Choosing Life - Moving on from Addiction
I am a specialist alcohol counsellor, but I have found that addiction has a broad range of effects and that different forms of addiction are normally inter-related, so in my experience I have met most of the different ways people evidence addiction. It has been heartwarming to see people have the courage to face the consequences of addiction and make a way back to a life worth living for themselves.
Looking for a quick fix to the problem of achieving happiness and feeling good about yourself, leaves anyone vulnerable to any one of a number of addictions. I like to think of addictive behaviour as something which we do repetitively, hoping that it will solve some kind of problem, but find that in the end it does more harm than good. The activity takes up large parts of our lives and when we stop, we need to undergo some real changes in how we see our selves and take part in life if we want to remain free. Counselling for addiction involves accepting the behaviour for what it is, moving beyond the ways it has been covered up, and then learning to find other ways of living which help us to feel good about ourselves and our relationships. The work lies in making living worth while.
For me it has been essential to work with each individual, to resolve the difficulty as they find it. There are people who need to stop drinking and to do that permanently. I have supported some people to plan and control their consumption. Which is right is for a person to discover for themselves. It is important that people reduce their drinking safely and do not stop suddenly. It is a situation where informed support increases the safety and effectiveness of taking control of your drinking.
I am aware of a large range of drugs that affect addiction, marijuana is agreed to be addictive by at least some authorities and there are a number of agencies helping people with opiate, cocaine and amphetamine. I enquire also whether prescription drugs are a problem as these require long term treatment and a very slow reduction in use.
Food is a major source of addictive behaviour, and I regularly discuss weight loss, bulimic behaviour and anorexic phases with clients. In this area I am again concerned with people who bear a heavy weight of judgement on themselves. Exercise is another pathway for creating an appearance which fits with advertised perfection as is the use of laxatives. It is important to refer for medical help if the BMI is outside the normal range and their cognitive functioning is disturbed.
Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour (OCD)
Obsessive behaviour seeks to reduce anxiety by repetitive behaviour, like cleaning or checking, but ends up by increasing the anxiety to unmanagable levels and restricting what can be done in life severely. Effective treatment requires changes in behaviour as well as a more radical understanding of how behaviour that was meant to help, becomes the problem.
Gambling as an addiction can bring financial ruin and disrupt relationship. The thought that there is a quick solution to financial problems is compounded by the addiction to the adrenaline rush of winning or risking money. The recovery process does require some exploration around attitudes to money and to ones pesonal value.
On-line gaming and pornography
These are fairly modern forms of addiction. Because they are accessible in a private space and they are so quickly accessed, they can be very powerful forms of addiction. There is a great deal of shame associated and this makes it difficult to get help. As with all addictions, fifty percent of the solution lies with reconstructing the life, connecting the person with activities which make them feel worth while without the activities they have craved.
There are two main problem areas:
Co-dependancy: in which people form relationships which are abusive or un-suitable for them, in which they try to conform to what other people want of them; they cause a great deal of sadness and hurt and working together in counselling a lot can be done to improve peoples perception of how to take part in positive relationships.
Sex: Sex can be an area of addiction, where someone needs a great deal of sexual activity with different partners in order to feel good about themselves. These people miss out on really having a relationship with any of their partners and rarely get to feel that they have reached the goal they have set for themselves.
Addiction can be very cruel, can lead to losses in many areas of life, even of life itself. It is worth putting in the effort required to make the changes now, it is easier earlier in life than later, while there is much to save, but it is never too late.