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.

Gambling Addiction Discussion on BBC Radio Devon

For those of you who have been following the discussion around gambling laws in the UK here is a brief interview I gave for BBC Radio Devon. Please see the link below to listen to my thoughts on gambling addiction (from 1hr 15mins into the programme). http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05jjy5l

The government are currently reviewing the gambling industry’s use of Fixed Odds Betting Machines. These machines have been described as the “crack-cocaine” of gambling and indeed are designed to trigger maximum engagement from those who are drawn to use them. Both the high risk (up to £100 per spin) and the rapid draw (new bets can be placed in as little as 20 seconds) make it particularly difficult for problem gamblers to employ their rational decision-making abilities in the heat of the game.

There is a powerful testimony of what it is like to be in the grips of gambling addiction by a recovering addict from 1:13hrs.

Following that I discuss with Pippa and Matt on drive time radio the impact of FOTB’s and the responsibility of those with the power to change policy to explore whether the economic argument to keep them stands up given the devastating effects gambling has not only on individuals but also their families, jobs, communities and ultimately the nation’s services.

I hope it provides an informative glimpse into the debate. I offer gambling addiction counselling in Devon – Exeter and Totnes. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to have a conversation about how I could help.