If you talk to ten people you will more than likely get 10 different answers to
the question what is addiction? The reason for this is because the way that
the illness of addiction affects the individual varies greatly between people.
Some people need to lose everything for addiction to be declared as the
culprit, while others only seemingly need to hit an emotional bottom within
themselves to come to an understanding that addiction is ruling their life.
However, with that being said, and removing the personal narrative involved
in defining addiction, there are some overarching themes and agreed upon
behaviors that can define addiction and the addict in general, whether that
be alcohol addiction, opiate addiction, Xanax addiction, or any other
So, if you are currently wondering whether you or a loved one is suffering
from addiction please continue to read on and hopefully we can shed some
light on the confusion you may be experiencing, as well as offer so practical
advice to help.
What is Addiction?
To understand what addiction is and what separates someone who has
addiction, from someone who may just be a heavy drinker or user of
recreational drugs, it is important to understand that addiction is an illness
that is terminal and currently without a cure. It is defined by the American
Society of Addiction Medicine as:
“a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions [between]
genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction
use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue
despite harmful consequences.”
This is not to say that there is no help for individuals who suffer from
addiction, but rather that they will never get to a point where they can drink
or use drugs like a “normal” person again, and it is only possible to send
addiction into remission.
Those individuals who are suffering from addiction usually suffer from the
following peculiarities of behavior that are mostly baffling to themselves and
those around them. Some of the most common behaviors are:
- Total inability to stop using drugs or alcohol for an extended period
- Experience of withdrawal symptoms when abrupt cessation of
- substance use occurs
- Total preoccupation with using substances
- A lack of emotional response to how their behaviors are affecting those around them
- An increasing isolation from social settings: friends and family
- Financial and familial issues
What Families Should Know about Addiction
It is unfortunate that often the families of the addict or alcoholic are the ones
who suffer most during an individual’s active addiction. To them the addict’s
behavior is entirely confusing, seemingly coming out of nowhere, and their
ability to stop engaging in these behaviors seems almost impossible. As a
family or loved one of an addict it is important to first understand that
dealing with an addict seems like an impossible situation and that no one
intuitively understands how to handle such a situation, so the confusion that
you are currently experiencing is entirely understandable and to be
What is most important when dealing with an active addict or alcoholic is
that you make sure that your mental wellbeing is taken care of first and
foremost, meaning that you take care of yourself before tending to the needs
of the addict or alcoholic. The reasons for this are twofold: firstly because if
you yourself are not in the proper state of mind then you will be less apt to
be able to help your loved one and secondly because most of the needs of
the addict or alcoholic at this stage are manipulative and meant to further
continue their addictions. For family members of addicts wondering what is addiction and how can they help their loved one, the following are some good starting points:
- Seeks professional counseling services for yourself
- Never give an addict or alcoholic money under any circumstances
- Try to make it as difficult as possible for the addict or alcoholic to continue to use
- This may involve taking their car or asking them to move out of your house
- Any request by the addict or alcoholic that does not involve them getting help should be denied
- Talk to your friends and loved ones about what is going on. Having support and not feeling isolated, because you are not, is key to maintaining your own sanity and your ability to help your loved one
What is Addiction from the Addict’s Perspective?
A majority of the time if you ask an addict if they are suffering from
addiction, they will tell you that they are fine and that they have everything
under control. They may believe this to a certain extent, thinking that they
can stop at anytime that they wish, however in moments of quiet reflection
they know this is not the case. As the addict falls further into addiction, they
may even start to believe that everyone in the world is doing exactly what
they are doing. They do not see a life where they do not use drugs or alcohol
and they cannot even fathom changing the course they are currently on.
During the periods where they have their substance of choice, they may feel
elation but in stark contrast to this, when they are short of their substance or
totally without it, the peril that this causes in their life cannot be overstated.
The fear of withdrawals is a very real deterrent for many addicts and
alcoholics who would like to seek help and so to them it seems that they
have gotten themselves into an impossible situation. One they may never
get out of. This however is the great lie of addiction because the reality is
that every single human being can get sober, it is just a matter of how much
effort they are willing to put into their recovery attempt.
To the addict asking for help seems like the most difficult thing in the world
and living this double life, one that they project to the world compared to the
interior chaos being caused by their substance usage is unstainable and
incredibly tiring. While asking for help can be difficult, many people feel a
great weight come off them as soon as they reach out and get help through drug and alcohol detox.
More Questions on What Addiction Is?
If you or a loved one is currently suffering from addiction and you’d like to
more answers to the question what is addiction, please reach out to the
understanding and caring staff at Sunrise Detox today, at 1-888-443-3869.