“If addiction had a certain look, that is exactly what it would look like”
I didn’t quite know how to take those words at first, but after deeper conversation and introspect, it made sense.
Addiction is not simply a word to describe a user of specific substances, such as an alcoholic or a drug abuser. Addiction is the state of being “enslaved” to a habit, a practice, a behavior or an activity that to step away from it would cause psychological and physiological issues, even trauma.
This self-imposed captivity creates a hurricane of secondary, even tertiary issues and damages anyone or anything in the path.
We as humans have the right to make choices, decisions and behave as we decide, without asking for permission or worrying about what others might think of us. If we choose a life of solidarity, this is even more reflected in the words “to thine own self be true”. We have the right to believe, feel, speak and act as we decide. We also possess the right to NOT condone the behavior of another, and this too is OK!
In terms of addiction, we are human and may exhibit a specific habit or behavior that in and of itself is neither emotionally, physiologically or spiritually caging to ourselves, nor does it create negative issues for others. This is not a pattern of addiction.
A trip to Vegas to enjoy roulette tables does not mean I have an addiction. Online blackjack or poker sites that deplete my budget funds, create marital, family or work issues or show a pattern of this behavior is, at a core level, an addiction.
So, what is addiction?
I’m certain one could complete a google search or online inquiry, revealing thousands of definitions, symptoms, cures and stories. Me, I only know as an observer. I only understand what looking through the glass at the one you love feels like. I only possess knowledge of the behavioral damage that expands beyond the initial impact zone. I only know what addiction DOES to others, life, relationships, family and overall mental, physical and spiritual wellness.
Addiction is, as stated above, a pattern of enslaving behavior erroneously believed by the user to ‘CALM’ or ‘DEFLECT’ or ‘RID’ one of something perceived as negative.
Addiction is rarely without LIES and DECEIT. Addiction is sneaky, caustic and absolutely destructive.
Addiction is not a thing, but rather a pattern.
IF ADDICTION HAD A LOOK, IT WOULD
LOOK LIKE THE MORBIDLY OBESE
INDIVIDUAL WHO STRUGGLES WITH
WALKING, BREATHING and GENERAL
Here are some things that alone, without patterns, are not
What makes them all potential addictions, and this list is certainly not comprehensive, is their power to ENSLAVE an individual and create conflict or negatively alter their normal life, daily activities, relationships, finances, performance, routines, etc. If they create a cause for legal issues, such as jail time (DUI, assault, financial irresponsibility, rape, theft, murder), then the addiction has reached a dangerous level and will require hardcore intervention, self-will and determination to overcome.
Some people reading have already decided to label those that seem ‘justified’ for themselves, while labeling the ones that are perceived as damaging addictions. The truth is that none are more, or less, damaging to a person and those connected to that person.
An addiction counselor I knew as a friend once told me that less than 1 in 10 addicts over the age of 40 will ever recover, no matter how much counseling, therapy and assistance they receive. The key ingredient for change is having the WILL and the DESIRE to change.
MOST do not possess the will, or even the desire to get better.
omits their CORE coping skill and leaves the addict vulnerable to truth and reality. It is painful on the inside, just as the young man wore as such on the outside.
Addicts are often compulsive and deflective. They openly point the blame at anyone or anything else, giving themselves a REASON to barrel down destruction’s path. Although they don’t need a reason to engage in the destructive behavior, deflection helps them find validity in the behavior.
For some addicts, the behavior may be labeled a ‘binge’, engaging in said behavior for a period of time and then ceasing for a secondary period of time, similar to an auto-immune flare up. These individuals typically check-out, abandoning their loved ones and responsibilities during the time frame.
What does addiction look like?
As my husband poignantly expressed, addiction looks like the young obese man, just on the inside.
For most, it has no obvious signs other than a path of destruction. There may be signs such as bankruptcy, missing or loss of property, pawn slips, stories that do not make sense, paraphernalia that does not make sense, odd pop-ups on computers, excessive time away, intense anger and even “walking out” on your loved ones. Sometimes, there are more clear indications such as hidden containers, known website subscriptions and a history of broken relationships attributed to a specific behavior.
For the addict, it is difficult to tell what it looks like, only that the behavior itself seems to have total control of the common sense and rationality of the person. For the observer, it looks sad and at times, very ugly.
It leaves those involved feeling a sense of loss, frustration, vulnerability and ire. It causes missed work, missed school, missed events and missed payments. It causes arguments, fear, loneliness, confusion, heartbreak, desperation, anxiety, panic, tears, screams, divorce, lost jobs and for some, it causes violence, jail time and even death.
Whether you are a cutter, a drinker, a hoarder, a drug abuser, a porn addict, a shopaholic, a gym abuser, a TV watcher, a social media user, volunteer addict, weed smoker, in a co-dependent situation or a binge eater, it is important to look not only at what YOUR behaviors are doing to your physical being, but also to your financial, emotional and spiritual side.
The things that haunt you are painful. They are deep, maybe even unknown to your own conscious self. YOU deserve to heal. YOUR family deserves to heal with you.
We as family and friends must understand that an addict deserves just as much love in helping them heal from their wounds as any other individual who has suffered a trauma. This is not to say we must accept their addiction, like their addiction, approve of their addiction or even condone their addiction. Quite the contrary. It means that we must recognize the pain they feel and love them by encouraging them through their moments, their relapses and their recovery. It means we must be a part of a lifelong fight, knowing when to walk away so that we do not lose ourselves.
In terms of friends and acquaintances, it is important to know when to walk away from an addict and stop encouraging their addiction. We must know when to stop “showboating” triggers for the addict, such as inviting them to parties, events, outings or major gatherings where triggers exist. Loved ones must know and understand how to support and talk to the addict, as they are grown individuals and not children. They do not require lectures, but love and understanding with a strong backbone of dedication to help the addict.
Addiction isn’t a state or behavior. It is a life-long reality that requires ongoing support, assistance and unconditional love. It impacts EVERYONE around it and generates emotions that cannot be understood by the average individual.
To survive an addiction, one must possess a deep love of self. This holds true for the addict themselves and those who claim to be there for the addict.
My personal story with addiction goes deep, as I am a survivor. I have reached out to friends who have shared their stories of addiction with me in order to help me understand, educate and prepare myself.
The common thread in these stories is two-fold, with a reminder that I must maintain my self-value and not lose myself in the storm, and secondly, that the addict themselves cannot be changed, but only through a desire to change themselves will they seek truth and assistance.
Addiction is as personal as it gets.