We often ask children the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” With hope we hear things like firefighter, dancer, or super hero.  We dream of growing up and doing something important and full of purpose.  I have never heard a child say, “I want to be an addict someday.” Addiction has the power to devastate individuals, families, and even whole communities.

Today in America there is an estimated 15 million alcoholics, 10 million illicit drug users, and another 5-7 million dependent on prescription drugs. In our communities, addiction is prevalent. Unfortunately, many of us have been personally affected by addiction.  In a recent Gallop poll, 41% of Americans said they have suffered physical, psychological, or social harm as the result of someone else’s drug use.

Addiction Cycle

Addiction can involve patterns other than drug and alcohol use. Gambling, pornography, and emotional eating can also being highly addicting.  It is part of the human condition that allows for the cycle of dependency.

We all have unmet needs or places where hurt has occurred. Emotional triggers are fueled by the pain of these “unmet needs” and can be experienced in many different ways.  For example, a person may reach out to alcohol as a source of coping with disappointment and loneliness after a bad break up (psychological root).  The emotional pain (physical root) is compounded by isolation due to lack of genuine friendship and support (social root).  Furthermore, the person is vulnerable to the euphoric feelings of alcohol that give a false sense of hope.  Alcohol becomes like a god in the mind of this hurting person (spiritual root).  Emotional pain can be triggered through many root problems in the psychological, physical, social or spiritual functioning of the individual.

We all have a natural desire to seek relief from pain.  Addiction eases pain abnormally and quickly.  But this relief is not healing, only a temporary substitute.  As the addict experiences short-lived relief, cravings develop.  Relief through the addiction quickly becomes associated with the alleviation of pain.

The connection of craving and relief becomes a trusted pattern or ritual in the life of the individual. Because of this powerful association, the person becomes fixated on every life pattern that brings about quick escape through substances.  Other pursuits of life become marginalized or abandoned, as the person becomes more fixated on rituals connected with relief.

As substances provide direct alleviation of pain, this relief becomes more and more temporary.  Our bodies were not designed to function and thrive by being dependent on addictive substances.  Therefore, the addictive cycle results in more pain as the person’s way of life becomes more and more dysfunctional.

Guilt now generates more pain and fuels additional emotional triggers as the downward spiral of addiction is experienced.  Shattered relationships, isolation, financial loss, spiritual bankruptcy, and more can plague the individual.  If the vicious cycle of addiction continues, it can end with incarceration, severe mental illness, or death.

If you have been affected by the cycle of addiction, please know that there is hope.  At Christian Counseling Associates, we have witnessed healing from addiction.  If you, or someone you know is struggling, we have resources available in all of our locations from Greensburg to Pittsburgh, Johnstown to Cranberry, Erie to Washington and beyond.  Our counselors can provide expert assessments and treatment for addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography and other forms of dependence.  The first step is to recognize and admit the problem.  Contact us today and start the healing journey.

Join us next week for our series on addiction as we discuss faith and recovery.

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