woman struggling with addiction

What is Addiction?

March 27, 2022

If you talk to ten people, you will more than likely get 10 different answers to the question, what is addiction? The reason for this is that the way that the illness of addiction affects the individual varies greatly between people. Some people need to lose everything for addiction to be declared as the culprit, while others only seemingly need to hit an emotional bottom within themselves to come to an understanding that addiction is ruling their life. However, with that being said, and removing the personal narrative involved in defining addiction, there are some overarching themes and agreed-upon behaviors that can define addiction and the addict in general, whether that be alcohol addiction, opiate addiction, Xanax addiction, or any other addiction.

So, if you are currently wondering whether you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, please continue to read on, and hopefully, we can shed some light on the confusion you may be experiencing, as well as offer so practical advice to help.

What is Addiction?

To understand what addiction is and what separates someone who has an addiction, from someone who may just be a heavy drinker or user of recreational drugs, it is important to understand that addiction is an illness that is terminal and currently without a cure. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines it as: “a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions [between] genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

This is not to say that there is no help for individuals who suffer from addiction, but rather that they will never get to a point where they can drink or use drugs like a “normal” person again, and it is only possible to send addiction into remission.

Those individuals who are suffering from addiction usually suffer from the following peculiarities of behavior that are mostly baffling to themselves and those around them. Some of the most common behaviors are:

  • Total inability to stop using drugs or alcohol for an extended period
  • Experience of withdrawal symptoms when abrupt cessation of substance use occurs
  • Total preoccupation with using substances
  • A lack of emotional response to how their behaviors are affecting those around them
  • Increasing isolation from social settings: friends and family
  • Financial and familial issues


What Families Should Know about Addiction

Unfortunately, the families of the addict or alcoholic often suffer most during an individual’s active addiction. To them, the addict’s behavior is confusing, seemingly coming out of nowhere, and their ability to stop engaging in these behaviors seems almost impossible. As a family or loved one of an addict, it is important to first understand that dealing with an addict seems like an impossible situation and that no one intuitively understands how to handle such a situation, so the confusion you are currently experiencing is entirely understandable and to be expected.

What is most important when dealing with an active addict or alcoholic is that you make sure that your mental well-being is taken care of first and foremost, meaning that you take care of yourself before tending to the needs of the addict or alcoholic. The reasons for this are twofold: firstly because if you are not in the proper state of mind, then you will be less apt to be able to help your loved one, and secondly, because most of the needs of the addict or alcoholic at this stage are manipulative and meant to further continue their addictions. For family members of addicts wondering what addiction is and how they can help their loved one, the following are some good starting points:

  • Seeks professional counseling services for yourself
  • Never give an addict or alcoholic money under any circumstances
  • Try to make it as difficult as possible for the addict or alcoholic to continue to use
  • This may involve taking their car or asking them to move out of your house
  • Any request by the addict or alcoholic that does not involve them getting help should be denied
  • Talk to your friends and loved ones about what is going on. Having support and not feeling isolated, because you are not, is key to maintaining your sanity and your ability to help your loved one

What is Addiction from the Addict’s Perspective?

Most of the time, if you ask an addict if they are suffering from addiction, they will tell you that they are fine and have everything under control. They may believe this to a certain extent, thinking that they can stop at any time that they wish, however in moments of quiet reflection, they know this is not the case. As the addict falls further into addiction, they may even start to believe that everyone in the world is doing exactly what they are doing. They do not see a life where they do not use drugs or alcohol, and they cannot even fathom changing the course they are currently on.

During the periods where they have their substance of choice, they may feel elation, but in stark contrast to this, when they are short of their substance or totally without it, the peril that this causes in their life cannot be overstated. The fear of withdrawals is a very real deterrent for many addicts and alcoholics who would like to seek help, and so to them, it seems that they have gotten themselves into an impossible situation. One they may never get out of. This, however, is the great lie of addiction because the reality is that every single human being can get sober. It is just a matter of how much effort they will put into their recovery attempt.

To the addict asking for help seems like the most difficult thing in the world, and living this double life, one that they project to the world compared to the interior chaos caused by their substance usage, is sunstainable and incredibly tiring. While asking for help can be difficult, many people feel a great weight come off them as soon as they reach out and get help through drug and alcohol detox.

More Questions on What Addiction Is?

If you or a loved one is currently suffering from addiction and you’d like more answers to the question of what addiction is, please reach out to the understanding and caring staff at Sunrise Detox today at 888-443-3869.