When we talk about “addiction”, the picture that usually comes to our mind is of people addicted to alcohol or illicit drugs. Addiction is a widely misunderstood concept. There is still popular belief that addiction is the result of character flaw, moral failing, or a sign of weakness. In reality, addiction is a complex, chronic brain disorder that can strike anyone at any time, and overcoming it requires more than good intensions or determination.
Addictions can be more than just drug related. People can become addicted not only to alcohol or other drugs but to seemingly innocuous activities like shopping, video game playing, smartphone use, gambling, eating, internet use, exercise, etc. It is not the enjoyment of an activity that makes it an addiction but the excessive participation in it, which causes problems in other aspects of life.
Addicts are not uncommon; we often see people around us dejectedly addicted to something. Here is a simple example: in spite of “Health Warning Labels” being printed on every pack of cigarettes that explain the toxicity of tobacco, most smokers compulsively continue their smoking, fully aware that smoking is risky and dangerous, but aren’t still able to stay away from it.
Similarly, a relationship can be an addiction in the same way. There are innumerable people out there who find pleasure in hanging on to the people who are toxic to them. This type of relationship tends to be full of painful arguments, emotional breakdowns, and destructive behaviour. Deep down they know they are destroying themselves, but destroying themselves gives them great joy. So, they stick with it. This is another form of addiction.
Basically, addiction attracts an addict to something that is larger in comparison. People turn to drugs because they require an escape from their agony. To quit one addiction, another comes along to replace it that is even more powerful. Post trauma, or underlying feelings of emptiness, sadness or fear make some people feel helpless. To quell these uncomfortable feelings, people turn to drugs or alcohol.
In the first place, turning to substances to soothe unpleasant feelings is often voluntary. Nobody wakes up in the morning and intentionally chooses a life-threatening compulsion. No one sets a goal to be an addict. However, at some point, the addiction takes on a life of its own and becomes much more difficult to control.
Acceptance plays an important role in challenging and changing the rotten concepts. We should try and educate ourselves more about such diseases. If we are to help people with addiction recover, we have to stop blaming them for making ‘bad choices’ and dismissing them as inherently bad or weak. Instead, we must recognise the complex web of social and environmental circumstances that can lead to drug or alcohol use, and understand that addiction is rooted in changes to the brain that impact judgment, decision making, and self-control.
The addicted person isn’t in their right mind, so families, friends, peers may have to step in and make the choice for them. Finding the right way to approach someone you think is battling an addiction can be tough. Before you speak with them, try putting yourself in their shoes. Choose the right time and place to have this important conversation, at a place where you know you’ll have quiet and privacy. Try to formulate statements that are positive and supportive. Avoid being negative, hurtful or presumptuous. Prepare yourself for every response. No matter the reaction, you should stay calm and assure the person that they have your respect and support. Hearing that you care is just the kind of motivation your friend needs.
Addiction is a disease but it is a treatable illness. Addicted persons can and do recover. No matter what your addiction with the right help, right tools and right support you can overcome it and life can be good again.