the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance or activity:he committed the offence to finance his drug addictionaddiction to crack cocaine is spreading[count noun]:an addiction to gambling
late 16th century (denoting a person's inclination or proclivity): from Latin addictio(n-), from addicere 'assign' (seeaddicted)
Addiction comes about through an array of changes in the brain and the strengthening of new memory connections
Before the 1980s, the so-called addictive personality was used to explain the development of addiction. The addictive personality was described as escapist, impulsive, dependent, devious, manipulative, and self-centered. Many doctors now believe that these character traits develop in addicts as a result of the addiction, rather than the traits being a cause of the addiction.
A few days ago I began to ponder anew the nature of addiction. It is a destroyer of families. It ruins relationships. It wrecks lives. It causes grief, disappointment, distress to loved ones. It changes plans and dreams. It does not make the addicted one happy. They become ashamed and learn some very antisocial behaviour including how to lie well.
Those of us who have eating disorders know a lot about the personal distress of addiction and we often battle with the mixed feelings of hating ourselves for the addiction, while simultaneously knowing that to be successfully free we need to love ourselves.
Addiction to food could be called the least harmful of all addictions but it causes shame both in the addicted person and to their family and friends. Those who feel comfortable being seen alongside someone who is overweight are a rarity. Food addiction usually leads to health problems and ultimately becomes a community or societal problem.
But what about the addictions that cause serious harm to others?
Whether we are family, coaches, counsellors or onlookers, we need to be strong because only the addicted person can change his/her life.
We need to express loud and clear that we love the person but despise their addiction.
Our love can be mistaken for acceptance and yet I do not feel comfortable with tough love as it was often practiced toward drug addicts in the 70s and 80s.
We must not let our love be mistaken for tolerance. It's a very hard line to walk. Nor is it helpful to police the addict. We all know how we feel about the Food Police.
We live in a world that judges harshly while also preaching tolerance. Anything goes so long as it appears harmless to the on-looker. God help you when you are caught in wrong-doing. The critics and harsh judges become very vocal. The do-gooders come by with clichés, useless answers and programs.
Where is the balance? Where are the straight talkers? The strong people who can enter the addicts life like straight arrows that fly true and hit home releasing the addict from his/her prison? Where are the wise people who know when to walk away until the addict is willing to take personal responsibility?
In today's world addiction has become an excuse for all kinds of behaviour.
The truth is that we cannot become addicted before we walk along the pathway of whatever our particular addiction is.
Addiction is the result of having a tolerant attitude toward the focus of our addiction.
In the case of food or medically prescribed drugs this is usually inadvertent. We can become addicted chemically through the way our body and or brain interacts with the legitimate product. This was the case for me and wheat. For many years I knew I was caught in a vicious cycle and felt helpless to break it. I envied those who were hooked on cigarettes. Cigarettes are non-essential but we die without food. Once I realised that I was not addicted to all food, but quite probably wheat only, new possibilities opened up for me.
I believe that no-one becomes addicted instantly but most people have the potential to become addicts if they dabble. Most people would know what has the ability to suck them into an unhealthy relationship.
Drugs, some foods, pornography, alcohol, certain sexual activities, gambling, hoarding are among destructive and addictive behaviours. Some things may at first seem innocuous but it's clear that at some point our obsession begins to change the structure or the working of the brain and finding freedom becomes a tortuous process.
Addiction is a reason but it is not an excuse.
Once an addiction takes hold the addict can only become free by being determined. Will power is not enough. It requires strong mindedness and a strong spirit. Without inner strength all efforts are doomed to failure. Most people will benefit from a good counsellor. Everyone needs a strong and wise friend.
The twelve step program is popular and often successful.
Personal responsibility is essential. Addicted people need to realise and accept that they are vulnerable, probably for the remainder of their lives.
Every behaviour begins with a thought. We talk about mindful eating because our brain needs to be re-wired if we have been eating stuff in an unhealthy way for a long time. The best way to never become addicted in the first place is to stop the thoughts right from the start. The moment you entertain thoughts is the moment you climb on the slippery slide. This is true for every addict. People who are at risk of addiction or who are already addicts need to learn to practice thought transference and aversion.
Thoughts lead to exposing yourself to the object of your addiction. Why let something that you do not want to do take away your freedom. Dilly-dallying with thoughts is DANGEROUS. It is one step away from action.
Addicts despise themselves. They struggle to be honest. They think they are unlovable. Sometimes they are right and we need to call on our knowledge of God's unconditional love to see past the activity and find the real person who feels helpless and trapped in their own prison. It gets tricky. Addicts become angry and defensive and they leave their loved ones feeling betrayed and helpless.
All the counselling in the world cannot help unless the addicted person has a willingness to practice avoidance. You cannot ever safely dip you toe into the addiction. Most people learn some aversion techniques. Given time and determination to follow an excellent practice the brain re-wires itself and freedom comes ...... with the warning to not venture back in the direction of the addiction.
It is not easy but it is possible to break any addiction.
This is personal. I have one son in prison and another has lost his job this week.
What did my husband and I do to be in this situation?
I wish I knew.
We want to see our sons return to productive lives free of their addictive behaviours.
There are many question we must ask ourselves. In what way did we make their behaviours possible. Were we too strict, or too soft and gentle? Did we not emphasise personal responsibility? These questions may seem futile but they just might lead us toward what we should do now.
The past cannot be changed but maybe I can find a way to change the present and the future. Unless I cling to this hope I am lost.
The first sign of problems arose in the mid 1970s. I sought advice but no-one in my circle had anything of great value. Over the years I have spoken with experts and done a lot of reading. I came to the conclusion that whatever went down in their childhood that contributed to the current situation, these men are responsible for their own behaviour. Whatever contribution I made through lack of expertise and knowledge I will not wallow in guilt or shame. I have always done the best I could. It grieves me it was not enough.
Today I continue to believe in our sons. I know they have a good foundation based on healthy values. Hopefully the day will come when they come to their senses as did the prodigal son. I wait and watch.
I am a praying woman, I believe in the power of prayer but no amount of prayer has saved our family from this grief. I still have hope and I believe God is totally good. This situation is not His making and the answer can be found in Him.
Last night I lay in bed, distressed, unable to sleep, too aware of my own lack of a healthy spiritual life and neglect of my relationship with God.
In my distress I began to see something.
For all these years, at least 40, I have lived on the fringe of a swamp filled with crocodiles. Sometimes the swamp encroached on our living space. There were rare times when I ventured into the swamp and took risks in an attempt to help my sons but most times the crocodiles have entered our life stealthily, shockingly, without permission causing havoc.
Last night I almost wished I had been taken out by a crocodile. I don't want to know anymore. I don't want to seek healing and recovery. I want out. Let a crocodile destroy me. I don't want the responsibility. I'm tired of the battle, of the background alertness and the shocks that come just as I think I can relax my vigilance. The whole mess is far too big for me. It should be bundled up in an old kit bag and thrown at God. It's His problem. But the reality is I am the feet on the ground. Give me wisdom.
I love my sons, I love my family. I cannot allow those thoughts of giving in to linger.
If God is real, if God is love, if I know anything at all about God, there is a an answer. I just wish I knew what it is.