No one ever seeks to become an addict. Most of the time, people start off by engaging in behaviors that seem and feel normal and acceptable. But when mixed in with a few other life factors, those behaviors can begin to take on a life of their own and eventually destroy a person’s life and relationships. Addictions can take on pretty much any form. Here are a few examples of addictions:
As you can see, addictions can be wide and varied, but the common factor among all addictions is the use/abuse of something in order to cope with pain and difficulty in other areas of life. So, while these behaviors might provide temporary relief, if the source of the pain or difficulty isn’t addressed, eventually the behavior itself becomes its own source of pain and difficulty.
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Addicts often start off thinking their behavior harms no one and that they can manage the behavior on their own. In fact, probably the most common reason why addicts struggle is because they don’t think their behavior is a problem at all. By the time it becomes clear that it is indeed a problem and people are getting hurt by their addiction, a dependency on the behavior itself has already been firmly established.
In order to overcome this lack of awareness, a person would have to shift their definition of what the problem is. If they focus on the prevalence and frequency of a behavior (i.e., “I only do ____ casually and I can stop any time I want.”), then awareness of an addiction problem only happens when the behavior is already out of control and feels unstoppable. But if the focus is on how they handle pain, broken relationships, and other difficult emotions like shame, guilt, loneliness, etc., then a person can become aware early enough that they have a problem that requires attention and care. This leads us to the second reason why people struggle with addiction.
Sobriety doesn’t equate to healthy; it just means the ability to manage one manifestation of an addiction: addiction to a symptom of a larger problem. Removing the occurrence of the behavior does nothing to address the larger issue; it just removes the consequences of the behavior itself. This isn’t to say that in and of itself isn’t a major goal and an accomplishment. However, cutting down weeds one week won’t prevent them from growing up again the following week.
Show me a person who has an addiction and I’ll show you a person with broken relationships or a painful past. Live this life long enough and you’ll see your fair share of pain, loss and broken relationships. The experience of difficulty isn’t the catalyst for addiction; it’s the inability to manage and mend these hardships as they arise. Whether it’s a child raised in a volatile home or a veteran who’s seen or done things they wish they could just forget, there are times in life when the trauma and pain of this world far outweighs our ability to handle them in healthy ways.
When these situations occur, people naturally turn to coping methods that help ease the burden for a time, but these methods can’t replace good old-fashioned mental health. Eventually, these broken places in our lives have to be addressed and healed; otherwise, addictive behaviors become the norm to help numb the pain. This leads us to our fourth reason why people struggle with addiction.
Imagine never being taught basic hygienic habits, so things like bathing, brushing teeth, and grooming were never a part of your day-to-day living. If you’re a 5-year-old, who never goes outside or just doesn’t have any relationships, then you might be able to get away without doing any of these basic hygienic tasks. But, if you intend to grow up and live life in the real world, you better learn these things quickly; otherwise, your ability to function in society will be dramatically hindered.
Now consider the same dynamic, but instead of your physical well-being, it’s your emotional well-being. If you don’t intend to incur much emotional damage in life, then poor emotional hygienic habits will probably suffice. The reality is, most of us will have to endure some kind of difficulty and pain throughout life. When that happens, we’ll have to call upon our emotional self-care habits to repair what this world can damage within us. If the pain of life exceeds our abilities to heal emotionally, we’ll have to expand and develop our abilities quickly if we’re going to survive. The alternative is a slew of mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Had enough of the destructive cycle of addiction? Reach out to us and we can address these and the number of other factors that contribute to addiction. We understand what you’re going through, why you’re going through it, and how to help.