Overcoming Addiction and Recovering from Dependence

Why does addiction occur?

Addiction is a dependence on a substance, object or activity that yields reward or pleasure, alleviates withdrawal symptoms and/or satisfies cravings. The term addiction is sometimes used a bit loosely. To a person who is dependent on chemical substances like narcotic drugs, painkillers, alcohol or even tobacco, this type of dependence is considered as a ‘true’ or palpable addiction. Failure to satisfy the cravings can lead to physical symptoms of withdrawal. It also leads to the need to constantly seek the substance thereby disrupting one’s personal relationships, academic commitments and career objectives.

Addictions to certain types of activities, for example a sex addiction, on the other hand may seem less like a dependence and more like a psychological problem. However, all types of addictions appear to have certain common points in the addict – a low self worth, seeking acceptance, depression and/or as a means of distraction from activities in one’s life. There may be other aspects, both psychological and social, at play in addiction, as well as physiological factors.

Is it possible to overcome an addiction?

Any addiction can be overcome but not every addict can recover. There is no single addiction, whether on substances or activities, that a combination of psychotherapy, rehabilitation and ongoing support cannot treat. Often this works hand in hand with concurrent medical treatment. Despite successfully overcoming the withdrawal symptoms and even the cravings, a person is sometimes unable to continue a life without an addiction. In this regard, the person may return to a life of addiction, either the same addiction or substitute it for another. It is therefore common to hear among people with a history of addiction and in support groups that recovery is neverending in the life of an addict.

Are addicts aware of their addiction?

Addicts are usually fully aware of their dependence. Some may wish to overcome it while other’s don’t. Addicts are also aware of the impact of their addiction on others, particularly their loved ones. However, the nature of addiction is such that even though an addict admits that their addiction hurts other and may even show remorse, this quickly overlooked to feed the addiction. In this regard addicts appear to be disingenuous and often are, but not due to a lack of compassion but rather due to being driven by the addiction.

Will an addict recover fully?

Recovery from addiction involves multiple aspects. As mentioned above, many believe that an addict never fully recovers but recovery is ongoing for life. Support groups and psychotherapy are often essential to maintain this recovery. However, this should not detract from those with an addiction who have successfully given up their dependence and are able to continue life without support groups and psychotherapy. These individuals, however, are few in number compared to most addicts.

Sometimes recovery involves overcoming the physiological and psychological effects of the addiction, particularly with substance abuse. There may be personality changes, mental dysfunction and physical impairment from the addiction, usually long term addiction. Each case has to be assessed individually in this regard and monitored an ongoing basis by mental health and medical professionals.

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