What is Addiction, really?

This brief article appears in Devonshire Magazine as part of their Road to Recovery focus in the latest issue to be found here. I hope you enjoy it.

“What is addiction, really? It is a sign, a signal, a symptom of distress. It is a language that tells us about a plight that must be understood.” Alice Miller.

Addiction is more than a lack of will power – it is a profound deregulation of the brain and the psychological faculties designed to help us navigate life. It can come in many forms from crack to slot machines, rigid control to relationship obsessions and more recently social media.

But this deregulation – if we’re willing to look at it, to explore it and learn from it – holds within it an extraordinary gift. It is a communication from deep within us that something is not ok and, crucially, that something within us wants to change. For who is born with a desire to transgress their values, damage their health, diminish their potential and hurt the people they love?

Through a process of psychoeducation people can learn the attitudes, skills and behaviours that help them change. Through the acceptance of others people can learn to accept themselves again (or perhaps for the first time). Through self-examination people can learn to heal the unresolved issues or feelings that often reveal themselves once they are ‘clean’. And through re-connection to others and themselves people can find purpose, passion and peace once again.

It is hard work, but there is help. Despite austerity there are rehabilitation centres, group programmes, self-help programmes, spiritual programmes, evidence-based interventions, inspirational literature, yoga programmes, mindfulness techniques, trauma treatments, podcasts and TED talks available for those interested. Our understanding is expanding all the time.

If you are wrestling with addictive patterns or you’re a concerned friend or family member, the single most important thing to do is ask for help from someone or a group experienced in aiding addiction recovery. You do not have to do it alone.