What is Addiction?

Blog Post Contributed By: Richard Anderson, author of “From Darkness to Light: A Primer for Recovery”

Mary’s Story

Mary is a middle-aged mother of three beautiful children. She has a Master’s degree in elementary education and is the mother of three beautiful children. She is smart, attractive and hard-working.

She also spends an enormous amount of time on websites for women’s clothes. When she isn’t on the website she is secretly thinking about the things that she saw online and imagining herself wearing those clothes. She imagines the reactions of her friends when they see her wearing these wonderful clothes.

Financial Ruin

She has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes, run up her charge cards and siphoned money from the joint account she shares with her husband. She tells herself that she will stop but always ends up spending more. Each time she makes a purchase she tells herself that this will be the last time. Her closet space is stuffed beyond capacity.

She meets the mailman for her packages before her husband gets home to retrieve for secret purchases, removes the tags from the clothes and hides the new clothes in her closet. She lives in constant fear that her husband will discover her obsession.

Ronald’s Story

boy-419946_640Ronald is a general contractor. He makes a tidy living in the construction industry and is a very hardworking man. He is a divorced Dad who sees his kids every other weekend and on holidays. His ex-wife gives him a very hard time about his gambling. He tried to hide it from her but the losses were too great to hide.

He knows he should stop. He knows that it has cost him enormously beyond the financial. He misses his kids. He misses his ex-wife’s esteem and love. He misses his old life. His business is in real trouble and his finances are a wreck.

Justifying the Addiction

Every time he “blows it” Ronald tells himself that this will be the last time. He is angry at himself and lives with tremendous guilt for what he has done. Nevertheless, as time passes he misses the action at the casino.

He tells himself that he works hard and deserves a little something for himself now and then. Before he knows it he is back at a card table in a casino feeling the excitement and indulging the fantasy that his big score is very near. He will square everything away with his winnings and live like a king.

Everyone will respect him when he has all that money. He is so close to winning it big he can just taste it. He is tormented, alone and feels completely lost. He stops at a convenience store to buy his lottery tickets. He enjoys the feeling that one of these numbers will solve all of his problems. Somebody has to win, why not him?

Sue’s Story

person-425803_640Sue is in a hospital. She weighs 750 pounds and the hospital had to get her a special bed to support her weight. She has heard the nurses talking about her. Twice a day the nurses come in to her room to clean her, none of them look forward to this, least of all Sue who feels ashamed and humiliated.

Before she got to this point she recalls that she always looked forward to eating and the wonderful tastes that food had to offer. She could never seem to get enough. She looked forward to the feelings of well-being that being full provided. The more weight she gained the more her self-esteem suffered.

The Negative Feedback Loop

The more her self-esteem suffered the more she ate. Now her great weight may cost her life. Her heart cannot continue to function unless something drastic changes. She has come for a gastric bypass surgery. She hopes that this will eliminate her ability to over-indulge.

Such surgeries are not without great risks and potential terrible long-term consequences. It is easier to have a surgery then it is to really address the root of the problem.

Rick’s Story

business-man-358893_640Rick is a drug addict. His overwhelming obsession for his particular drug has cost him dearly. He has lost his family, his career, many opportunities, his freedom more than once, and on and on. Every time he uses his drug he tells himself that he deserves a little present for himself after all he has been through.

He is haunted by his losses and his sense of self-loathing. The more he loses the more he looks for ways to recoup his losses in a quick strike through gambling more.

Different Actions, Same Root

I could site hundreds of different examples of people living very different lives and having what seem on the surface to be very different problems. What they all have on common is an addictive nature or personality.

Often conversations about addiction center in a particular type of drug, for example “He is a crack addict, she is a heroin addict, he is addicted to bath salts” etc. She is a compulsive spender, he is a compulsive gambler, she is a compulsive over-eater.

What if such designations are missing the point entirely? What if it isn’t the particular substance or behavior itself that is addictive?

Are We Our Own Victims of Addiction?

One might look at various types of people that use certain types of drugs and categorize them as an ecstasy addict, a cocaine addict, an alcoholic etc. One might say:

  • “Johnny isn’t an addict, he just smokes pot. Pot is not addictive”
  • “Betty needs special help for her prescription pill problem; she’s not like those junkies!”
  • “I only drink alcohol, I have never put drugs in my body by God, alcohol is legal, I am NOT like those people!”

What if it isn’t the drugs that are addictive, what if it is us? What if all those apparent differences are just defense mechanisms we hide behind to set ourselves apart or to set ourselves up as a special case needing extra special care? This serves to soothe our egos but does nothing to get into the solution.

We All Have the Potential for Addiction

I think of all such people as being the same deep down. They are all addicts. Although their particular “drug” may vary, the motives are the same. Weather the “drug dealer” is a grocery store, an online store, a dealer at a casino, or a typical drug dealer on the street they are providing the same thing, a feeling of being at ease and comfortable for a moment.

“Drugs” made us feel good. If they hadn’t, we would not have used them. Addicts share an inner dissatisfaction with themselves and their lives. We share an underlying restlessness, a craving for something to take us out of ourselves because we are so uncomfortable in our own skin.

We share a vacancy or emptiness inside that we constantly seek to fill with something from outside of ourselves. We feel a deep-down sense of low self-esteem that we often try to mask by giving others the impression of our superiority.

Recognizing Your Addiction In Any Form

waiting-410328_640To recognize yourself as you are…as an addict of whatever stripe is the beginning of honesty. To understand that we, of and by ourselves, cannot control our addiction is to begin to understand the basis of the concept “powerless”.

We are completely in the grip of a violent and destructive power greater than ourselves that robs us of everything that we ever cared about. It will suck everything of worth out of our lives up to and including our lives themselves. Discipline and inner fortitude don’t work any better for this problem than they do for diarrhea.

We are not weak people, we simply suffer from an illness. That illness can be treated and has been treated successfully in millions of people like these all over the world! No pill or surgery can fix our ultimate problem…ourselves.

Treatment Is Available

Thankfully there is a solution. I am most grateful to be a recovering addict. My recovery has given me back my life and given me tremendous rewards that I never would have expected. While it hasn’t always been easy it has been more than worth it. My life rocks today!

I have love and esteem for myself that I never had and could never have while I was using. Life for me has been an amazing journey in recovery. I wouldn’t trade it for anything! There is hope and things can get better! You can have the life you always dreamed of. A life filled with self-acceptance and fulfillment. A life for which you can feel proud!

Learn More:

For more information and for real answers and solutions check out my recovery workbook entitled “From Darkness to Light: A Primer for Recovery”. You can find this book when you visit my website at www.recoveryresourcesinc.com or you can find it on Amazon.com


Richard Anderson

The opinions and views of our guest bloggers are shared to provide a broad perspective of addiction. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.