World-renowned author John Bradshaw – voted by his peers as “one of the most influential writers on emotional health in the 20th Century” – suggests that our inability to face and deal with our emotional pain is causing us to become addicted. In his pioneering book Bradshaw On: The Family, he says:
“When we look at society as a whole, relatively few of us will end up becoming cocaine, heroin or hard drug addicts. If Glasser’s three-stage theory is correct, however, many of us could well be using other kinds of experiences and behaviors to deal with our lack of inner happiness. So let’s consider them.
“A man found a cocoon of a butterfly.One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.So the man decided to help the butterfly, he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon.
Habits and Addictions: What’s the Connection?“When I was involved in AA and other 12-step programs, I remember some people making a very big distinction between “addictions” and “habits.” ‘MY ADDICTION IS NOT A HABIT!’ some would say vehemently. And I think I understand why.
Where Does “Choice” Come In?
My Interpretation of the Meaning of Addiction
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created
“I’ve heard it estimated
Is My Definition of Addiction Useful?
That’s all that matters. Is my definition useful for you? It really might not be and I encourage you to honor your “truth”. I really don’t want you to take what I’ve just said as being “The” “Truth” about addiction. If this definition fits for you, great. If not, that’s great too. Personally, here’s why I’ve found it useful:
1) It helps us decide for ourselves. This definition applies to our experience, rather than a “medical” diagnosis. This isn’t to deny the usefulness of expert opinions. However, since doctors, scientists and authorities in the field don’t agree on an absolute truth, this definition encourages people to look at their own behaviors and experience, and decide for themselves.
2) It’s inclusive, and not dependent on our history. This definition applies equally to someone who believes they have a disease and someone who doesn’t. In fact, it applies to whatever someone might see as “the cause,” be it disease, genetics, environment, upbringing, social-economic conditions or something else. Again, each of those has validity. However, my focus is on what people can do in the present – instead of experiencing themselves as victims of the past (including their birth) or powerless to change because of what they observe going on around them.
3) It is neither pro nor con the 12 steps. Sometimes a person is feeling so much shame or has come to feel so powerless over their “habit,” that being told they have a disease and that it is not their fault, and that there’s a solution through a “higher power” is very helpful. Exactly how and why it works is open to interpretation. But the fact is, for many it does.
However, not everyone believes that addiction is a disease. Some can’t accept the 12-step’s “spiritual/religious” approach. And for others, the belief in powerlessness isn’t useful and can even be debilitating. Some people believe they DO still have control over their habit or addiction. And I think that all these perspectives need to be honored. That’s why I’ve tried to use definitions and solutions that can work for anyone, regardless of their belief system.
4) This definition doesn’t separate addictions from habits. Since we all engage in behaviors which have negative consequences, this definition simply applies to those things that you feel unable to stop. However, this doesn’t separate them from the rest of your behaviors. And that means you can work with ANY or all of your habits, (including those that we call compulsions and addictions) at the same time.
5) It helps to ‘normalize’ addictions and remove some of the stigma. As we come to see these ‘patterns of behavior’ in ourselves, it begins to make them more commonplace or acceptable. It helps take some of the shame and guilt out of them. And it also connects us with others instead of separating and dividing us. If everyone has them – i.e. if we’re all doing things that result in different degrees of harm, discomfort or destructiveness – then we don’t have to feel so bad and alone. (This is a core experience of people with socially stigmatized addictions, by the way.) Instead, we can begin to look at these behaviors as simply part of human nature.
From the book Addiction & Choice, by Scott Gallagher
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that, in the field of addictions, there is a huge emphasis on “who’s right and who’s wrong,” and this causes a lot of conflict, anger and even fighting among us. (Perhaps your experience has been similar.)
So what do we disagree on? Without wanting to be facetious, one could say almost everything. From “addiction is a disease” to addiction isn’t a disease. Some people swear by the 12 steps (as the only method of treatment) and just as many who swear at them. There are disagreements about how much choice we have; whether you can deal with several addictions at the same time (part of my reason for starting All Addictions Anonymous); what substances or behaviors are actually addictions; what the differences between addictions and bad habits are; and even, who is an “addict” at all.
When I was in early “recovery”, I would go to 12 step meetings and judge people as being either moderate drinkers, hard drinkers or “real alcoholics”. I took pride in convincing you I was a “real hardcore” alcoholic/addict, saying things like, “You’re not addicted. Let me tell you about being addicted!” and then share my worst (or best) war stories to convince you of how I was different from you. I was making others right or wrong, and separating my patterns of addiction from those of others – and I hurt many people by doing this. Looking back, I see the way I treated some people as being abusive. I could not see it at the time. I was blinded by my arrogance – thinking my way was the only real right way – and if you did not agree, I judged you as being in denile.
From the book Addiction & Choice, by Scott Gallagher