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Addictions versus habits: what separates the addict from the social user?

No matter where I go, or what I am doing in my life I tend to cross paths with people who lose their way due to addictions. I also see a lot of excessive behaviour which looks like its going to cross the line towards addictions. I can’t help everyone all of the time, but I really try to offer some comfort to people that with a bit of faith, love, and trust all things are possible. Addiction really does make me wonder, what really causes this issue, and knowing the cause I suppose might lead to a cure.

The jury is out on the scientific research, the nature versus nurture debate continues, it’s likely a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.  I am not a doctor. I am not a psychologist. I am not a social worker, a counsellor or a health care professional of any kind.  I am just a woman with a few degrees, who enjoys thinking, reading and writing and who has lived a very interesting life despite being under the age of 30.

What is addiction and what is a habit? Addiction has some psychological/physical component that compels a person towards the harmful substance or behaviour, so an individual is unable to control the urge can sum up addiction. These people have a number of contributing mental or physical conditions involved in the need to use or abuse something. A habit or better stated a bad habit by comparison to addiction it is done by choice. The person with the habit can choose to stop, and can subsequently stop successfully if they want to. The psychological/physical component is not an issue as it is with an addiction. What separates the user from the abuser? What is ‘tipping point’ that takes someone who engages in behavior that is risky to themselves and others towards behaviour that consumes and controls their lives and their well being. These of course are rhetorical questions 

In addition to being a woman, I am an orphan and a widow. Addiction has been a part of my life since as long as I can recall. My beautiful mother, bless her soul, made alcoholism and drug abuse a part of my daily life, she was eventually murdered by her partner who then killed himself when I was 11, they were no doubt high on either illegal or prescription drugs. My daughter’s father and my first true love died before he was 30, following a tragic pattern by his father who died before he turned 34, no doubt due to substance misuse. He froze to death outside by what I can only imagine was caused by a drug induced hysteria.

What I do know about addiction is that it can happen to anyone, from any socio-economic background, it can affect people at any age, of any gender or race, and it affects the people who are close to the addict as much as the addict themselves. Addiction seems to be a toxin that spreads itself throughout an environment. Maybe finding a cure for persons with addictions is as much about curing a society, a household, or an environment that promotes and feeds addictions.

People don’t just become addicted to drugs or booze, they can be addicted to things such as smoking, anger, gambling, sex, steroid use, fitness, video games, the internet, food, heck one can almost develop an addiction to almost anything. What makes something an addiction is the nature of the excessiveness related I suppose, the degree to which one loses sight of other things in life in the pursuit of the excessive behavior, which ultimately consumes them. Addiction for the person who is addicted inevitably leads to feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, despair, failure, rejection, anxiety and/or humiliation because when they lose sight of everything else around them, and only focus on the addiction things start to fall apart, whether it be their personal relationships, their careers, or their mental, physical or spiritual health.

Addictions harm the people closes to the addicts as well as the people who are addicted. Either because of the continual disappointment in their lack of consideration for others while they are using, or because of the failed expectations for them to stop using, in my case it was that the addictions lead to death.

I don’t know what specifically inspired me to write this post. I don’t have a particular point to make. I suppose in a way I just want to raise awareness that there is a fine line between a bad habit and an abuser. When you spot the warning signs in yourselves and others around you reach out for help. Don’t let the addictions consume your life or end it. Love yourself and love those around you by seeking help through rehab programs, counseling and or health care programs where available. And the biggest part is don’t lose hope and faith. Just because people go down a wrong path due to bad habits or addictions, doesn’t mean that this is the only road they can travel. Everyone can change. The point is you can’t help anyone who does not want help, and you can’t force anyone to love themselves or others enough to seek the help they need. When all else fails, pray.