We like to say that an addiction is something that we keep on doing even though it causes us problems. That is certainly the case in many instances, but there is rather more to it than that.
All addictions have three things in common that separate them from other behaviors. These are most noticeable in behavioral addictions such as eating, anorexia, shopping, gambling, sex, and thrill-seeking – – among others – – because they are not masked by the more obvious complications of chemical addiction such as drug-seeking, intoxication, overdose and so forth. Nonetheless, they are common to those as well.
All addicts are familiar with the compulsion to use and keep on using. We can relate to an inability to avoid acting out, inability to predict when we’ll act out, and how much of it we’ll engage in. Loss of control is apparent in addictions across the board, but less obvious, perhaps, in some. It’s easy to identify those times when we walked into a bar for “a couple of beers” and emerged at closing time, totally sloshed and minus the rent money. It’s less obvious – – at least to begin with – – when we go online to check our email and get to bed at 3:00 AM after six hours of looking at porn, or shopping on Amazon for things we don’t need and can’t afford, or gaming to the detriment of sleep, nutrition and schoolwork or other employment.
But the compulsions are there, and time after time we find ourselves giving in and then we find that despite all that we’re experiencing a…
Lack of Satisfaction
This is where things begin to get nasty in a hurry, because we begin the serious escalation of our acting out that leads to trouble. We drink earlier in the day, looking for the feeling that we can no longer achieve without large amounts of alcohol in our systems. We begin to steal our relatives’ jewelry, and our employer’s time. We search for more extreme thrills, more explicit and titillating porn, neglect our families more, push the edges of the law, or of loan sharks’ patience, – – anything that will give us that thrill that we can no longer get from the old, tame stuff. And that leads to…
To begin with, we convince ourselves that our consequences are minor, and perhaps they are to begin with. Nagging parents, spouses who complain about unaffordable bills, unreasonable landlords who want their money right at the first of the month, big companies who can afford the delay but want credit card payments on time, and so forth. But eventually those problems turn into real consequences: evictions, large men with baseball bats, grades that prevent our getting into college, flunking out, getting fired, people with guns and search warrants seizing our computers, divorces, alienation from families and friends, and myriad other “jackpots.” Oh yes, the problems pile up!
The solution, of course, is to recognize our addictions and do something about them before Stage 3. That’s easier said than done, but there are recovery programs available for every kind of addiction you can think of — 150+ at last count — and they all have people ready and willing to help. They say in recovery that “you can’t keep it unless you give it away.” So help us stay sober.