Do I Have an Addiction?
By Kristen Sohlman, HBA, RP
Addiction is having a compulsion to do or behave in a certain way despite the negative consequences that may result. For example, this means having a compulsion to drink over and over no matter what it is doing in your life. For some this feels like a bad dream or that they are watching themselves self-destruct. Addictions can vary from substances, food, exercise, Internet, gambling, sex, shopping, work, etc. Some people have one addiction, while others have several addictions. Some people have mild addictions, while others have severe addictions.
Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.
Addictions May Be Unconscious: This means that you may find yourself doing an addictive behaviour over and over without even knowing why, even if you want to stop. You may also feel split, with one side wanting to stop and another that persists with the addiction. Also very common is denial -believing or pretending there is no problem even though it is clear to the people around you that there is a problem. It is important to remember that none of this means you are crazy or mentally ill. It is the nature of addictions to take hold without a person being aware of what is really going on.
Addictions Are Often Secret: Addictions are often kept a secret when you feel ashamed, guilty, or worried about their addiction and may not feel comfortable telling anyone about it. It may feel as though there is no one safe to tell, that you will be judged or embarrassed, or that people won’t take it seriously. It is important to know that this secrecy is dangerous as it feeds the addiction and prevents you from getting support and help.
You May Find Yourself Replacing One Addiction with Another: It is well known that giving up one addiction can lead to substituting with another, unless you get support to avoid this pattern. This doesn’t mean that you have “messed up,” but that it is the nature of addiction to take root wherever it can. Watching yourself carefully and being honest can help you avoid this.
Addictions Can Arise Slowly or Quickly: Addiction can grow slow as the grass or hit fast like a punch. There is no one pattern. This is important because you may think, “I won’t develop a problem because I haven’t had one before.” Addiction may also develop at different points throughout life.
Addictions May Have Short-Term Positive Benefits: Addiction is clearly unhealthy, but the immediate impact of a substance may feel positive. For example, alcohol can help you sleep at night, overeating can feel soothing, gambling can be exciting, smoking can help you relax, etc. The problem is that these short-term benefits do not last over time, and in the long run you feel worse because of the consequences of your addiction or you feel worse about yourself because you can’t stop.
There are many ways to heal from an addiction if you have one. There is hope in recovery. Let’s Talk.
Najavits, L. M. (2002). A Woman’s Addiction Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
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