Understanding Addiction

Have you ever had the feeling that there is something that you just can’t live without? Maybe when you had your first date with someone and it was better than you ever expected. Each day and night you waited for that one person to call and when the phone rang you were disappointed if it wasn’t them. When they finally called, nothing else mattered in the whole world except talking to that one special person. Have you ever wanted something so bad that it consumed every waking thought? Try thinking of a child who is just able to understand the concept of Christmas morning and they are getting no sleep, have no appetite, and can’t think or do anything else but ask about when it will finally be the day to open the gifts! The anticipation of a bride walking down the aisle to her groom, or vice versa, is overwhelming and it takes over each waking moment until that day finally comes. Everyone in your life is affected by this monumental day and is also right along with you on your journey to experience something that is so important to you.

This is a shadow of what an addiction is. A shadow is merely a glimpse of what is truly there, a shape of something that is so detailed and intricate and woven into whomever is suffering. It is a major part of what that person is made.


Addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. The term has been partially replaced by the word dependence for substance abuse. Addiction has been extended, however, to include mood-altering behaviors or activities. Some researchers speak of two types of addictions: substance addictions (for example, alcoholism, drug abuse and smoking); and process addictions (for example, gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). There is a growing recognition that many addicts, such as polydrug abusers, are addicted to more than one substance or process.

Addiction is the closest, most valuable relationship to the person who is suffering from it. It is the most taxing one as well – over the spouse, children, family and friends, and job. Most people who struggle with addiction have lost many opportunities within their lifetime due to this relationship with drugs or alcohol. To people who do not struggle with addiction, it may seem that a mother who endangers her children while under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not love her children. Obviously, or she wouldn’t continue to spend rent money on drugs or pass out while the children are left unattended if she loved them. It may seem that she cares more about her addiction than her own children. That is not true. The addiction is just a lot stronger than she is able to handle. It’s a brain disease…

There is a part in an addict’s brain that is rewarded when they use alcohol or drugs. “Everything we do affects these areas of the brain, especially anything we personally find enjoyable — like most of us do when socializing with other people. When we are having an enjoyable conversation with another person, it leads to a biological and behavioral response. We can even “crave” talking to that person again, since we often make a date to see that person again. None of these things are necessarily unique to addiction.” Over time it becomes a coping mechanism for daily life and takes away the ability to learn essential life skills necessary for living healthy lives.

A person who continues to drink alcohol despite clear-cut consequences, or someone who continues to spend too much money despite losing their car or home, clearly has dame to their brain that leads them to continue that behavior even though they are fully aware of all they are risking. So after the first DWI, the normal drinker will stop drinking. The addict though will rationalize, justify and normalize their troubles and continue the same pattern of behavior until it catches up with them. It is also natural for the addict to point the finger and blame others for their problems. It is just a form of denial and it protects them from having to fully look at themselves in the mirror to see who they really are. It works for a period of time until something terrible happens. Most endings of addiction are death or prison. The path is long and hard when addicts don’t get the proper help for their addiction; it is going to be a long road for them and the loved ones who travel it with them. It’s not a person’s fault if they develop an addiction. But they do have to take ownership of the problem, and work toward its resolution.

The good news is that there are vast numbers of treatment options available for people struggling with any type of addiction. A recovered life is a much more rewarding way to live and is an option for all who put great effort into living it. Getting into a program, staying accountable and helping others are all ways to combat an addiction. Speak out and help others if you have overcome an addiction!

Written by Kayla Proffitt, CIP