What is Addiction? by Marcus Antebi
Addiction is defined as “the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.”
Obsession is defined as “the state of being obsessed with someone or something,” or “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.”
Compulsion is defined as “An irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes.”
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is often considered in connection with addictive behavior. The causes of OCD are not fully understood. But there are several theories, including the following:
- Compulsions are learned behaviours, which become repetitive and habitual when they are associated with relief from anxiety.
- OCD is due to genetic and hereditary factors.
- Chemical, structural and functional abnormalities in the brain are the cause of OCD.
- Distorted beliefs reinforce and maintain symptoms associated with OCD.
It is possible that several factors interact to trigger the development of OCD. The underlying causes may be further influenced by stressful life events, hormonal changes and personality traits. (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/obsessive-compulsive-disorder#lp-h-3.)
Addiction is one end of a spectrum of possible ways of thinking. The other end of that spectrum is quite simply pure awakening, enlightenment, clarity, and complete happiness. This doesn’t mean that one has to achieve a perfect state of mind in order to be free of addiction. But when you understand the spectrum from addiction to enlightenment, then you can determine where you are on the scale.
The exact nature of addiction varies from person to person. One could say that the obsessions that we have are caused by external events and that they are absorbed like nutrition. The experiences lead to our feelings, the feelings lead to more feelings, and they are reinforced by thought processes.
When the thoughts become painful and out of control, we seek to fix them. In the absence of the tools to fix them, we tend to obsess on our problems. If we obsess for a very long time on problems that we can’t find solutions to, our chemistry changes. Without relief, we then fall into a negative place.
While controlled by obsessions or addictions we can’t see anything else but the desire to satisfy whatever we are craving. Oftentimes we become so blind that we can’t even see what we are doing. Sometimes we can’t even see that we have a problem. Instead, we believe that our obsessions and addictions are helping us in some kind of way. We can become attached to them.
The likely reason is because they are providing us with something that is missing: Obsessions and addictions are distractions from deeper pain. There are many layers to the associated problem behaviors, and there are many professional solutions available to address dealing with addiction. These solutions include pharmaceutical drugs, natural remedies, instituting new thought processes, and instituting behavioral changes utilizing appropriate direction and guidance.
It’s not really possible to rid yourself of an addictive personality. Most who categorize themselves as being of that personality type usually continually switch addictions and hopefully find addictions that are not destructive when they do so. But a person wishing to rid him or herself of an addiction must get to the source of the problem causing it.
If you’re addicted to a substance or a behavior, you’re likely experiencing a tremendous lack of self-love and/or self-esteem. Sometimes people have self-love that is driven by grandiose thinking. In other words, if a person has some self-love, they might amplify it by externalizing the things that they possess; objects that build temporary self-esteem. And things other than possessions, such as rank and title and social position, can be temporary self-esteem builders as well.
It’s necessary to understand that such things are in effect a “veneer.” They are covering up a broken internal world beneath the surface. A person’s mentality must be rebuilt from the ground up. They must institute new behaviors and new ways of thinking. In conjunction with those things, they must go through a healing process.
It’s difficult to estimate the amount of time that such a healing process may take. That process should not be “accelerated” under any circumstances. All people are different, and their character structures, innate personalities, fortitude and other factors drive the length of time that will be required for healing.
Addiction is formed by a lack of knowledge of how to live in the world, and lack of clear thinking is an impediment to overcoming addiction. The things that are remedies, rather than veneers, are things such as love from others, hope, a sense of dignity, a sense of power, self-esteem building activities, and service to others.
I agree completely with a saying that is used in 12-step recovery: “No matter how far down the scale a person has traveled, they too can recover if they have the ability to be rigorously honest with themselves.“ But I’d want to add a couple of things to that. The person also has to have a strong will to survive, and enough of a shred of self-love to want to take the steps to thrive.
Another quote from 12-step program literature is applicable as well: “there are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” Those statements apply to every type of addiction, whether it be alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food, money, power, or something else entirely.
My experience has shown me that it’s not enough just to put down one addictive behavior without getting to the root cause of the problem causing it. First, it’s necessary to deal with the addiction that’s causing damage and harm, making life unmanageable. Then when we stabilize ourselves we can move on to deeper issues. It bears repeating that it’s a mistake to just believe that the solution to our problem is to just stop doing the addictive behavior, because then we’ll likely just switch from one addiction to another over and over again. Under such circumstances we will likely still suffer emotionally and otherwise.
Instead, we have to get to the roots of our problems. In the process, we have to be gentle, we have to find compassion, and we have to convince ourselves that we can win. And when things are really difficult, we have to take our recovery moment by moment. We have to teach ourselves that we can handle our feelings.
Another thing that we have to do is learn to sit quietly. This is especially difficult for both children and people who have never practiced stillness. And this is particularly important, because addiction is very much about constant activity in the mind. If we look at our behavior when we are under the spell of an addiction and/or obsession that we created, we will see that we are in constant motion.
But the good news is that there is hope. This is so because there are systems, programs, and methods that have been laid out before us, from generations past, that will help us to end the suffering.
All that is required from you in the very beginning is the desire to end the cycle. Following that, you will be required to seek help from others. And doing so in the right way and with the right motivation will become a joyous experience.