What is addiction? Addiction is basically dependency; we feel we cannot do without something, such as cigarettes, sex, gambling, drugs, alcohol, shopping and much more. So, how do we become addicted? Why are some people able to control themselves and others can’t?
Dopamine, a natural chemical in the brain excites us to do something. Our emotional levels are raised and thus encourage us to take action. That feeling of satisfaction and warmth we feel after doing something such as sex, drinking, laughing or learning some new skill are produced by endorphins, another natural chemical, it makes us happy. These chemicals working together keeps us interested and thus we continue to learn and achieve.
If our lives are balanced emotionally, we accept the little rewards that come with trying new things and are satisfied and happy. If however our lives are not balanced then little rewards are not enough. Emotionally we feel a void and addiction rears its ugly head in order to fill that void and once we feel satisfied, we cannot let it go. Therefore the constant need to fill the void leads to addiction.
Many of us will not admit we are addicted, we say things like “I only drink socially or I have a flutter now and then” denial is a major part of addiction and until you admit you have a problem the cycle of addiction will continue.
So how can you recognise addiction?
- Mood swings
- Increased temper
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Poor judgement
- Memory problems
- Diminished self-esteem and self-worth
- Feelings of hopelessness
Do you recognise any of these symptoms in you or others? So why do we continue with the addiction when we know its harmful effects? Simple we can’t stop ourselves. We experience a short term high, which makes us feel good and thereafter we are constantly pursuing this high. We feel we need it to reinforce that feeling that we crave for.
First and foremost, we need to recognise what is missing in our lives. Why is the void there and how can we fill it without causing harm to ourselves are others?
I’ve noticed that those with addiction have very few friends, they find themselves alone and miserable. Are you surprised? The constant mood swings, defensive behaviour, paranoia etc. Friends, will sooner or later jump ship. There is just so much abuse they can take before enough becomes enough.
Addiction makes us less than we are, it not only harms us, it also harms others. Certain addictions could end your relationships, lose your job and in some cases leads to dishonesty in order to feed the habit. The problem however, as we continue to be addicted it becomes normal. When we are not consuming drugs or alcohol, we feel that we cannot function properly. Our bodies adapt to this abuse and that leads us to crave for more and more.
Lack of self-worth and low self-esteem can lead to addiction. If you feel that you are not good enough or you feel that you are not equal to those around you, vices can seem very attractive. Lack of self-worth can make you isolate yourself and isolation can lead to depression. If you fail to seek help, you may find yourself seeking other ways to make you feel better. Addictions make you feel better for a short period of time only and you find yourself digging a deeper whole to feel better all the time.
Those who have an addiction need to find help now!!! Recognise your addiction and listen to family and friends who tell you, you have a problem. For those who feel lonely and sad, discover the reason for it before you fall into this vicious cycle. It is easier to hide in a bottle or start gambling because you feel alone. Have you noticed loneliness seems to be felt at night, especially those that live alone?
Find other avenues to fill your time. Take classes at night, dance classes are a fabulous way to be with other people and keeps you fit.
I am not a therapist or psychologist. I have noticed in an acquaintance certain characteristics that make me believe that this person has a problem. It is clear however that this acquaintance is not yet ready to admit the addictions. I am not vice free and yes I’m going to say it, I smoke 5 cigarettes a day and drink now and then. I recognise I have an addictive nature and thus I remove 5 cigarettes from the packet every morning and thus limiting my consumption. As for alcohol I don’t keep any in the house save for Christmas and special occasions. As a single parent, I don’t have many opportunities to go out to pubs and bars and all of this helps with my addictive nature.
Addiction can also be learned behaviour. If you grew up in a household where alcohol was consumed daily, the chances are this becomes the norm. Please recognise who you are and be honest with who you are. Once you establish your true nature you can avoid these pitfalls. I’m not saying, never drink, I’m saying drink in moderation. Drinking for example should be pleasurable not a necessity.
Vices are not there to fill a void. Have fun with your vices but don’t let it take over your life, don’t let it become normal or addiction will become your master and you its slave.