Name: Lindsey M. Blehm
From: Lincoln, Nebraska
The Many Faces of Addiction
The Many Faces of Addiction
What does an addict look like? Why does an addict keep doing the same things over and over? Can’t something be done to cure the addiction? There are many questions, and although there are some “answers,” they are complicated. In an attempt to gain a more complete understanding of addiction, I started reading. I quickly realized that my perception of addiction was far too limited. I needed to gain an understanding of “addiction” in its many forms.
By its simplest definition, addiction can be considered a dependency, a habit, a weakness, an insatiable craving, and several other personal “needs” that certain individuals appear to have. Not basic day-to-day needs. Rather, needs that are required in order for those individuals to function—mentally, emotionally and physically. My limited knowledge of “addiction” was focused on the harmful choices and habits that I was cautioned about at home, in church, and at school. Tobacco, drug, and alcohol addictions were first in my mind. Red Ribbon Week stresses “Just Say NO.” What I have learned from research is that the addict can not say “no.” It is just not that easy.
Gaining insight into addiction in its truest form is not easy. Coffee, tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, sex, illegal and prescription drugs, gambling…the list is long and varied. In addition, there are other seemingly less harmful addictions which society seems to overlook. These include, but are not limited to, addictions to the internet, social media, video games and modern technology. Some addicts are obsessed with what many of us assume to be simple day-to-day activities such as food, shopping, work, and even love.
So, why is our nation dealing with an addiction crisis? And, which of the many forms of addictions constitutes a crisis? The answer seems obvious. Any individual who suffers from addiction lives in crisis. Individuals with multiple addictions suffer through multiple crises. I do not believe our society has yet accepted that addiction is an illness and not a choice. Sadly, therefore, there is a dark cloud that hangs over those who struggle with addiction. The cloud seems to get darker and more encompassing until the addicted persons must do something: smoke, drink, eat, take drugs… something…ANYTHING that will lift the cloud. The result. The cloud darkens and thickens. That big dark cloud is filled with many little clouds—mental disorders, depression, fear, anxiety…! And those individuals who are predisposed to addiction do whatever they must do to survive and society as a whole still does not know how to deal with the illness. Hence, the population abounds with addiction.
What can be done? I believe understanding and kindness are the keys to dealing with the national crisis of addiction. Understanding opens doors. Kindness lets people in. I believe addictions need to be dealt with as what they are–illnesses. Our society shames addicts, but reaches out to individuals with physical ailments. It almost seems like if we can SEE the illness, it is easier to accept and deal with. We cannot SEE addictions and their causes. Most often the individuals who are suffering from addiction don’t understand the causes or why they feel the way they do. We need to understand and reach out. Our behaviors must change in order to affect the national crisis of addiction. We need to become educated with regard to mental illness and addictions.
The consequences of addictions to anything can range from behavioral quirks and personality changes to devastating and destructive actions which can ruin lives. The effects of addiction are not restricted to the individual who is addicted. The consequences can consume families, destroy friendships, and threaten whole societies. Addiction overtakes many addicts causing them to hurt others and themselves. The societal effects are countless as addictions undermine the structure of our nation.
The first step in resolving the addiction epidemic is to deal with each individual as a person with an illness. One-by-one, “one day at a time” addicts can control their illnesses. There is no cure for the specific addictions or for the genetic disposition to be an addict, but there is hope to control addiction through support and positive help from others. As information floods society and builds bridges instead of fences, addictions can be dealt with as illnesses, not shameful character flaws or selfish choices.
Addiction has many faces. More than those we talked about during Red Ribbon Week in elementary school. Even more than what we might see in our own little worlds every day. But addictions are saturating our society and nation. Addictions are costing millions of dollars and stealing people’s lives. Behind the many faces of addiction are just as many real and human emotions and needs. Right now, I believe the greatest need is for understanding, support and love for addicts. They are worthy, capable humans and need to be treated as such. Kindness coupled with knowledge will alleviate addiction, one person, one face at a time.