Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Addiction - What is It?

When the word 'addiction' is mentioned it very often stirs up an abundance of thoughts, feelings and behaviours within an individual, there appears to be a sudden change in interest and attention from people. Being an addiction counsellor and hypnotherapist I witness this when I am asked what my line of work is; from my hairdresser to the postman they all suddenly feel the need to tell me that they 'have a friend' who has a problem with alcohol or drugs.
Addiction appears to have been in our society forever and it doesn't seem to be leaving us either. The word 'addict' was first used in 1529 and comes from the Latin 'addictus' meaning 'deliver, yield, devote. Addiction can be devotion or an attachment or a dedication although nowadays addiction is described more of a recurring and uncontrollable compulsion and obsession which can lead to traumatic, damaging and fatal consequences.
There are various chemicals which can cause addictions in people, some of the more common are: alcohol, tobacco, heroin and cocaine and of course there are certain foods i.e. chocolate. There are also various behaviours which can cause addiction such as: gambling, sex, eating, the internet and co-dependency in relationships.
When the centre of the body's nervous system, the brain or specifically the reward system within the brain is stimulated either by a chemical such as cocaine or through behaviours such as sex or eating, it reacts by releasing or 'firing off' natural endorphins like dopamine, resulting in a heightened 'feel good' factor or euphoria. The results are then stored in the subconscious mind which records them as a reward.
All addictive chemicals and behaviours have two things in common:
1 They produce a pleasurable effect by working on the brain's natural reward system often resulting in an unpleasant effect when the chemical or behaviour wears off and:
2 They create a chemical imbalance resulting in a physical and sometimes mental demand for the chemical or behaviour resulting in loss of control followed by habit and addiction.
In my experience as an addiction counsellor using addictions therapy and having worked with thousands of addiction clients, the addiction can be a great 'remover', not only will it take one's family, job, car, house and finances, it will also remove one's self-esteem and self-worth, it will remove confidence, hope and faith, it will take away the ability to identify emotions and it will distort and eventually reduce or even remove the person's belief in themselves leaving them without goals, dreams and a purpose in life.
Addiction can also leave a person riddled with negative personality traits including blaming and denial, the 'victim' will tend to justify their behaviours and find excuses to continue to do what they do regardless of who or what it effects, they can become irresponsible and dishonest and they are usually defensive and resistant to making changes, they also tend to have issues with control, lack of assertion, anger and resentment.
Most addictions have horrendous consequences for the 'user', their family; friends, society and everyone around them are affected, usually a trail of destruction and chaos is left behind to be mopped up. Addiction is a very powerful force and in most cases being aware of the consequences of 'using' is not enough for someone to stop their addictive thinking or behaviours and overcoming addiction.
Integrating addiction counselling with Cognitive Behavourial Therapy (CBT) and clinical hypnotherapy can help in overcoming addiction and help the person reach a full recovery. During addictions therapy, in most cases all of the above personality traits need to be looked at and explored with the client as well as helping them work through the shame, guilt and lack of trust which arises when someone stops their addictive behaviours. The cause of some or all of these negative traits can be deep rooted within the person and working through their issues to the root cause of their problem can eventually lead the person towards forgiveness, hope and feelings of gratitude.