Addiction and recovery

I’ve seen a lot of people caught in addiction and I myself have had problems with addiction, so the next couple of blog posts will be dedicated to the problem with addiction and my own personal struggle. Here is some information.

What is addiction?

Addiction is a condition in which a person is dependant on a substance or activity in which they cannot control their usage of, in a way that consumes them. For example, somebody can be addicted to alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex, gaming, as well as the lesser-known compulsions/addictions such as setting fire to things (also known as pyromania), stealing/shoplifting (Kleptomania), eating, pornography, the internet/social media, working, exercising, self-harm, and shopping. There are plenty other less common addictions, which depends on the individual and their chemical imbalances. If you look into the series “my strange addictions” you’ll see somebody addicted to burgers, somebody addicted to bathing in bleach, somebody addicted to drinking air conditioner and so on.

Disease or choice?

This is a debate that has been ongoing and unsettled. Personally, I believe it is often a choice which leads to a disease or condition. For example, if you gamble once, and that particular activity sparks something in your brain that then refuses to let go, I’d call that a disease, that was bought on by the behaviour. So, if a gambling addict hadn’t decided to go gambling a few times, they might not have ‘ignited’ the disease, to put it in so many words. However, because they did, their brain has now developed a chemical compulsion to keep gambling. This is the same with many addictions, most noticeably drugs and alcohol. Have you noticed how many people drink alcohol- yet they don’t become alcoholics. Many people also take drugs occasionally, yet they don’t all become addicted. I firmly believe this is because some people are pre-disposed to addiction, whether this is because of things such as a chemical imbalance or genetics, some people, cannot avoid getting addicted to certain substances, at which point it is very difficult to navigate your way out of the hold the drug, substance, or activity has on you.

Symptoms of addiction

If you think you or somebody you know might have an addiction, these are the signs to look out for.

  • Obsession with the addiction – The persons life may revolve around the habit. They might not go out because they are staying in to take drugs. They might plan around their night ‘on the town’, and they’ll likely talk about the habit a lot. These are usually the first signs, but as people catch on, they are more likely to retreat and continue their habit on their own or around others interested in the same behaviours or activities (e.g. handing around other drug-takers, staying in the bar with other drinkers, going to the casino alone etc.) 
  • Denial – If you or anybody else confronts the potential addict, they may deny their problem, even go so far as to lie about their usage. “I don’t do drugs!” when you have evidence to the contrary, “I only drink one glass every couple of days”, “I went home alone last night”, “those aren’t my food wrappers!” etc. They will try their absolute hardest to convince you (and themselves), that they don’t have a problem. 
  • Withdrawal from society –  An addicted person may withdraw from their family and friends, often retreating to isolation, or as established, hanging around with like-minded people. They could spend hours, days, or even weeks away from their loved ones, because they are consumed by their addiction. 
  • Physical withdrawal – Time away from their habit can cause physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. If they are detoxing from a substance like alcohol or drugs, these are likely to be the most severe. The person might have nausea or vomiting, will often become shaky, pale, and drowsy. It is important to keep somebody in withdrawal conscious and talking if possible. Withdrawal should always be done in a safe place like a detox centre, but many people choose to do it themselves at home which is more dangerous. Side effects can become severe and a person might go into shock or even stop breathing or have a heart attack. If the addiction is more behavioural- like a sex, gambling or gaming addiction, withdrawal symptoms most often seen are things like anger, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, shaking as an uncontrollable urge to return to the habit or activity, and there are many other symptoms of ‘withdrawal’ from their addiction.

Symptoms I might be addicted?

  • Inability to quit your behaviour or substance abuse
  • Withdrawal from your loved ones
  • Obsession with the activity or substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when away from activity or substance
  • Cravings and desire to keep using substance or taking part in activity
  • Not engaging with work, at school, or at home
  • Problems with relationships, friendships, and family due to perceived addiction
  • Engaging in risky behaviour, particularly when ‘high’ or when partaking in addictive behaviour or activity. 

How to help somebody who might be addicted

It is extremely hard to convince somebody they have a problem, when they have yet to admit it to themselves. This is why people say “the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem”. Denial is the most common sign and symptom of addiction, especially when you have evidence that they are lying. Quite often you may catch them in one of their lies, but don’t force it upon them, because their denial will likely only escalate until they completely shut down. Gently nudge them into realising their behaviour isn’t normal and is causing themselves or others danger. Things like gaming and internet addictions can be brought to attention by showing them how much time they spend on these activities. Depending on who you are to the person in question, you could limit their usage by doing things like shutting down the internet or having allocated time slots for gaming. 

For substance abuse, hide or keep out of reach/site, any drugs with abuse potential. (Research may be in order). Try and talk to them about what might be causing their addiction. Alcohol and drug-related addictions are often a by-product of a mental health problem like anxiety, depression or bi-polar disorder. See if they might discuss their issues with a doctor or therapist, which may help them find the reason behind their addiction. This is a lot better than treating the symptom- as you are treating the cause. 

No matter what the addiction, you need to help the person come to the realisation that they are an addict, and then get them help. Whether this is rehab, going to groups or meetings, staying away from the things that they are compelled to with the people that compel them to do it, or speaking to a professional; there is always a way that you can try and help an addict. Cutting them off from yourself and their loved ones will often just cause them to continue their habit and isolate themselves.