Substances such as cocaine or alcohol are so pernicious in the way they colonize the mind that to do battle with them takes a particular brand of courage. As difficult as the road to recovery can be, I have found that many times the struggle that occurs inside the body and mind during recovery can be ten times worse without external support.
Unfortunately, many times when people grapple with issues of addiction the family and friends who were once ever present, suddenly disappear, either because of stigma, prejudice, or frustration with the treatment process. One of the worst myths pervasive in our society is that people who have had substance abuse problems are somehow different from people who don’t. The reality is not that anyone can be an addict, but that everyone is an addict in one way or another. There is mounting clinical evidence that everyone in this country is addicted to something. Perhaps your drug of choice is not alcohol or cocaine, but instead coffee, sugar, or Netflix. Make no mistake: We’re all addicts now.
When assessing addiction, most clinicians attempt to determine the presence of four elements:
- Binging: The escalation of intake with a high proportion at one time.
- Withdrawal: A set of physical and psychological symptoms that appear when the abused substance is no longer readily available.
- Craving: When there is an increase in motivation to use the substance when it is not present.
- Sensitization: An increase in the amount of a substance used to experience the desired effect.
Of course, these terms can be applied to things like alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. However, they can also be applied to a variety of other substances or behaviors. If you don’t believe me, try telling your 5-year-old child that there will be no TV for a week. I guarantee that your child will exhibit withdrawals and cravings for a week and then when he gets to watch it again, he will binge on it. This is addiction. It’s just a matter of whether or not you are willing and able to open your eyes and see it.
If we can all accept the truth, which is that we’re all addicts now, perhaps there can be increased empathy for people who have the faith and fortitude to try to do something about it. If you are reading this and you, or someone you know is in recovery without support, consider sharing this article with people you know to start a conversation about addiction and recovery.
Dr. Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in Manhattan. Dr. Michaelis writes and speaks regularly about mental health, creativity, and motivation. He is the author of numerous popular and scholarly articles and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. Dr. Michaelis is a frequent guest on nationally syndicated TV shows such as, NBC’s The Today Show, The Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, and MSNBC’s Your Business. Dr. Michaelis is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. You can get the 1st chapter of his book by signing up here.