Addiction is defined as the persistent and compulsive use of a substance or behaviour. A person can become addicted to drugs or alcohol as well as behaviours such as gambling or sex. The number of people who struggle with addiction in North America is alarming – about 1 in 10 adults experience some form of substance dependence. Addiction is one of our top health problems causing more distress, illnesses, and deaths than any other preventable health problem. Despite the widespread problem of addiction, few people get the support they need to recover.
Initially, the use of addictive substances or behaviours may have helped someone medicate painful feelings or disconnect from overwhelming life experiences. The problem with self-medicating as a way of managing emotional pain is that it leads to out-of-control patterns while still leaving the initial issue unaddressed. Addictive behaviours also create a vicious cycle of negative consequences and shame that adds to the need to self-medicate. The problem is the problem – addiction is just a symptom of an underlying problem. The origins of addiction are diverse: adverse childhood experiences, stress and trauma, genetic contributions, mental illness, and challenges with self-regulation all create the risk factors for addiction.
My goal is to bring equal measures of science, compassion, and curiosity to the field of addiction recovery. I approach addiction and addiction treatment like a puzzle. What creates the vulnerability to addiction? What are the factors that maintain it? What helps a person recover? A better understanding of why addiction develops is crucial to supporting someone who wants to address unhealthy patterns of substance abuse or behavioural addiction.
If you are struggling with addiction, therapy is about helping you identify and explore the life issues that have led to addiction. Whether you are just beginning to recognize addictive patterns in your life or are interested in continuing your recovery, therapy offers significant support. It helps provide you with tools to stop negative patterns while exploring the underlying emotional struggles and assists in developing tools to cope more effectively with life.
With the right support, people can recover from serious addiction.
RELATIONSHIPS IMPACTED BY ADDICTION
Sharing life with someone struggling with addiction is a unique challenge regardless of the particular addiction. If you are a family member or an intimate partner of someone with an addiction problem, you have likely experienced the chaos, confusion, fear, hopelessness, and anger caused by another’s addiction. You may be in need of support to address the addiction and manage the upheaval it brings. Or you may want help as you and your loved one move forward once an addiction problem has been identified.
Therapy can provide the opportunity to bring awareness and understanding to a difficult situation. It can help you set healthier boundaries while enabling you to build a supportive relationship with your loved one. Therapy can also help you rebuild trust and connection with your loved one as they move forward in their recovery.