For many people, the New Year brings new beginnings. That may mean letting go of addictions plaguing one’s life.
The term addiction is mostly associated with drugs and alcohol, but Jeff Bryant, director of the Phylis Lan Lin Program in Social Work states anyone can become addicted to anything.
Why subject one’s self to harmful behavior? Depending on the theory, the reasons for becoming an addict are numerous. Whether one believes in the social learning or bad habit theory, the moral theory of choosing to participate in such behavior, the biblical theory, using God to change the addictive behavior or the disease concept meaning one is genetically predisposed to the substance or behavior, addictions can destroy the life of the addict and those around them.
No matter the theory, all addictions lead to the loss of control and failure to meet one’s personal, social and professional obligations as a result of the substance.
Typically addictions begin at an early age, especially drugs, including prescription medication, and alcohol.
“People don’t wake up and say ‘I’m going to become an alcoholic or a crack addict.’ It’s a process that goes on typically several years,” said Bryant.
That road to addiction begins with experimentation leading to misuse. With misuse, addicts begin seeking the need for the addiction. Misuse leads to abuse, which is a fine line away from addiction.
Drug and alcohol abuse destroys various aspects of the addict’s life but can also lead to physical damage.
“Alcohol is a pervasive substance that affects every part of the body from damage to one’s brain, to increasing the likelihood of numerous types of cancers throughout the body. It also increases one’s risk of physical accidents as judgment and coordination is impaired,” said Aaron Whiteman, doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and a staff psychiatrist at Fairbanks addiction treatment center. “There’s not one part of the body that’s not at risk for the negative effects of drugs and alcohol.”
While drug and alcohol addiction may get the limelight, some not so talked about addictions can be just as harmful. Addictions to food, work, shopping, gaming, the Internet and porn are just a few examples of what other types of addicts deal with on a daily basis.
Susan James’ son was addicted to gambling. He began playing blackjack on his computer and cards during his high school and college years. After a trip to Connecticut to visit her family, James received a call from her daughter-in-law explaining how the family was deep in debt because of his gambling.
“He liked risk and he had a tough time dealing with risk. He liked the play of ‘maybe I’m going to lose.’ It’s the chase. You lose and then go back again because you think you’re going to win. It’s not lady luck; it’s your own ability that gives you a rush when you lose or win,” explained James.
No matter what one is addicted to, it is possible to overcome addiction. While one of the first steps to getting help is admitting to the addiction, the addict should also find the support of family and friends and work with a professional to break the addiction.
The length of recovery depends on how deep the addiction is and can last anywhere from two to six months, possibly longer. Experts argue if forced realization is effective in recovery, yet Whiteman suggests the addict at least get an evaluation to understand the severity of the addiction.
Whiteman, following the disease concept, also believes with drug and alcohol addiction, it’s a lifetime battle fighting that addiction yet help is available every step of the way.
Help is even available for family and friends of the addict. Jones attends Gam-anon, a self-help program for the family members, friends and loved ones of compulsive gamblers who have been affected by the gambling.
Those wanting to fight their addictions should also understand the difficult task ahead of them. There have been cases of overnight turnarounds, but it could take several attempts before a full recovery of the addiction. The victory in overcoming addiction begins with never giving up.
The 12-step method has also been proven to aid in addiction recovery.
While addictions continue to evolve, overcoming one’s addictions is possible with hope, help and tenacity.