I had a conversation recently that reminded me that I haven’t yet posted a definition of what I mean when I say “addiction”.
Oftentimes something is referred to as an addiction because a person is fervent about it, thinks about it constantly, and is never happier than when they’re involved in ______. I can be obsessive-compulsive about a variety of things to which I am not addicted. I can be giddy and excited when I anticipate doing, going,or being X, Y, or Z. That doesn’t make me addicted. Here’s what some really smart guys said about it…
Full Definition ofaddiction
1: the quality or state of being addicted <addictionto reading>
2: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
Or, put another way, a more detailed definition would be:
Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.
Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.
(American Society of Addiction Medicine)
You can find an even more detailed definition here.
If you are able to stop drinking after one or two, without any qualms whatsoever, and if you never even think about drinking or using unless someone (or something) else brings it up, then it’s safe to say that you’re not an addict.
If you wake up thinking about using or drinking, or if your motivation for schlepping through Monday through Thursday is to get to FRIDAY, because then you can drink/drug/shop/game/act out sexually/eat for two whole days as much as you want…odds are pretty good that you are an addict.
Dependence, while it can be a lot like addiction, is not the same. If you’re dependent on something to alter your mood or how you feel, just to function, then you would be wise to look into what steps may be necessary to keep from crossing the indivisible line into addiction. No one can tell where that line is, but one thing is sure: once you’ve crossed the line into addiction, you’ll never not be an addict. You can’t un-pickle a pickle. Once you’ve baked a cake, it’s never going to be an egg, butter, milk, etc. again. There’s no going back.
The good news: there is a solution! The predominantly recognized answer to finding a way to live a satisfying and productive life, for alcoholics and addicts, is through a simple, 12-step program. There may be other ways to stop, and I’ve even heard of folks who have crossed the line and learned how to go back to social drinking/using. Usually, those individuals can be found working on Unicorn farms. Just sayin.
Posted from my office in the mountains.