It's very simple to understand the nature of addiction.
When someone comes into the world, that person’s brain is programmed with an agenda to feel OK. When a baby is born, he or she shouts and cries as a reaction to discomfort or confusion. The baby then seeks the comfort and warmth of the mother's body.
We seek shelter and comfort from anything that would cause pain throughout our entire lives. That's normal and understandable. But that desire can become out of context or distorted over time. The distortion can be caused in large part by things that happened in childhood.
No one can argue with the fact that pain sucks or that pleasure feels good. For that reason it's easy to see why we would gravitate towards anything that brings us pleasure even if the pleasure is momentary and has consequences attached to it.
Human beings will overlook severe consequences in pursuit of momentary pleasure. Some will even overlook the strong possibility of death in exchange for the pleasure that they seek. When a person lacks structure in life, loses self-control, or has their self-esteem broken or completely destroyed, they lose the ability to make choices that are beneficial to their life.
Addiction arises when a person feels unpleasant enough for long enough to be in pain. The next step happens when that person reaches out for something attempting to alleviate that pain. The person might make a bad decision at that point. Perhaps they were exposed to someone smoking when they were young. They saw someone else smoking and concluded that cigarettes benefited them. They began smoking themselves and saw that smoking gave them a momentary distraction from their negative reality. Subsequently, they became addicted to cigarettes.
Addiction causes a body chemistry change in us. Sometimes we don't even feel particularly good as a result of the chemistry change. The change itself puts us under the impression that something positive has happened. But when we examine our situation more closely, we realize that the negative feelings our addiction causes far outweigh the positive feelings of momentary pleasure. Our addiction causes us to feel guilt, shame, remorse, demoralization, self-hatred, and fear.
There are likely quite a few different reasons for addiction. I believe that the major one is that addicts are simply trying to make themselves feel better. When they indulge in something that does not improve their life and the lives of others in the process, then what they are participating in is an addiction rather than a habit.
It bears mentioning that even habits that are good for us and others can become harmful when they’re done out of context and/or not done in moderation. Eating is good and necessary for my survival, but overeating and eating the wrong types of things will endanger my health. Exercise is good and essential for me, but I cannot do push-ups while I’m driving because I don’t want to put the lives of others at risk.
It’s clearly necessary for all of us to examine ourselves and our actions to ensure that we’re taking on proper lifestyle habits and moving away from addictive behaviors. It will require self-sacrifice and discipline for us to do so, but we absolutely must do it for our own healing and out of love for those in our lives as well.