What is an addiction?
Addiction is often misunderstood by many people. Addiction is not a “moral failure” a commonly held belief by many, but hopefully this conviction is changing. Addiction is a “dis-ease,” people may turn to drugs and alcohol for relief, for comfort and to “feel good.” Addiction may begin as a recreational form of behavior, to have fun, to enjoy oneself or to feel that one feels they belong and are accepted within a group of friends. This recreational form of behavior may evolve into depending upon alcohol or drugs which suddenly develops into a form of unhealthy coping skills, a means in which the normal social development of confronting rejection, feeling a sense of failure, and experiencing emotional and physical pain has been replaced with a person’s drug of choice.
There are different forms of addiction,
such as substance disorder (addicted to alcohol or drugs) and process addictions, such as gambling, pornography, shopping, eating disorders, internet gaming.
Addiction is a means for people to resolve their pain and discomfort, to avoid their feelings, to disassociate with reality, to escape from real life, because addicted people just can’t resolve being hurt, or cope with the experience of physical or emotional pain. Addicts “numb out,” they avoid all feelings because emotions are too agonizing to endure. There are several popular beliefs why addiction may be formed or created:
People may say that addiction is hereditary, that genetic make-up influences a person to be predisposed to forming an addiction. Studies have found that the earlier the age of onset (when did you take your first drink? Or first take drugs? Or first viewed pornography?) is a strong indicator that an addiction may be formed.
Dr. Alexandra Katehakis in her book, “Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation,” describe how children that experience insecure attachment styles use isolating emotion regulation skills to “…quell hideous conscious or unconscious memories”. A child may have an attachment disorder as being dismissive/avoidant or anxious avoidant due to the parent’s rejection or insensitivity to the child’s emotional (affective) cues. The child may develop panic, rage and fear and feelings of shame. The child may become depressed, listless, and isolated, not really knowing how to associate with others, unable and/or unwilling to form friendships. A child may become anxious/ambivalent (hesitant) when their primary caregiver is inconsistent raising the child. Rewards given to the child are often seldom and random and the child may find it difficult to get their dependency needs met. Most children have been raised with a secure attachment style. This results with the child, and later adult, develop the ability to regulate their emotions, easily trust others, have effective communication skills, become comfortable being alone and feel secure with close relationships.
People that experience trauma use methods of numbing to block memories of bad experiences. How do you know if you’re traumatized? If you suffer from severe fear, anxiety, or depression, unable to form close and satisfying relationships, experience terrifying memories, nightmares, or flashbacks. The most common psychological trauma is emotional abuse. Emotional trauma is the result of events of experiences that leave a person feeling deeply unsafe and/or helpless. This form of trauma can be the result from a single event or be part of an ongoing experience, such as chronic bullying, discrimination, or humiliation. Abandonment or being neglected is also a form of emotional trauma.
So, I have an addiction, how can I be helped?
Individual and group counseling has been proven to be very effective in the treatment of addiction. However, the treatment of addiction is not like the medical model of Western medicine. Addiction is not similar to having a broken limb healed, or an infection that is treated with medication. Recovery from addiction is the process of changing long-held beliefs, learning how to interact and socialize with others, knowing when you are vulnerable and identifying emotional triggers.
As a counselor I will help you identify your values, develop relapse prevention skills and plans, resolve the shame of addiction, learn how to practice acceptance, understanding how to acknowledge what you cannot change. Recovery from addiction is a life-long process that takes patience, dedication, and hard-work, but recovery is well worth it. Sobriety means you are no longer enslaved to your addiction.
May I wish you the very best in your path to recovery.
Author, David Kellar, LPC, LCAC,