Author: Shernide Delva
When most people think of the word “addict,” they usually think of drugs or alcohol. However, addiction does not just limit itself to substances. In fact, more people than ever suffer from some form of behavioral addiction. Also, many who recover from substance abuse find themselves replacing their drug addiction with addictive compulsive behaviors.
That’s why it is important to recognize the signs of a behavioral addiction. Since most behavioral addictions are activities healthy people engage in, it can be hard to admit that this behavior is becoming a problem. However, if you find a behavior hinders you from going further in your life, you may have a behavioral addiction to address.
Here are five common behavioral addictions:
- Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is an addiction that closely resembles drug and alcohol addiction in the brain. Studies show that gambling addictions light up the same areas of the brain as drug addictions. There are many treatment facilities for gambling disorders that utilize the same therapy used for drug and alcohol abuse. While occasional gambling can be fun, in excess, gambling can result in some serious consequences.
So what causes a gambling addiction? It depends. Some people begin gambling out of desperation for money. In the past, they may have won a large sum of money and find themselves seeking that big win over and over again to achieve the same financial gain. Unfortunately, when it comes to gambling, losing is going to happen eventually. Therefore, they find themselves losing more money than they ever imagined and causing damage to their family and themselves.
Others gamble to achieve a high. Gambling has a major social reputation and the lifestyle Is all about the thrills and the high. It can be difficult for some not to get addicted to the entertaining luring atmosphere of the mainstream gambling scene. However, once addicted, breaking this cycle of gambling becomes a struggle. By the time a gambler wins, they have already lost so much money that it is not enough to cover their losses. Therefore, the cycle just keeps on going.
Signs of Gambling include:
- Gambling when financially unstable
- Family and friends concerned about gambling
- Needing to be secretive to gamble
- Trouble monitoring and controlling your gambling
If this sounds like you, you may have a gambling addiction to address.
- Sex Addiction
In the media, we hear about celebrities going to rehab for sex addiction. Is this addiction really real? Sex addiction is one of the most controversial ones out there. The symptoms of sex addiction vary and include loss of control and disregard for risk and consequences. Hypersexual activity is not limited to just having sex. The diagnosis of sexual addiction can apply to individuals who use excessive masturbation, pornography or sexual behaviors to escape emotional distress. Shame and embarrassment about their behaviors is another sign of sexual addiction.
For many sex addiction is a real thing and does impact their life in a negative way. While sex addiction is not formally classified as an addiction by the American Psychological Association (APA), there are treatments for it. Programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous and therapy can help addicts understand and overcome their problem.
- Internet Addiction
The society we live in now is based around the internet. However, it is possible to be too plugged in. Some people escape reality through the excessive use of the online world. It can be a problem for people when it affects their work and home life. Those who spend the majority of their day online even show small changes in their brain from their excessive internet use. Studies suggest that compulsive Internet use affects 6 to 14 percent of Internet users.
Those who struggle with internet addiction have emotional symptoms like guilt, anxiety and depression. They may find it impossible to keep up with scheduled obligations and eventually find themselves in isolation than out with others. There are also physical symptoms from using the internet all day such as backaches, weight gain/loss or carpal tunnel syndrome. Internet addiction affects people in a variety of ways, and a combination of treatment including therapy may be helpful.
- Exercise Addiction
Too much exercise can be a bad thing. I know most of us do not get enough of it, but some people do take exercise to the next level. People with exercise addiction find they have a compulsive disorder that compels them to exercise excessively. Simply loving to work out is not enough to be an exercise addict.
A person with exercise addiction finds that exercise takes over their life. This disorder is also called anorexia athletica or obligatory exercise. The person feels they must exercise a certain amount of times per day and feels guilty when they are unable to fulfill their commitments.
Often, addicts will turn to exercise as a healthy way of recovering. Exercise releases endorphins which are happy chemicals that help boost the mood. That is where the term “runner’s high” originates. Exercise in moderation can be very healthy but in excess can do more harm than good.
- Spending Addiction
Everyone loves to buy nice things occasionally. However, those who struggle with spending addiction can not help themselves. Shopping addiction is more common among women than men. However, men are known to struggle with spending addiction too, usually in different ways. Overspending and overshopping is now being considered for inclusion as a real addiction in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Symptoms of Spending Addiction are:
- Spending more than you can afford
- Shopping as a reaction to feeling angry or depressed
- Harming relationships due to spending or shopping too much
- Losing control of the shopping behavior
- Going out excessively and overspending to gain approval and self-worth
- Periods of mood alteration such as feeling “high” while engaging in this behavior
- Continuing behavior despite negative consequences
- Feeling discomfort when abstaining from behavior followed by binges of the same behavior.
If left untreated, overspending can result in serious financial and emotional consequences. Relationships can be tarnished, and debt will increase. There are support groups that teach better spending habits, and behavioral therapies have shown to be useful in helping people overcome this addiction.
Overall, not all addictions meet the classically known definition of addiction, but they all share similar psychological and social consequences. Therefore, these addictions do respond well to most traditional forms of addiction treatment. If your addiction falls outside the box, do not fear seeking help. We can help you overcome whatever is holding you back. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Coach Heidi Bilonick McGuirk tackles the issue: How to handle when your spouse keeps bringing up your past.
Dear Coach Heidi,
My question is; I have been in recovery for approximately 8 months. While I was in active addiction, I did a lot of things that I’m not proud of that hurt a lot of people, especially my husband. Recently I received a tax form showing that I had taken a large amount of money from my retirement account that I truly don’t remember doing. My husband is not happy and I can completely understand. The problem is this: I get mad at him for getting upset with me. Like, he tells me I should be very thankful that he still wants to be with me given the horrible things that I have put him through when I was in my active addiction. I continued to hurt him when he is the one I love dearly. How do I reply to him when he brings up things I did without getting mad at him? I have told him I’m sorry a million times. This is now affecting every aspect of our 5 year marriage, including our sex life.
What advice can you give me?
I absolutely LOVE this question! And I love it because it’s a question so many people recovery have. Kind of like asking: How long do I have to pay for my sins? Or how long do I bite my tongue? Or how many times do I need to say “I’m sorry.” My take is coming from a place of having almost 20 years of coaching couples into happier relationships. So, I would ask you, how can both of you decide to act more loving towards each other and assume the best about each other?
For example, if you were to assume the best about your husband while wondering why he brings up the past or why he tells you that you are lucky he stuck it out, what is his POSITIVE intent? In other words, if you were to look through a loving lens, WHY would he be doing that? Most of the time, loved ones remind us of the past because they truly believe that by doing so, we will be shamed enough not to repeat old patterns. They don’t want us to forget the hell they went through so we don’t forget and “do” it again.
This thinking is flawed in so many ways. First, addiction is a disease, not a character defect. And no one is choosing it.
The other issue is that you are getting mad at him and then feeling bad for being mad. Perhaps, instead of telling him how you feel, you are acting out in other ways, like withholding sex. An important lesson to learn in recovery is that you are entitled to your feelings. Feelings are a great way by which to measure the health of your relationship. Think of them as a kind of barometer that measures the stress, pressure, and overall ‘temperature’ of the relationship.
Remember, your anger is legitimate however, make sure that you are not making yourself a martyr or victim of your feelings. Instead, take ACTION by initiating open communication about your feelings. Being passive-aggressive or acting like a martyr won’t cut it.
Talk to your husband. Let him know how the constant reminders make you feel. Take responsibility for how these feelings then have you act out in certain ways. But at the end of the day C, your feelings are YOUR feelings and no one can MAKE you feel anything without your permission. You’re the one who decides to get angry. Could you get grateful instead? I say ‘yes.” By focusing on where you are when he focuses on where you’ve been.
So many choices! That’s the beautiful thing.
Heidi Bilonick McGuirk is a Master Certified Relationship Coach. She has consulted for several top Matchmaking and Dating companies around the world. She has served as the Director of Operations for the Matchmaking Institute in NYC and has been in private practice for over a decade. She is one of the Life and Relationship Coaches here at Palm Partners and has supported many clients in their pursuits of sobriety, health and happiness.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
By Cheryl Steinberg
I think this article will hit home for anyone out there stuck in active addiction as well as for those who are recovering from addiction. For readers who are loved ones of addicts or who are fortunate enough to not have their lives touched by addiction in some way, this article should be an eye-opener. Despite popular belief, drug addiction is a way more complicated disorder than just someone wanting to get high.
Here is some insight inside the mind of an addict: what goes through the mind of someone in active addiction.
#1. We could stop
First and foremost, people who struggle with substance abuse and addiction want more than anything to be able to stop. People who have not experienced addiction first-hand might find this surprising. There’s a common misperception that addicts choose to do drugs, even when their lives are crumbling down around them. The reality of it all is that, once addiction takes hold, the person no longer has the ability to choose whether to drink or do drugs; they basically have to. This isn’t to say that the addict doesn’t have the choice to get better, though. More on that later…
#2. Get sober without having to go through painful withdrawals
The most common fear among people in active addiction is that of the painful – physical and mental – of the withdrawal symptoms that they will inevitably experience if/when they decide to get clean and sober. In fact, this is what keeps many addicts from getting help at all or causes them to prolong getting help.
#3. Turn off the obsessive thoughts
The addict mind is bombarded by obsessive thoughts to use a substance or substances. Again, the person most likely wants to stop but, how can they when their own mind relentlessly tells them to score another…and another…and another? It’s next to impossible to ignore these thoughts for long.
#4. Didn’t have to lead a double life
It’s said that being an addict is a full time job. There’s a lot of energy, time, and effort that goes into supporting a drug habit. And, there’s a lot of lying, sneaking around, and stealing that goes along with the addict lifestyle. These behaviors don’t match what’s actually going on with the person who struggles; addicts experience a lot of guilt and shame about having to lead a double life.
#5. We weren’t an embarrassment and disappointment
People in active addiction may seem remorseless but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We are well aware that we are disappointing our loved ones – and ourselves. Again, we feel crushing guilt and shame about our drug abuse but are helpless to do anything about it when we are in the thick of it.
#6. We were brave enough to ask for help
It’s a frightening and ego-smashing thing to ask for help. And it means having to come to terms with the fact that we do, indeed, have a real problem. No one wants to admit that they’ve lost control of a situation (or of themselves).
#7. We weren’t on this emotional rollercoaster
Being in active addiction is like being a hormonal teenager all over again. But worse. We experience mood swings and seem to be hyper-sensitive to anything others say and do. We’re also irritable and depressed. This is not a fun place to be. And we notice how our loved ones seem to have to walk on eggshells around us. We don’t want that.
#8. We didn’t continually hurt our loved ones
Again, we’re aware of the disappointment we cause our loved ones to feel. We also carry all that weight of guilt and shame of constantly hurting them. We don’t want the only consistent thing about us is that you know you will be hurt, lied to, manipulated, and let down…once again.
#9. We could feel happiness again
Feeling content and happy is a distant memory to the addict who struggles. Even when we’re high (and theoretically feeling good), we still hate ourselves. In my active addiction, I had forgotten what it was like to experience genuinely hearty belly laughter.
#10. We could crawl out of our dark hole and live again
If it isn’t clear by now, let me sum it up. Being caught up in the vicious cycle of addiction is a happiness- and soul-crushing experience. It seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that we are fated to live out our days in this dark and lonely place. As you can imagine, we want more than anything to find a way out and enjoy life again (or for the first time!).
Substance abuse disorder and drug addiction are devastating diseases that ruin lives and tear families apart. No one wakes up one day and decides that they want to embark on a journey that will destroy themselves and others. It is human nature to want to preserve life. That’s why addiction can be so baffling, especially to those who witness it second-hand. If you are struggling or know someone who is, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak with an Addiction Specialist today. We are here, day and night. Addiction doesn’t rest; neither do we.
You might be a recovering addict but, I’m willing to bet there are other areas of your life that would qualify as active addiction. About 20% of you are smokers. For those without a recognized drug addiction – normies as we call them – about 10% use some other illicit drug; admitted alcoholics make up about 10%.
For the rest of you – the ones who think they’ve got addiction ‘licked’ or for those who don’t consider themselves to have any addiction problems at all, you’re about to lose a game you don’t even know you’re playing.
Here are 6 ways addiction is in our blood and is being exploited:
#1. Everyone has a vice
If you insist you’re not an addict because you’ve never bought pawned anything to pay for your habit or had to get what you needed in a dark alley, think about this: caffeine and nicotine are addictive substances, too…have you ever experienced a headache or irritability if you go without that morning cup or smoke (if you do smoke)? If so, you’re having withdrawal symptoms and that’s a sign of addiction.
Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine alone probably cover just about everyone reading this and that leaves out other “gray areas” of addiction that we’ve just begun to understand and accept as real issues: food addiction, sex addiction, internet addiction and so on. That is, if it’s not illicit or prescribed drugs, coffee, or cigarettes – then it’s probably food (ever eaten something you regretted or too much at a meal and hated yourself for it?), or some behavioral addiction, such as compulsive gambling.
#2. We’re hardwired for addiction – all of us
The first act of human civilization was to make beer. It’s true.
The ancient Sumerians, the first humans to establish something what looked like an actual civilization, used half of their grain in order to brew beer. The importance of that, alone, is that it is believed to be the driving force behind why humans went from nomadic hunter/gatherer tribes to settling in large cities and, later, nations. Alcohol is difficult to make on the run and therefore the answer was to settle down and brew it. Ironically, having to deal with the complexities of civilization is the reason most of us turn to alcohol.
After beer, it was opium (at least 6,000 years ago), then caffeine (going back at least 5,000 years) first in the form of tea and later coffee, which only goes back about 700 years, when it was “discovered” and then promptly started taking over the world.
#3. Addiction is a source of exploitation
Here’s the thing: once we know exactly how addiction works, it will be that much easier to take advantage of it which translates into there being far more money in the exploitation of addiction than actually curing it.
Consider this: just a few decades ago, snack-food makers wanted to boost profits (as any good businessmen do) and so they had a novel idea: seek out scientists and have them figure out how to create addictive foods. Not only do these foods incite powerful cravings for more, they also never actually satisfy your hunger.
Snack foods are created to please your taste buds and the pleasure receptors in your brain, without actually triggering the “it’s time to stop eating” response that every human has as part of their normal bodily function. In other words, they had found out how to manufacture foods that would trigger that same overload of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins in the brain as narcotics.
#4. Addiction and will continue to be exploited because it is profitable
Society wants addicts just so long as they can ‘behave’ themselves.
Any civilization wants citizens who work all day, sleep all night, and spend their free time consuming goods (i.e. spending money) and/or sitting motionless on the couch. This is much more desirable than say, having its citizens wreaking havoc in the streets or else getting (rightfully) angry and demanding “change.” In other words, it wants stability; complacency.
#5. The ‘System’ is totally onboard
As mentioned above, the system wants to pacify you. It needs impoverished customer service workers, and it needs those impoverished customer service workers to be OK with their “lot in life.”
The best way to pacify a person is to simplify their life’s goals to one simple need: feeding their addiction. An addict can become OK with anything – their status in life, their dead-end job, the system overall – as long as they’re getting their fix.
Take for example the recent steps towards weed legalization. It may not be as detrimental as meth, or alcohol, but it’s really good at making you OK with sitting motionless on your couch. If you’re working all day to make money to buy weed, then spending your free time stoned on the sofa, you’re the perfect drone. So many people are OK with living paycheck-to-paycheck as long as they can afford their habit, whether it’s weed, video games, or Twinkies®.
We’re letting someone else hijack our brain’s pleasure centers and placate them with easily-attainable chemicals rather than authentic experiences that we evolved to experience as pleasure: a high from a successful hunt or winning a battle, securing food, making a friend, or falling in love. In other words, all the things that actually improve your life.
Once ‘they’ can decode how to artificially create those feelings of bliss with various combinations of chemicals or stimulus, we’re screwed; chemicals will always be more easily-acquired than the actual pleasures they’re replacing.
#6. Everyone self-medicates
There’s a double standard when it comes to addiction: they are either harmless or the result of an uncontrollable urge, while others are a result of moral failing on their sufferer’s part. For example, food addiction is a shameful, disgusting display of moral weakness, however, the same person passing that judgment may have Red Bull, beer, and weed in their apartment because, that’s what they need to relax and get through the week. In fact, that fat-condemning person probably boasts about how much weed he smokes, and how much beer it takes to get him drunk. As if all of those are cool, manly accomplishments and not clear-cut evidence of his own lack of impulse control.
This is society’s approach to addiction: the divide-and-conquer tactic.
Addiction is real. And it’s not a choice or moral failing; it’s a disease – one that lasts a lifetime. The good news is that healing and recovery are possible. Call an Addiction Specialist at toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to learn more.
By Cheryl Steinberg
AA and other 12 Step fellowships promise anonymity but, don’t be confused; it’s not the same thing as ‘confessional privilege,’ the expectation of confidentiality when one confesses to their priest or, the protection of confidentiality between lawyer and client.
This is something to be aware of and consider quite thoroughly if you’re working a 12 Step program and have a deep, dark secret form your past in active addiction. It’s true, working the steps can dredge up old memories and it’s no wonder that the fourth and fifth steps are so uniformly dreaded by people ‘in the rooms.’
Newcomers to AA, NA, CA, or any other ‘A’ program who diligently and wholeheartedly work the steps are told that Step Five is the path to freedom but, does that freedom depend on the exact nature of the wrongs? Or perhaps, is should “freedom” be thought of purely in the figurative sense? That is, if you’ve committed something of a serious nature, can you only expect feeling the freedom of the weight of it being lifted off your shoulders and not necessarily that you will remain free from jail or prison?
Step 5 says that we prepare to admit to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. But, how can 12 Steppers be pressured to confess and then, in turn, be convicted if the deeds are too heinous or in conflict with the confessor’s morals?
Consider that the real issue at the heart of this matter is that anonymity is not sacred – as in a confession to a clergyman – that is, a sponsor can’t absolve the penitent of their sin(s). “The problem with telling people in a meeting, you are subject to the values and mores of those in the group,” says H. Westley Clark, MD, SAMSHA’s director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. “AA cannot pressure a confession and then assure anonymity exists, it is a mischaracterization to offer anonymity…anonymity is not [sacred].”
Real Life Examples of Criminal Confessions in AA
For one guy, Paul Cox, by the time he reached his fourth and fifth steps, he began experiencing nightmares. They contained gruesome, heinous visions and, as the dreams continued and he couldn’t ignore them any longer, he was finally able to piece together that it wasn’t so much a dream but a reality: Cox, in a drunken stupor, has stabbed two people to death. In a tearful confession, he spilled it all to his girlfriend, who was also in AA. After that, he confessed a series of times, first to his AA sponsor and then other AA members and each time, they said, “Don’t drink, go to meetings and don’t tell anyone.”
It was Cox’s girlfriend who eventually went to the police. That led to the interrogation of the seven other people Cox had confessed to, including his sponsor. Cox was eventually charged with second degree murder after physical evidence collected at the scene corroborated his confession.
In another case, that of William Nottingham Beebe, when doing his Ninth Step, he wrote – and sent – a letter apologizing to the woman he raped at a fraternity house more than 20 years earlier. The problem with that is, in sending the letter to his victim, he caused more harm and injury to her – a cautionary clause of Step Nine – and was really self-serving more than anything else; he sought only to rid himself of the guilt. For his actions, his victim decided to press charges, citing that, although she recognized that Beebe had turned his life around, he doesn’t get a get-out-of-jail-free card for simply apologizing.
Much like Cox, Beebe admits he had spoken over the years to his sponsor and other AA members about the incident and it appears he had no intention of serving time for his crime. To many, the letter seemed only to serve as a way to progress his recovery, appease guilt, and justify his actions as alcohol-related.
Then there’s Jamie Kellam Letson, who confessed to her sponsor that she killed her college friend 30 years earlier. Letson’s sponsor suggested she write a letter to her dead friend and then drove her to the cemetery to read it. That was before the sponsor turned her in and used the letter as evidence.
Bob Ryder made an ‘AA confession’ that he had a dead body of a woman in his basement. His sponsor suggested that he pour baking soda on the decomposing body and, two weeks later, turned him into the authorities.
So, when it comes to criminal confessions, is anonymity a guarantee?
After what happened with Paul Cox, a legal battle ensued that shed new light on issues of anonymity and AA confessions. The cleric-penitent privilege was of course brought up and whether or not it applied to Alcoholics Anonymous and other Anonymous fellowships. In Cox’s first trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared. A second trial found Cox guilty of manslaughter. But on appeal, Federal Judge Charles Brieant overturned the conviction, and in an unprecedented ruling said that AA was a religious organization, and a confession made to a member could not be used as evidence. A third appeal overturned Judge Brieant’s decision and Cox was again convicted.
The thing is, crimes that are committed while in someone’s active addiction are still exactly that: crimes; not merely fallout from a past substance abuse episode. And therein lies the confusion, for newcomers and old timers alike. Many experts suggest caution and discretion before disclosing information to a sponsor or in an AA meeting.
“Theoretically, everything that is said in an AA meeting is supposed to be kept confidential by all the other attendees, so there would have to be a breach of the AA code if law enforcement is contacted to report a confession,” says Carole Lieberman, MD, Beverly Hills forensic psychiatrist. “Nonetheless, if an alcoholic patient of mine, who was attending AA meetings, asked if he should confess to a crime at an AA meeting, I would certainly counsel him against it.”
What AA Says About Anonymity
Although AA was founded on spiritual principles of anonymity and disclosure, the literature specifies anonymity to be expected at the personal level, that is, anonymity provides protection for all members from being ‘outed’ as alcoholics. The ‘Understanding Anonymity’ pamphlet never mentions safety from disclosure of a crime.
The executive director of the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and a Faces & Voices of Recovery board member and person in recovery, Neil Kaltenecker Campbell, says an important question when considering such things, is what will keep someone sober?
“You have to own up to your past and take responsibility for saying what you did in your addiction,” she says. “Recovery is about personal responsibility.”
It’s true: many of us in recovery have dark pasts of which we’re not particularly proud. When it comes to getting sober – and wanting to stay that way, you have to decide what it is that you need to do in order to make that happen. If there are things in your past that you need to talk about, do so with your sober supports, including your sponsor. But don’t just do it for your own peace of mind; if you are serious about atoning for your sins, you have to be ready and willing to face real consequences. If you are struggling with substance abuse or addiction and don’t know where to turn, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. Help is available. You are not alone.