Addiction is a tough word—one that no one wants associated with themselves or with a loved one. In reality, however, addiction touches nearly all of us in some way or another. Consider these statistics for the year 2017:
• 19.7 million American adults battled a substance abuse disorder
• Nearly 74 percent of those adults also struggled with an alcohol use disorder
• 1 out of every 8 of those adults struggled with both alcohol and drug use disorders simultaneously
• 8.5 million American adults suffered from both a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder, or co-occurring disorders
• In the United States, drug abuse and addiction cost $740 billion annually in lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs
Those are some big numbers—numbers that apply only to substance abuse addiction. Unfortunately, millions of people are addicted to something other than alcohol or drugs: gambling, sex, pornography, food, smart phones, video games, and even activities that are considered healthy but that get in the way of everyday life when taken to the extreme.
The truth is, if any one activity is causing you to disengage with your career, your ability to run a household, or your relationships, you may be addicted to that activity.
Last week on the Emotions Mentor podcast, I spoke with Jessica Andrews, a recovering addict who now helps others on the path to recovery, and marriage and family therapist Tim Anderson about what addicts—and those who love them—can do to face their addictions head-on.
First and foremost, both Jessica and Tim emphasize that you aren’t alone. Addiction touches people from all walks of life. A stigma exists that says an addict is someone who lives out of their car or is covered in tattoos or has had their children taken away from them or so many other stereotypes. But addiction can affect anyone—the rich, the well-educated, the socially connected, those who come from loving and caring families, and so on.
Once you realize you are not alone and are ready to break the cycle of addiction, there are many things you can do to take action. Tim encourages his clients to hit the library or bookstore and start reading all you can about your addiction. Work through self-help books that pertain to your addictions. Never stop learning. There are books out there for every addiction, as well as books that can help you learn how to break through the shame and anxiety associated with addiction.
Jessica encourages intense therapy and continued participation in a twelve-step recovery program. Twelve-step programs have been in practice since 1935, when Bill Wilson and Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith started Alcoholics Anonymous and began using the steps as a blueprint for recovery. When followed, they have great power and an encouraging success rate. Here they are, as described by Alcoholics Anonymous:
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or whatever the addiction is]—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
It’s important to remember that parents, partners, and children of addicts also need support, therapy, and association with others through groups like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
Most of all, addicts need hope—hope that they can change and hope for a better future. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, reach out for help. There are many places to get started, including: