Is it possible for someone to overcome their addiction? Addiction is a compulsive, obsessive and chronic behaviour where the addict lacks control and ignores the risks and the consequences of their behaviour – impacting on their lives and their relationships with their loved ones. Often they continue their addiction at the expense of others, as a result of putting their own needs as their priority and neglecting other responsibilities. Addiction is often used to manage or suppress pain, hurt and anger. Is it possible for someone to overcome their addiction? Yes, it is possible, providing the addict wants to and is ready to change, and receive the right professional help to work on the deeper issues rather than just stopping the addiction itself.
THE TYPE OF ADDICTIONS AND ITS IMPACTS
We know the familiar addictions are gambling, alcoholism, tobacco, drugs, and sex/porn. There are other types of addictions, such as gaming, technology, food, and workaholism, shopaholism is classified as less damaging than the former list. However, the impact of any addiction is still significant and costly for the person’s life and their loved ones, and even for their community. Addiction can change your thinking, brain function, behaviour and distort your belief system. Therefore, addictions can lead you to suffer anxiety and depression, besides other types of mental illnesses. Addiction can contribute to domestic violence and will impact their feeling insecure with themselves. Is it possible for someone to overcome their addiction? Yes, it is possible, providing the addict wants to and is ready to change.
WHAT MAKES PEOPLE TRAPPED IN THEIR ADDICTIONS?
There are some contributing factors to why people engage in addiction:
1. The past pain, hurt and anger
Some of us come from functional and others from dysfunctional family might have experienced some hurt, pain or anger through our upbringing. As children, we often try to push these negative feelings away by distracting ourselves in doing something else to cope. Often we think that the past is the past and that it won’t impact us.
2. The present hurt, pain and anger
As adults, we might experience some more hurt, pain and anger, which can trigger our past hurt, pain and anger. When these are triggered when we are adults, we experience double the amount of pain, hurt and anger.
Hence each one of us will deal with it differently by doing something to cope with these negative feelings. Some people choose to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, sex, fantasy, food, work, shopping, excessive sports and many more to soothe and cope with their hurt, pain and anger.
WHAT THE CYCLE OF ADDICTION LOOKS LIKE
In understanding clearly how this can become a vicious cycle of addiction, let me use the example of drugs, alcohol and sex. These substances may give quick relief; however, once these substances have gone out of our body system, the hurt, pain, and anger will increase. People then often feel guilty and ashamed of themselves and what they have done. As the hurt, pain, anger, guilt and shame increases, they will continue to use these substances even more to suppress their feelings – and over time this becomes an addiction.
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WITH THEIR ADDICTION
Is it possible for someone to overcome their addiction? Yes, it is possible, providing the addict wants to and is ready to change. However, becoming sober requires a couple of things:
1. Working through your pain, hurt and anger
It would be best if you found a therapist/counsellor who is an expert in working with addictions and who will walk with you through the process of recovery. While other therapist/counsellors will help you with how to stop your addictions, but others will help you in working through the core issues that have led to your addiction. Working through your pain, hurt and anger with an experienced therapist/counsellor in this area is worth it!
Like Ben*, he never regretted working through his core issues that stemmed from his childhood – the unfaithfulness of his dad, his parents’ marriage difficulties that he witnessed from a young age, and the porn and gambling addictions that ran in his family and extended family. He also worked through his present pain, hurt and anger, the loss of his marriage and his family unit, his work and the unknown future. Yes, Ben had to pay a high price, but his desire and commitment to working through his issues paid off with an addiction-free life. He became confident that his new life would help his ex-wife and family return to his life. He now even brings an excellent example to his family and extended family by confronting his dad and others in his family to face whatever issues they have for a better life and relationships.
2. Accountability person
As dealing with addiction is very challenging, repeated relapses can occur during your process of recovery. Therefore, you need to find someone to whom you can be accountable to make sure that you are on track. It would be best if you are accountable to someone on a regular basis. Many try to contact their accountability person once they have relapsed already, which is too late. So it would help if you made contact when you have even a slight thought of doing it.
3. Group Recovery
Joining a Group Recovery (GR) can enhance your recovery process. In GR, you will hear other people’s journey of success and failure. Sometimes the participants’ stories can trigger your struggles and make you feel discouraged or hopeless. If that is the case, then you need to discuss with your therapist/counsellor what is best for your situation.
4. Find a supportive and sober support network
Finding a supportive and sober support network may cause you to leave a toxic group and find new friends. The role of the family is essential in this journey to help you to achieve your goal. However, not everyone has a supportive family, e.g. other family members are also struggling with their addictions. If this is the case for you, then perhaps you need to find new people who are willing to support you.
Please don’t wait until it is too late! Seeking professional help for you and your family members as soon as possible can rescue yourself, your relationships and family.
*Ben struggled with his gambling by using other people’s money. He was not gambling in small amounts but with enormous amounts of money. He came to counselling because he almost lost his marriage and family. A few months later, Ben’s wife took the two children and left him, and ended up divorcing him. Ben felt depressed but was willing to continue counselling until he recovered from his gambling addiction. He admitted that without his wife divorcing him, he would have never recovered from his addiction.
(The client’s details, name and family details have been changed for the purpose of confidentiality).