What is addiction? How can we tell when we have become addicted to a drug, gambling, food, sex, unhealthy relationships, the internet, video games or some other substance or activity?
I define addiction as a behavior in which one persists despite consistently negative consequences (and often despite a desire to stop). If the individual is able to recognize the behavior as problematic, she soon feels powerless over her addiction when she is unable to stop.
It is useful to note the distinction between dependence and addiction. We may become physiologically dependent on a medication such as Valium or Percocet after taking it as prescribed for a sufficient length of time. Dependence will produce withdrawal symptoms if the medication is suddenly stopped. But we are addicted only when we sacrifice or damage other parts of our life in pursuit of the effects of the substance or activity.
Patients who are struggling with addictions need more than one fifty-minute session per week. They need a therapist and a coach who can accompany them more fully, especially in the early days of recovery.
I frequently ask patients to call me daily in this critical stage. I do not charge for these calls but I sometimes require them. I also accompany some patients to 12-step meetings. 12-step fellowships are not the only way one can achieve sobriety but they have been an important part of the process for many in the past seventy years.
For several years I have led weekly groups for men and women in early recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Currently, I offer a group for men and women over thirty. It meets Wednesdays, 7:30-8:45 p.m.
James Hannon, Ph.D.; LADC-I