a mental illness just the same as any other mental illness and should be treated as such. In most cases when it comes to drinking, the liquor starts out being a coping mechanism after a rough day at the office, or a romantic or family crisis. It is not uncommon for wine to be served with dinner in many homes as is a custom also in Europe. When one drink per night becomes two or more in order to bring satisfaction, it soon becomes an unbreakable habit.

Eventually, the casual drinking becomes an everyday occurrence and doesn’t stop at one drink or even two or three.  Soon the drinking becomes more important than enjoying a quiet dinner with the family or spending an afternoon at the park.  You must have a drink to get through the day; you must have several drinks to sleep at night.  It has become an obsession.

The defining points become: alcohol abuse will involve maladjusted behavior as does the alcoholic but alcoholism will have withdrawal symptoms when the liquor is withheld and eventually it will become more and more difficult to achieve intoxication as the body will build up a tolerance for the alcohol. Once a person learns to depend on the alcohol to relax, it can quickly turn to alcohol abuse and then addiction.

If Only They Could See Themselves
If Only They Could See Themselves

I Just Want to be Normal

How many times do you hear a person who is obviously addicted to alcohol swear that they can have one drink and stop there without a problem.  How many times do they claim they just want to be like everyone else and choose or not choose to get drunk?  Unfortunately, the true alcoholic cannot stop at one drink as that one drink will trigger a chemical imbalance they cannot control.  That one drink will not only lead to more but will cause a drastic change in their personality.  They might become relaxed and humorous but more often if they are addicted they become hostile or aggressive.  Some people drink themselves into a stupor and simply drift into unconsciousness.  Many more, the actual abusers, will become violent, especially to family members such as a spouse, child or even a pet.

In most cases, the addict suppresses an underlying problem, an unfilled need, or a deeply rooted pain that never ends. That pain is so great that not even the person afflicted can pinpoint when it started or what will make it end. Thus, they turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort and at first a little goes a long way.

Often there an additional mental disorder that causes or accompanies the drinking abuse. The mental disorder may be treatable with medication, therapy or both. Some people are plagued with mental problems such as anorexia, bulimia, manic depression, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia the majority of their lives. One problem triggers another and soon you have an intolerable situation of destruction. The person affected is overwhelmed with their mental disorder thus they become dependent on liquor to ease their pain. Unfortunately, our society does not allow for the original mental illness having triggered the alcohol abuse but centers on the person’s habit only and how it is destroying their life. It is a veritable merry-go-round. The use of alcohol for the mentally ill individual is deadly.

Let’s Talk About Medications

More often than not in order for an addiction to be constrained medications are required.  If the addict stops their medications the result is often a regression into their old habits.

Drugs, on the other hand, can also be addictive.  If you examine pain killers, for instance, these pesky pills start out as a seemingly innocent necessity for coping with pain due to an accident, illness or surgery. Then when the illness gets worse or the surgery doesn’t help, the pain continues and so do the drugs. The pain is smothered by the sedative effect of the drugs, but as time goes by the drugs must be increased as the dosage no longer works. A doctor will often change a dosage or type of pain medication in hopes of preventing an addiction, but unfortunately, all too often the damage has already been done. The pain becomes two-fold – a pain caused by the inability of the drug to work effectively and the pain caused by the body’s withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of the drug itself.  This can trigger a reaction that leads to replacing the needed drug with alcohol.

Rubies – Escaping the Curse Teaches a Valuable Lesson

In the Rubies saga we watch the painful destruction of a family because addictions, depression and alcoholism. The gradual decline is heightened by the character’s ignorance of how their choices are affecting others and yet as the ground begins to shake around them, they lean on the crutch that has already weakened them until it breaks and their lives crumble beneath them.

Rubies - Escaping the Curse
Rubies – Escaping the Curse

 

Can We Stop the Insanity?

The question is really two-fold: Is addiction preventable? How do you conquer your addiction?

Addiction can be prevented by educating ourselves to the pitfalls and causes.

1) If your genetics indicate a family history of alcohol or drug addiction you should not drink alcohol at all and be very cautious when taking any pain medications. Risk factors for alcoholism include depression, anxiety, and/or being physically or mentally abused as a child.

2) Tell your doctor if you feel you need medication more often than prescribed. This could indicate a risk factor for addiction to the drug you are taking.

3) Use alternative medications whenever available to ease pain and changing lifestyles.  Sleep aids such as Melatonin, Valerian, Chamomile and Magnesium will easily replace addictive sleeping medications. Use chiropractic, massage or acupuncture treatment to aid in relaxation and pain relief.

4) Remember to use all medications with temperance and good habits. Do not overuse your prescribed drugs and consult your physician regularly when taking any medication.

5) If you begin to notice that you want a second and third drink with dinner or you need to drink on a daily basis, get some help before your abuse becomes an addiction.

What is the first step in conquering an addiction?

As with any obsession, addiction or poor habit one must first recognize that the problem exists and that the solution lies in accountability.  Take accountability for your behavior and your choices.  Then determine to change those poor choices into healthy habits.

What can you do for others? 

If you think your loved one has an addiction talk to them about it with love and concern. An addict will steal from you, lie to your face and subvert the truth anytime they need to feed their habit. Helping them recognize their addiction is one of the most difficult things you will ever face in life, but don’t put it off.  Seek the help of a professional if needed or check out support organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) and AL-Anon or Alateen. Talking to others in the same boat helps to prevent jumping over the side.

Tolerance for addictions is more difficult than supporting a cancer patient or dealing with a mentally challenged individual. If you really love someone you will do everything you can to support and encourage them to get help.  Becoming their executioner or jailer does not help an addict.  You are not in charge of punishment. Vengeance is mine; I will repay says the Lord.”  Romans 12:19

If only the addict could understand that the tolerance ends when all hope ends. All hope ends when the abuse of the addict destroys the love and respect in a relationship; when respect is not given, and lies circumvent truth. Everyone has their breaking point, even a caregiver, a mother, a father, a husband, a wife, or a child. When patience is replaced by anger and love is replaced by fear, then all tolerance is lost and walking away is the only answer.

A word of caution when walking away:  Be sure you can live with the consequence of your choice. Don’t let the addict destroy you or one day you will find yourself in their place.

Sometimes it's all we have
Sometimes it’s all we have

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