Am I addicted ?

Am I addicted? When is a problem an addiction? By Andrew Harvey, Counsellor and Therapist. 

Have you ever asked yourself that question “am I addicted” ? or maybe someone else has said they think you may be if so, this article is for you, its also for you if you have ever asked, “is she/he addicted ?”

Before I start my little article here, I want to say that I respect that more than one understanding of addiction and recovery exists; I hold a pluralistic perspective when it comes to the subject. I do, with my best intentions, do what I can to respect these diverse understandings. I do not claim to hold an ultimate truth; I write here from my own personal and professional experience: an experience that has included working with, treating and sharing with incredible individuals who have turned their lives around, sometimes before addiction really got a hold sometimes not. My experience also, sadly, includes working with, treating and sharing with people who never moved to a solid recovery. Some are sadly no longer with us as a result of addiction.
What gave me the motivation to write this article is a question that I often get asked. Not maybe using these exact words, it can be something like ‘I think I may be addicted to (Drugs /Drink/Internet/Porn/Shopping/Food/Gambling … chose one … or several), but I’m not sure. How would I know?’ Unfortunately, there is often no short answer and depending upon where you look for your answer you may arrive at different conclusions. If you Google ‘what is addiction?‘ you will end up with many diverse definitions and understandings, and depending upon how authentic and connected your level of awareness of your problem or addiction is (which if it is addiction, it’s both!) or level of denial, you might find one that fits with your perceived experience. The danger is, of course, if you are truly addicted and are experiencing the often accompanied deep level of denial you will settle for a website that denies addiction even exists. As you can imagine this might speak to the part of you that wants to keep going with the addiction. A claim that disputes widely held understandings of addiction may well concur with your own denial and keep you going along the long road (sometimes short) of loss, because that’s what addiction, in my experience, leads to: loss of connection, hope, money, dignity, self, love and for some, life.
So how do you know if your problem is “just a problem” or an addiction? I guess a simple and extremely reductionist answer is: try stopping (and here’s the crucial bit) and STAY STOPPED. Most addicts can stop for a length of time, but the truth of addiction is they can’t stay stopped. Here we are presented with another issue, that of choice. Many a real addict will say ‘yes I stopped and I started again, because I chose to’ … REALLY! Did YOU choose or did your addicted self choose? I refer to my previous mention of denial. Here we see it in the form of “I can control this; it doesn’t control me I choose to live this life”, another path to the road of loss. Denial has been mentioned in this piece on more than one occasion. It is frequently a symptom of addiction; it’s a denial that the problem has crossed a line and if in some sort of recovery, relapse occurs, it is often denial related: a denial of how bad it was before: a denial of loss of personal control; a denial of the loss of personal choice; a denial of what needs to be done to stay in recovery; and often a denial of the person’s true values and personality.
So, in short , what’s the answer? “Am I addicted or do I just have a problem?”  My unsophisticated, yet caring, answer is … you probably won’t know. You will need help to investigate and find out, in the form of another human being because,  left alone with an online test or website, if you are addicted your denial might well run riot. So if you really want to know,  seek help from people with good recovery (Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12 Step fellowship) or a professional, your GP might be a good place to start. Addiction really takes hold in isolation, so that act of reaching out to another is, in itself, is a step towards recovery.
At the end of the day, if you’re asking yourself the question, maybe you and the people that love you deserve an informed answer. I truly hope you find your answer and act on it. Recovery happens, and when it dose it is truly a re-connection with self and others.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew is a therapist and counsellor working both private practice and for one of the UK’s leading providers of action recovery services.

Counselling Services Nottingham’s sister company Nottingham based provides therapy, face to face and SKYPE therapy for all types of addiction including; alcoholism, alcohol addiction, drug abuse, drug addiction, gambling, sex addiction, internet addiction,  Porn addiction and other compulsive behaviours/addictions. 

 Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals

Making changes that last

Making changes that last….. I’m posting this again, as its January ! and as we know that’s the time of the year that most people seek to make changes.

Written by Andrew Harvey, Counsellor and therapist. 

As they say … ‘change is good’ … not sure who ‘they’ are.. But let’s take it as a given… Change is good. Given that change is good, and people often have every intention of making changes and sticking with them, why is it so difficult? Why do people give up smoking to start again, lose weight to then gain even more, sign up to the gym and then stop going, agree with another to do things differently only to fall back into old ways of being? One of the main reasons is, people don’t understand and accept the nature of change. In this brief article, I hope to convey one or two thoughts on change, that I hope will be of use to anyone wanting to make lasting change and stick to it! These thoughts stem mostly from my work as a therapist working with hundreds of addicts and therefore witnessing people making and maintaining lifesaving changes.

New Year’s resolutions are often just that … They last for the duration of the New Year, even when the intention was for them to last forever. The reason is often making change is sometimes more challenging to maintain than making the initial change in the first place.

People often think of change as a one-off event, for example, they might make the decision to get more exercise and then fail to do so for the time period they intended (attend any gym in January, then return in April to see this for yourself). What happens is that the change process is not understood or given enough attention; change is an ongoing decision, not a one-off event. It’s a Process, not an Event … and that’s it really. Once you have done the initial stage of making the change, the next essential and ongoing step is the Maintenance Stage.

Making Changes that Last is often more about how people attend to maintaining the change they want, rather than the initial effort put into change. Below are a few tools and techniques that can be useful in maintaining change (the maintenance stage).

• The change process often loses momentum or stops when you lose motivation. This is why it’s important to regularly recall and focus on why you wanted to make the change, get in touch at a deep level with the consequences of not making the change and consequences of making the change. Write if down! Look at it often, or cut out a picture that sums up the benefits for you .. or if you prefer, the consequence of not making the change. This is important. It repeatedly gets you to that place of motivation, where the initial energy can be found that started the change, it’s like making the change again and again, and that keeps it fresh! Many people I work with in addiction make a commitment to staying in recovery daily. That’s a great way to make it a priority and maintain momentum.

• Don’t do it alone. If you keep trying and not succeeding maybe it’s time to enlist some help. For example, if you are trying to stop drinking and are failing to stay stopped then maybe an organisation like Alcoholics Anonymous might be the way forward, often people seek help from a counsellor to make and maintain changes. Personal trainers or a friend to go walking with might be the key to keeping you in the maintenance stages of change.

• If you slip backwards with change, learn from it, work out what went wrong, and what lessons are there to be learnt. Questions that might help include: what were the signs that my change was losing its momentum? What do I need to do differently next time? What help might I need to get back on track? And very importantly ask yourself “do I really want this change?” It might be worth writing these answers down and sharing your findings with someone who might be able to offer different perspectives.

Good luck with making and most importantly maintaining change. Making Changes That Last can be fun!



Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash