In short, I don’t think addictions are something that people stumble into because they are careless or stupid. Rather, they are serious afflictions that affect many people and don’t necessarily indicate immorality or a lack of will.
I hope most people understood that because of the satiric nature of the post, I was not trivializing actual addictions or the people who suffer from them. I was rather, trying to make a point about factors that contribute to poverty.
However, Milan’s comment did get me thinking about the nature of addictions and how very prevalent they seem to be these days. Are there any celebrities left who have not been in rehab? Even Robert Munsch recently confessed his problems with alcohol and cocaine. Guys caught cheating on their spouses suddenly all seem to be “sex addicts”. Stars with weight problems are “food addicts”. Victoria Beckham is a “shopaholic”. Which prompts me to ask – is there a difference between addictions to substances like drugs and alchohol and addictions that are behaviour-based like sex, shopping, gambling, eating, exercise, staying with a toxic partner, etc.?
From what I understand, the thought processes, the reward/letdown cycle, the consequences and recovery process for both substance and behavioural addictions are very similar.
I can see when you’re altering your brain chemistry with a substance that this would increase your chances of becoming dependent on that substance. Does brain chemistry get similarly altered when you gamble compulsively or consistently over-eat? Or does lumping substance addictions with behavioural compulsions somehow trivialize “real” addictions?
Is there such a thing then as an “addictive personality”? Are some people more likely to become addicted to both dangerous substances and dangerous behaviours than others and why?
There is a link between genetics and addiction vulnerability. Research has pretty much determined that addiction is approximately 50% genetics. In fact some say that we all have the genetic predisposition for addiction because there is an evolutionary advantage to addictive behaviour. For instance, in the wild, it’s safe and advantageous to return again and again to a good food source. So, the potential for addiction is probably hardwired into our brains.
Whether or not this predisposition manifests as addiction seems to depend on various factors including environment, physical/psychological trauma, and coping skills.
I admit I don’t understand addiction at all. All the reading I’ve done on it and all the people I’ve talked to who have suffered from addictions, haven’t really helped me to understand it.
I want to understand it, but the idea of consistently consuming something or engaging in a behaviour that is self-destructive – long past the point where you hate yourself for doing it and long past the point where it’s destroying all the other areas of your life – makes no sense to me.
I mean, sure, we’ve all engaged in self-destructive behaviours at times, but it mostly doesn’t result in an addiction. For instance, I smoked for many years and they tell me nicotine is addictive, yet when I decided it was time to quit – I quit. I’ve known a lot of people who were almost compulsively promiscuous for years, but when they got married were faithful spouses. I’ve even known people who’ve had some pretty serious issues with alcohol to the extent that anyone who knew them would say they were alcoholics, and yet they were able to cut back their consumption to one or two drinks a week with no problems; no binging; no transference to another addiction.
And yet, some people take their first drink at maybe 14 or 15 and are instantly alcoholics. Some people have had a cancerous lung removed and still can’t quit smoking. And some people keep packing on the pounds year after year even though they haven’t been able to bear to look at themselves in the mirror for ages.
I knew a man who gambled away his family home, all their savings, his RRSPs his kids’ RESPs – he maxed out all their credit cards and then went and borrowed money from a loan shark and gambled that away. His wife finally figured out what was going on; divorce was threatened; counseling was undertaken and his access to money was severely restricted so that his paycheque went directly to the wife. They lost their house and pretty much everything else they owned of any value to pay off their debts. And still, he found a way to continue gambling.
Why can’t they stop? Especially when they have every reason in the world to stop? Especially when they’ve been offered all the help they could possible want or need to stop? People often ask: Are they weak? Selfish? Lack self-control? Are some so-called addictions just an excuse for bad behaviour?
It’s mind-boggling isn’t it? The only thing I can think is that whatever pain an addict is trying to obliterate with his/her addiction has to be so much worse than whatever the addiction is doing to them.