When people are calm, happy and well-rounded, they are often referred to as “balanced.” When that balance is shaken and several or one area of someone’s life becomes to be his or her most important focus, people might call that person “obsessed.”
While obsession is a strong word, it’s a euphemism for the much more sinister reality: addiction.
Portraits of Addiction
Brianne has always enjoyed playing Bingo. She could spend hours online researching strategies and watching videos on YouTube, but nothing compares to anticipation of each called number, and the thrill of a win. No one thought her hobby was a problem until her husband came home early from his second shift job to find his kids at home alone and his wife out at the casino.
It’s not clear what James enjoys more about his nightly bar routine: the alcohol or the social engagement. He’s become a popular guy in the small city where he lives, and everyone praises him for his superhuman ability to drink more than anyone else without appearing all that affected by it. On his way home after a particularly late Tuesday evening, a police car pulled him over for not turning his headlights on, which resulted in a breathalyzer and a DUI.
Addiction and Addiction Counseling: Key Thoughts and Definitions
Addiction is the dependence on a substance (e.g., alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, marijuana, cocaine) or an activity (e.g., gambling, shopping, sex). The dependence may be physical, as in the case with drug and alcohol abuse, or psychological, as in the case of pornography, shopping and excessive video game playing, but the overarching distinction is that these addictions are used as a method for coping with everyday life.
Addictions are chronic behaviors that become nearly impossible for the individual to control, and leads to adverse activity as a means of hiding or fueling the addiction.
The addict pursues their dependency for whatever diminishing benefit it provides, despite the negative consequences of the repeat behavior.
It is common for an addict to blame his or her problem on external factors, such as their environment, a stressful job or marital issues, instead of taking personal responsibility for their actions.
In the case of drug addiction, a biochemical dependence on a substance that produces a desired effect (or “high”) is developed through chronic use of the substance. From this repeated use, the body becomes tolerant toward the substance, and the only way for the addict to achieve the same level of high or inebriation is by increasing their intake.
With the increased levels of tolerance come deepened levels of dependency. Ongoing use may lead to actual changes in body chemistry to the point where the addicts body becomes reliant on the drug in order to function “normally.”
Non-drug addictions include sexual addictions, gambling, overeating, shopping and food.”
Whether substance-related or behavioral, addictions often begin as an experiment — going to the casino for the first time or trying out a narcotic. When the new experience is pleasurable, the person might return to the behavior, again and again.
Addiction can also be a means of covering up with other problems such as depression, chronic illness, bipolar disorder or hyperactivity. While an addict might perceive some form of relief from other issues, the long-term result is a deepening and complication of these issues.
If intake is lessened or simply not kept up with heightening levels of tolerance, the addict can start experience symptoms of withdrawal — adverse physical and/or psychological effects that include increased heart rate or blood pressure, sweating, confusion, tremors and even hallucinations. Depending on the type, duration and severity of the addiction, withdrawal symptoms can even be fatal, as in cases of extreme alcoholism.
Despite increasing dependency, addicts may appear confident in their ability to break the addiction “whenever they want,” but by-and-large, addicts are (by definition) have lost self-control.
Key characteristics of addiction include:
- Patterns of uncontrollable behaviors
- Substance use for a year or more
- Increasing patterns of behavior or substance use over time
- Mood swings
- Feelings of self-worthlessness or shame
- Impulse control problems — with food, drugs, sex or money
- Strong needs to be liked or approved of
- Behaviors or substance use to reduce anxiety
- Obsessions over a behavior or substance
- Guilt and shame
- Negative consequences to self or others
- Failure to control actions
Action Steps for Overcoming Addiction
Friends and family members of an addict are understandably concerned for their loved one’s safety. The concern for safety extends to the addict’s children, for example, if there is risk of the addict driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you are suffering from addiction or know someone who is, immediate steps must be taken in order to prevent serious, irreparable harm. One simple way would be to turn down any rides offered by the addict. Also, if there are children in the picture, seek help in keeping them safe.
If physical or sexual abuse occurs while the addict is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or is a byproduct of the addict’s shame and guilt, loved ones must separate themselves from the situation immediately. In the case of verbal or emotional abuse, there may not be cause enough for immediate separation, but in either case, loved ones (if not the addict him or herself) needs to seek the help of a skilled and experienced addiction counselor.
In helping a person to overcome an addiction it is important to take the following actions steps:
Do not allow the user to drive.
If it is possible to do so personally, prevent the addict from driving after first doing so under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s for their safety, yes, but also for the safety of others in and outside of their vehicle.
Encourage cessation of use.
Let them know your concerns, and that discontinuing usage is for the good of the addict and those around them. You love this person, and want to see them live a happy, healthy life, and their current path will prevent that from happening.
Encourage a medical checkup.
Find out how adverse the results of addiction have already become. A medical professional can help them understand what is happening to the mind and body, and provide objective reasoning for why a lifestyle change is necessary.
Find professional help.
An Austin addiction counselor is specifically trained and experienced to help anyone with an addiction make the necessary changes toward living a healthy, fulfilling life. Like any illness, it’s best to seek treatment sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more challenging and debilitating the addiction becomes.
Schedule an Appointment with Austin Addiction Counseling Today
Our Austin addiction counseling professionals are leaders in the field, and as such have been featured in trusted news outlets such as CNN, The Boston Globe, Psychology Today and many more.
Thriveworks Austin addiction counseling is dedicated to patient care and treatment, which means that we’re available when you call (a person will answer the phone, not an answering machine) and will schedule your first session within the week, if not within 24 hours.
Contact us today. Your addiction doesn’t have to control your life. Let our experienced Austin addiction counselors help.