I had someone ask me this morning what makes someone's behavior an addiction.
We were talking about someone that I believe is addicted, and she doesn't see it.
So, we talked it out.
Like, lots of people drink alcohol, what makes an alocoholic?
Lots of people visit casinos, how do you know who's a gambling addict?
Our entire country is filled with overweight people, who is truly addicted to food?
Every man likes sex, how do you know if he's a sex addict?
Most women like to shop, which ones are shopping addicts?
I finally came up with it: the difference is that an addict is no longer in control of their own behavior*. The desire for the object (alcohol, gambling, food, sex, shopping, etc) controls them.
An addict can lose everything, and still can't stop. An addict can know how destructive their behavior is, and still can't stop. It has reached a point where the activity is no longer a choice, it is a need.
Now, before someone says "oh, but they chose to (insert whatever)"... you're right.
They did choose to. At some point. In the past. And at some point they may have even realized they were on the brink of a problem. And they chose to keep going. But now? It's no longer a choice. They truly feel as though they need it (and in some cases their own bodies will perpetuate the lies - withdrawel is a witch). They cannot function "normally" without it.
Nine times out of 10, the addict is not:
- the person binge drinking every weekend. It's the person who can't go one day without a glass of wine.
- the person hitting the casino once a month and blowing their entire paycheck. It's the person blowing $25 a day on an online poker site
- the person stuffing their face with food the one night they're out with the girls. It's the person sneaking food at home after their spouse has gone to bed.
- the person who cheats on their spouse once. It's the person who can't stop looking at pornography.
- the person who goes on one shopping spree and blows their house payment. It's the person who spends $5 at Goodwill. Four times a week. Every week.
It's the mom who's been in & out of jail and rehab, and who the judge gives one last chance to be successful at stopping her drug use, or lose all parental rights to her children. And she sobs, and promises to clean up her life, because she does indeed love her children. But within just a few months is back in jail, all parental rights terminated.
It's the man who views pornography daily, then escalates to local personal ads, then begins an online flirtation, whose wife treatens to leave & take the children, and he chooses to walk away from "everything he loves" rather than get treatment.
It's the husband whose wife, whom he truly loves dearly, threatens to leave if he doesn't stop drinking. And he's dry for about 2 months. But then he can't help himself. And his wife leaves him.
That's the difference. That's an addiction. When you don't know why you do what you're doing, but you can't stop, even at the threat of losing what you hold most dear... you are no longer in control. You are bound, a slave to your addiction.
That, is the difference.
* I am not a professional, and other than a random class here & there, plus my own experience dealing with addicts, am not actually qualified to make these statements. If you believe you or someone you love may be dealing with an addiction of any sort, please speak to your family doctor, or Google addiction support for your particular concern to find help near you.