More and more of us today are experiencing some form of addiction. Because of the nature of addiction – its tendency to denial, the shame – there is often a stigma attached to any form of addictive behaviour that increases our tendency to deny it and not seek help.
Addiction comes in many forms. Some is substance related:
- Recreational or street drugs
- Prescription or OTC drugs
- Legal substances – alcohol, caffeine, pain killers, nicotine etc
Some is activity related:
- TV, internet, social media
- destructive relationships
- food, sugar
- tattoos or piercings
The definition of addiction is any behaviour that provides a temporary relief or pleasure (note: this does not last long), but in the long term causes you (and/or others) harm. If an addictive pattern of behaviour is taking up more and more of your time, attention or money then it is a problem.
Not everyone gets caught in addictive patterns. But when we do, it is because it is actually serving us in powerful ways to meet a deep unmet need, it fills an emptiness because of what we didn’t get when we were very small. Looking at it this way, addiction has good intentions but it does not serve us well at all.
We invest our very soul in additions because it gives us peace, control, calmness, relief from (emotional) pain, a sense of comfort, oblivion, escape (not least from our own mind). But this pleasure is very short-lived.
In order to overcome addiction, we need to recognise what deeper need that addiction is serving in us and then decide we need to change and, importantly, to want to change. Change will only happen, in addictive behaviour, if the positive relief it gives us is honoured in some other non-harmful way.
It is here that psychotherapy can help. Behind addiction is often a childhood with abuse (physical, emotional or sexual), neglect, abandonment, trauma, or emotional hurt. This can include having parents who were depressed, or had their own addictions.