By Kaylin Thompson, MA, LPC, who works at MCHH’s Oak Park and Lombard office.
Addictions involve fixation on something that ultimately hinders one’s ability to focus, be present, and enjoy other areas of life. While addiction can come in the form of substances that are more common to consider as addictive such as drugs or alcohol, addiction comes in a wide variety of forms. Sometimes people become addicted to more socially acceptable formats like work, hence the term “workaholic.” In other cases, avenues like pornography, gambling, food, shopping, or gaming can become addictive. Addictions tend to distract, avoid, and provide instant gratification. Although addiction traps people in bondage to the substance or activity, it often does not feel this way to individuals since there is momentary reward and satisfaction.
Dr. Gabor Mate, a physician, author, and expert in the field of addictions, stated, “It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or addictive behavior” (2010). The only effective, long-term treatment to addiction is through careful examination of the underlying issue behind the undesirable behaviors. Many people who struggle with addiction are unaware that they are using their behaviors or substances as an escape from deeper problems. Like putting a bandage on a gaping gash, addiction is a mere attempt to ease the pain from a deeply rooted emotional wound. Counseling can be a significantly helpful tool to provide deeper understanding of the roots of unhelpful, addictive behaviors. Through discovery of meaning, therapeutic support, learning new coping skills, and increasing self-awareness and insight, addiction can be conquered.