Are you afraid that you have an "addictive personality" because you tend to overindulge? If you struggle to moderate your drug or alcohol use, do you think it's difficult because these substances are so "addictive"? This word is hotter than ever, but at Saint Jude Retreats, we refrain from using it completely. Learn why the idea of "addiction" is meaningless at best and destructive at worst, in order to better understand your own habits and work toward changing them.
Even the heaviest drug use isn't a disease, and even the most potent substances can't steal your free will or change your personal priorities. However, many still believe that long-term, heavy substance use eventually turns into an addiction that sticks with you for life. In fact, as technology evolves and people apply this theory to other behaviors, more and more behaviors are being considered "addictive".
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) is the official reference guide for mental health providers, and it's updated regularly to include a current list of all known psychological disorders. Until recently, "addiction" was one of these disorders. However, as "addiction" becomes an umbrella term for excessive habits of every variety, it has been replaced by the term "substance use disorder". Gambling disorder has its own category, but "addiction" in general no longer means what it once did.
Computer games, sugary foods, smart phones, and even exercise are now treated as though they're inherently "addictive", which implies that risks of overuse are automatically higher. That doesn't make sense, because every individual has different reasons for the choices they make. Whether you drink, watch TV for hours, or eat too many cookies, you're seeking specific effects that others may not appreciate as much.
By ascribing similar "addictive" characteristics to everything from alcohol to sex, we minimize the fact that people rely on these excessive behaviors for very real, very unique reasons. We also trivialize potentially deadly or destructive outcomes by comparing them to excessive time spent in hobbies by using the same "addiction" term. Society's and science's ideas about "addiction" will continue to evolve, and in the meantime, we need to focus on the fact that we make choices about our actions rather than ascribing magical powers of persuasion to cookies, drugs, or alcohol.
If you want to stop or reduce your use of drugs, alcohol, or anything else, you don't have to participate in a 12 Step program or check into rehab in order to kick the habit. As an alternative, non-12 Step option, Saint Jude Retreats was the first of its kind when we opened our doors in 1989, and we still offer the only choice-based substance use curriculum in the country. We believe that people have all the power, not inanimate objects.
If you choose to indulge in certain pleasures, it's this choice to indulge that can make your habits harmful and excessive. We encourage you to work toward self-awareness, rather than placing the blame outside yourself or resigning yourself to a life of "addiction" — whatever that means to you. If you'd like to learn more about how a Cognitive Behavioral Education approach could benefit you or a loved one struggling with a substance use issue, please call one of our Guest Consultants today for more information.