Addiction is no respecter of persons; it cares nothing of your bank account balance, your gender, how influential you are or how well you hide it. Addiction will warp your mind, ravage your body, destroy cherished relationships and ultimately, take your life.
Yet no matter how destructive and powerful this force is, people still routinely deny its existence, bend over backwards to enable it – in others and themselves, and use ineffective means to combat it even when they do acknowledge it exists.
For the wealthy, addiction can be especially pernicious. Unlimited access to money and influence can shield the addict from the consequences of his behavior, therefore prolonging the addiction indefinitely; the importance of image and reputation exacerbates the addict’s need to live a double life and deceive those around her; and the sense of entitlement that those raised in privilege often feel only fuels the addict’s inherent selfishness and disregard for others.
The recovery rate for addicts is dismally low. Relapse is common in most programs and even if an addict stops using their primary addiction, they usually switch to other addictions that carry their own set of negative and progressive side effects.
In order to have success in overcoming addictions, there are five key aspects of addictions that must be understood. Without this vital information, it will be virtually impossible to experience any real freedom from addictions. And if you happen to work with or love an addict, you will pull your hair out trying to deal with the addict’s behavior until you know these things.
Fact #1: Once an addict, always an addict
Demi Moore is a good example of this fact. Demi checked into treatment in the mid-80s when she was a brat-packer and struggling with drugs and alcohol. She pulled it together and was able to have a very successful career, raise three children, and be the envy of many. Nevertheless, over 25 years later she again ran into trouble with substance abuse and a probable eating disorder. The lesson here is that even when an addict gets their act together for a time, they are still an addict, fundamentally, and will continue to exhibit traits of an addictive personality throughout their lives (anyone remember Demi’s extraordinary and somewhat obsessive doll collection?) This addictive personality will affect their decisions in many ways, and will ultimately cause them to self-destruct once again. Case in point: going to treatment and getting it together did not cure Demi of being an addict, as she has lived her life obsessed with her appearance (she has publicly admitted to tortured struggles with her body and weight) and finally experienced further trouble with drugs.
Fact #2: There is rarely any way to slow down; Stopping is usually a must
I say “rarely” instead of “never” because if someone is addicted to food or sex, it is possible to still eat food and have sex without doing so in an addictive way. For other addictions, however, abstinence is the only way to go. This is especially true for substances that are physically addictive, like alcohol, narcotics, and even sugar. When a person has a physical dependence on these substances, they cannot inject any into their system without reigniting a physiological craving for these things. When the dragon is fed, they cannot stop the dragon from raging. Only by starving the dragon can they keep it at bay. Of course all addicts refute this notion, and try for years to moderate and control their usage, but if they are a true addict, they cannot do so successfully for any length of time. The most compassionate thing they can do is to let the dragon remain asleep.
Fact #3: It’s not just about how much you’re doing but what it’s doing to you
Addicts love to compare themselves to others who indulge more than they do. They then feel that they have a case for why they “aren’t that bad.” Yet comparing oneself to others isn’t an accurate way to assess one’s own behavior. After all, someone may have a much higher tolerance based on their body composition, genetics and mental faculties. So the real question is not how much are you drinking, using or eating, but what is it doing to you when you indulge? Answering this question honestly will provide a more accurate assessment of your situation. For example, if you are experiencing trouble in your relationship with your spouse or kids on account of your habits, or if your finances are affected because of your habits, you probably have an addiction. If your health continues to be compromised because of your indulgences, you are probably an addict.
Fact #4: You can be abstinent and still be under the influence of an addiction
Consider this: Joe is married to Sally who has an eating disorder. She recently sought treatment for the third time and this time she seems to be abstaining from binge foods and hasn’t purged in three months. However, her behavior still isn’t stellar; Sally is bitchy and snaps at Joe and the kids, she isolates in her office and works until late at night, she won’t go to parties with her husband because she complains that she’s fat (at 5’6″ she weighs 120 pounds and looks great) and she accuses her husband of having an affair. Joe still feels like he’s living with an addict even though Sally isn’t bingeing or purging.
This scenario displays how a person can be abstinent from their addiction but still struggle with an addictive personality. Fear, shame, guilt, anger, and self-obsession can wreak havoc on a family even if the addict isn’t currently using. This is why it is vital to heal the underlying causes of addiction and not just achieve abstinence. Additionally, if a person’s deeper causes are not addressed, it won’t be possible to maintain abstinence, and the addict will inevitably return to their previous behaviors.
Fact #5: You can’t stop for good unless you heal the addictive personality
If a person tries to stop their addiction but does not seek help to heal the root causes of their addiction, they will soon become very disillusioned with abstinence and sobriety. This is because the addiction effectively masked all the pain, fear and guilt that the addict was plagued with feeling when not anaesthetized with their alcohol, pills, drugs, food, etc. No addict can simply stop their addiction without addressing and healing the fundamental traits of the addictive personality. This fact is the #1 reason why most addicts relapse time and time again. They mistakenly see the addiction as the problem, instead of a symptom of the deeper problems that the addiction temporarily solves.
If you have lived with or have had experience with an addict in any way, or if you are struggling with an addiction yourself, you can probably relate to some of the five points mentioned. The heartbreak and sorrow that trails every addict is hard to understand, let alone heal. Addicts so often die of addiction unnecessarily because they are not equipped with all the facts about why they cannot stop in spite of their best efforts. There is hope for stopping an addiction and staying stopped, however. Acknowledging the problem is always the first step; for lasting success, getting help with the underlying causes must then follow. Focus on the vision of being healed and then take action to get help right away. A life filled with purpose and peace is a right that we all deserve to experience.