When we consider the world of addictions we often limit our view to just three or four behaviours: alcohol use, illegal or prescription drug use, food consumption problems and more recently internet addictions where our children are at risk as well. There are many things that we can become addicted to such as: pornography, chocolate, gambling, watching violence, media games like ‘Warcraft’ where graphic slaughter is routine and on-line shopping to identify some others.
What follows here is a bit of my history which I mention only to establish some credibility. Prior to my retirement a few years back I had spent a great deal of time learning how to survive my own substance abuse issues which had plagued me for many years. Eventually I earned an opportunity to put my experience and my education to work as an Addiction Counsellor in a local in-patient treatment facility. I did this work for close to 25 years and now I act as a private consultant to those who are not sure if they have an addiction problem or not.
The question I am asked most often from the clients who seek me out is–“I’m not sure if I am an addict or if I am addicted to (????) or not. Can you tell me?” The two questions I ask them in return is “do you really want to know or is this about satisfying a request from family or a partner to get some help?” If you are hearing complaints or concerns from your family and friends this might be an indication that the issue is more important than you are willing to admit. The other question is “what do YOU think? What has happened recently that has prompted you to seek answers now?” If any of this sounds familiar here are three questions to ask yourself. The answers to these questions will provide you with a much better idea of whether or not you have an addiction problem.
1. Simply look in a mirror and ask yourself if you think there is a possibility that your substance use /behavior is becoming an issue to be concerned about. You can lie to others but you can’t lie to yourself. What I am suggesting is not easy by the way. Most will try to defend their recent activities even to themselves not wanting to say there may be a problem. If you are defensive and angry or argumentative when asked about your use or behaviour you might want to talk to someone outside your social circle who can provide an unbiased assessment.
2. Have you thought about switching or changing from wine or liquor to beer or from cannabis to hash for example just to prove that you can stop using a particular substance anytime you choose. If this idea has crossed your mind the possibility certainly exists that you might just be further along the trail than you want to believe.
3. How far are you willing to go to find out if you have an addiction problem? The most daring and radical of the three suggestions is for you to take the 30 challenge-that’s what I call it anyway. In essence you stop taking any form of drug either liquid or solid (not including any medication legally prescribed by a physician) or engaging in any form of behaviour that relates to your initial question or concern. You might ask a good close friend to help you with this. It has to be someone who really does have your best interest at heart and will provide you with honest feedback. YOU have to be sure that you don’t get angry at the friend for the observations he/she makes. Best, if you are a male, to ask a male friend and females need to work with other females. Do your own monitoring as well. During the 30 days you pay attention to things like how often you think about using or engaging in the behaviour that concerns you? How often and under what circumstances do your moods change? Who do you associate with at the time you are craving? Have you become more edgy, anxious, nervous, distant from family and friends lately? Have your sleep patterns change? Have dietary patterns changed? Do you experience an increase or decrease concerning energy levels? Do you feel less interested regarding participating in recreational activities? All of this needs to be recorded daily by you and by your friend so that you can review and compare both reports at the end of thirty days. Are they similar? Ask yourself if you could do another thirty days. Do you want to do another thirty days? Do you feel good being abstinent? It won’t take too long for you to answer these questions if you have been honest. Herein lies the answer to the big question: ‘Do you have a substance use/behavioural problem?’
Personally I don’t believe that substance abuse/behavioural problems, unless they are directly connected to a physiological or chemical source, are the explanation that makes the most sense to me regarding addictions. I don’t believe that it is a disease either. I do believe that people will simply seek a remedy that works the best to deal with whichever discomforts they are faced with. When I understood that I could exercise control over my cravings and behaviour by changing how I thought and by what I did to alleviate the discomfort my life changed most dramatically for the better.
We really can be the authors of our own good fortune.
Anyways, that’s how I see it
All the best, Jim
If you have a desire to connect with me for further comment or info get me at: firstname.lastname@example.org OR jimcloughley.com