“A hurt is at the centre of all addictive behaviours.” Gabor Maté
It is not something that only happens to bad or weak people, and it has nothing to do with a person’s will power or character. It is a treatable condition, like many other diseases. People who suffer from addiction can recover and live happily, fulfilled lives. All habits have the exact root causes, and the same recovery principles apply to all of them. The roots of addiction lie in a painful experience, whether felt open or hidden in the subconscious. ”Unconditional acceptance of each other is one of the greatest challenges we humans face. Few of us have experienced it consistently; the addict has never experienced it – least of all from himself.” Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
”I am not afraid of dying,” an addict once told me. ”I am more afraid of living” Gabor Maté
What is addiction?
”Addiction is any repeated behaviour, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others. Compulsion, impaired control, persistence, irritability, relapse and craving are hallmarks of an addiction.”
Compulsion is described as an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way.
A bad habit is a negative behaviour pattern that is often linked to a lack of self-control.
”If you are in doubt whether you are addicted – ask yourself one simple question: Given the harm you’re doing to yourself and others – are you willing to stop? If not, you’re addicted. And if you are unable to renounce the behaviour or to keep your pledge when you do, you’re addicted.” – Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.
”Smoking is, for example, one of the strongest addictions, ranking up there with cocaine and heroin on pharmaceutical addictiveness. It is also the deadliest. It kills 650 out of every 100 000 people while only 4 people out of 100 000 are killed by cocaine.” Johann Hari – Chasing the scream. Although cigarettes contain nicotine that is physically addictive, the action of lighting up 20 to 30 times per day causes a strong psychological addiction compared to a person that uses heroin or cocaine once or twice a day. It is the frequency in using that makes smoking one of the most challenging habits to break.
Johann Hari describes addiction as the psychological state of feeling you need the drug to give you the sensation of feeling calmer, or manic or numb. It is the same whether you are addicted to caffeine or meth. That is why you can nurse a patient through detox till all the withdrawal symptoms have disappeared. They perhaps live a few weeks or months without their drug and then have a relapse. It is not the chemical hook they crave – because they are no longer physically dependent. Gabor Maté describes addiction as a ”flight from distress”.
Bruce Alexander, who did the Ratpark experiment, concluded that everything we knew about addiction is wrong. Currently, we look at addicts as individuals who have to sort out themselves. Threats and force have not helped addicts recover – it has made addictions worsen. He argues that we should stop thinking like this and instead think about ”social recovery”. He and others like Gabor Maté and Johann Hari say we have been asking the wrong questions.
Better questions to ask are: How can we build a society where people don’t feel alone and afraid? How do we build a community where we can form healthier bonds, look for happiness in one another rather than consume? We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly more disconnected from one another. Cut off from one another, isolated, we are all becoming addicts – and he says our biggest addiction as a culture is buying and consuming things we don’t need and don’t really want.
Substance Addiction vs Process Addiction
Addictions do not only include physical things we consume, such as drugs or alcohol but may include virtually anything, such abstract things as gambling to seemingly harmless products, such as chocolate – in other words, addiction may refer to a substance dependence (e.g. drug addiction) or behavioural addiction (e.g. gambling addiction)
Process Addiction is a relatively new way of describing an addiction to an activity, or a process, that does not involve taking brain-affecting substances such as cannabis, alcohol, cigarettes or hard drugs. The term Process Addiction covers addictions such as over-eating, compulsive shopping, the obsessive need for sex (sex addiction), or porn (porn addiction), compulsive gambling (gambling addiction), or compulsive computer game playing (computer game addiction). Although Substance Addiction and Process Addiction describe two types of addiction, they are similar in many ways.
Both types of addiction cause similar harm to a person’s social and emotional life, and the lives of those around them.
How do I know I am addicted?
According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) of the American Psychiatric Association, a person would have to have at least 3 of the following 7 criteria in the same year to be addicted to something:
(Diminution in the body’s response to a drug after continued use)
- Need to increase the amount taken to achieve the same effect in the body
- The exact amount taken does not have the same effect anymore because it got used to the amount.
(Discontinuation of the use of an addictive substance. The physiological and mental readjustment that accompanies such discontinuation.)
- Person display withdrawal symptoms when a substance is not taken anymore.
- A person uses a replacement substance to mask or prevent withdrawal symptoms.
3. Increase in use
The substance is often taken in more significant amounts or over a more extended period than was intended.
4. Constant Struggle to control/cut down
There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or prevent substance abuse.
5. Life organised to sustain addiction
A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances.)
6. Life organised around addiction
Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance abuse.
7. Health problems are ignored
The substance abuse is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physiological trouble that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.
Risks of addiction
People with an addiction do not have control over what they are doing, taking or using. Their addiction may reach a point at which it is harmful. Abused substances produce some forms of intoxication that alters judgement, perception, attention or physical control.
Many substances can bring on withdrawal – an effect caused by cessation or reduction in the amount of the substance used. Withdrawal can range from mild anxiety to seizures and hallucinations.
Drugs may also cause death. Medications are not regulated or made by reputable pharmaceutical companies, for example, alcohol. If you buy a liquor bottle, the label gives you the precise % of alcohol it contains. Most drugs, however, are manufactured in doggy labs by unscrupulous people, then again cut by dealers and mixed with more dangerous substances to increase amounts. You have no way of knowing what the drug you are taking actually contains. In that lies the risk of an overdose – as seen with recent deaths worldwide because of the drug Fentanyl.
Nearly all drugs can produce a phenomenon known as tolerance, where you must use a larger amount of the drug to produce the same level of intoxication.
The biggest problem an addict faces is deciding to make the change.
Types of Addiction
Types of substance addiction: (DSM -IV-TR)
- Anabolic steroids
- Dagga / Marijuana
- KHAT / Methcathinone
- Nyaope / Whoonga
- Prescription drug abuse
- Special K
Types of behavioural addiction (DSM-IV-TR)
Prevention is better than cure.
FACT: Children from nurturing homes have a better overall chance of survival and resilience against social ills, for example, experimenting with drugs.
What can you as a parent do to provide a nurturing home where healthy, happy and resilient kids can grow into adulthood?
The 10 Principles of Good Parenting
In his book, The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg, PhD, provides tips and guidelines based on 75 years of social science research.
1. Set a good example, always.
Kids do what you do – not what you say. Don’t just react on the spur of the moment. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result? Pay attention to your child spiritual and moral development. They should get to know God. The Bible is the foundation for every rule we live by as responsible citizens. There is a saying that says: A family that prays together stays together.
2. Love your child.
Showing love for a child can never spoil the child. What can damage a child is when you replace love with material possessions, lowered expectations or leniency because it is too much effort to give love and attention to a child. Make time daily to read a story to a young child. Have family rituals like supper at a table for everyone. Celebrate special days as a family.
3. Be involved in your child’s life.
Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically. N.S. Being involved does not mean doing a child’s homework Homework is a tool for teachers to know whether the child is learning or not. If you do the homework, you’re not letting the teacher know what the child is learning.
4. Protect your child from stress, violence and trauma.
A young child’s brain is susceptible to stress and trauma. Prolonged exposure to stress and trauma will cause permanent changes in the child’s brain. Consider what they may watch on TV. Use blockers to protect them from harmful content on their cell phones or computers. Get help fast if you experience domestic violence in your home.
5. Establish and set rules.
If you don’t manage your child’s behaviour when he is young, he will have difficulty learning how to manage himself when he is older, and you aren’t around. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer these three questions: Where is my child? Who is with my child? What is my child doing? The rules your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself.
6. Foster, your child’s independence.
Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop an understanding of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both.
It is usual for children to push for autonomy. Many parents mistakenly equate their child’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Children pressure for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than feel controlled by someone else.
7. Be consistent.
If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion or if you enforce them only intermittently, your child’s misbehaviour is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiable’s. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power. The less your child will challenge it. When parents aren’t consistent, children get confused. You have to force yourself to be more consistent.
8. Avoid harsh discipline.
Parents should never hit a child under any circumstances. Children who are spanked hit or slapped are more prone to fighting with other children. They are more likely to be bullies and more likely to use aggression to solve disputes with others. There are better ways to discipline children – for example, time out: no TV, no play-time with friends, no cell phone, no playing PlayStation games.
9. Explain your rules and decisions.
Good parents have expectations they want their child to live up to. Generally, parents overexplain to young children and under explain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.
10. Treat your child with respect.
The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully. It would help if you gave your child the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Respect his opinion. Please pay attention when he is speaking to you. Treat him kindly. Try to please him when you can. Children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others. If you have a good relationship and are really in tune with your child, that’s what really matters. Then none of this will be an issue
Want to quit?
The First Rule of Recovery
You don’t recover from an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier not to use. If you don’t make a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will eventually catch up with you again.
You don’t have to change everything in your life. But there are a few things and behaviours that have been getting you into trouble, and they will continue to get you into trouble until you let them go. The more you try to hold onto your old life in recovery, the less well you will do.
Should you talk to a counsellor? If you answer yes to even one of the questions below – you should.
- Do you feel guilty about your behaviour?
- Do you make promises to stop drinking/drug use?
- Do you find yourself trying to justify the way you feel and act?
- Have you given up responsibility for your addiction?
- Do you feel alone, rejected, fearful, angry, guilty or exhausted?
- Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
- Do you ever use it alone?
- Do you avoid people or places that do not approve of you using drugs?
- Have you ever tried to stop or control your use?
- Have you ever lied about what or how much you use?
You can do a self-test quiz on addiction:
You can chat with an on-line facilitator on the LIVE CHAT .
You may remain anonymous. The counselling service is text-based.
”In the realm of Hungry Ghosts”. Gabor Maté. 2018
”Chasing the scream. The first and last days of the war on drugs”. Johann Hari. 2018
”The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting”. Laurence Steinberg, PhD