Coping with Addictions

Kathy provides counseling for addictions in the areas of gambling, sex, and eating disorders, just to name a few.

Why do people do things that they know are harmful? The next time you go to the grocery store and see an elderly man pulling an oxygen bottle behind him with the tubes going into his nostrils at the same time he is smoking a cigarette, stop and think. Why is he doing something that he knows is the cause of his inability to breathe well? It doesn’t make sense, does it? That very man would probably advise others not to smoke while at the same time be unable to correct his own problem.

Have you ever sat in an ice-cream parlor and seen an extremely obese individual come in and order a banana split? You scratch your head and wonder what is going on. Maybe that person is just not very smart. But is it an issue of intelligence? Let’s explore.

When people drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, they are taking a drug. If you ask people who do these things why they are doing them, they will give you different answers. “I like it.” “It wakes me up.” “It calms me down.” And so on. Be it conscious or unconscious, dangerous or not, people do what they do for reasons.

The study of behaviors and specifically of addictions is interesting. Addictive behaviors are not normal or ordinary; they are often compulsive and terribly self-destructive. It seems as though people would naturally limit their behaviors to things that give pleasure and avoid pain, but those who have addictive tendencies or destructive behaviors don’t function in that way.

Addicts often go to great effort to obtain and use their drugs in spite of the consequences. For example, professional athletes are paid millions of dollars for playing football or baseball with the knowledge that they will be randomly tested for drugs. They are aware that if drugs are found in their system they face the probability of suspension from their jobs, with the possibility of lifetime expulsion from participation in their sport. The same athletes get caught with drugs in their blood, often again and again, and ultimately lose their multimillion-dollar incomes because of the use of cocaine or some other drug. Some people have exhausted their financial means in order to live the high life and to support their drug use.

So put yourself in their position. Someone offers you your dream house, and all you have to do is to avoid alcohol use. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t. If it were easy, people would make the correct decision every time.

People (millions of them every day) use drugs or engage in other addictive behaviors, knowing that they will–not maybe, but will–eventually face consequences. There is nothing normal about addictive behavior. It is not simply a deviation from the norm.

Just as people use drugs for different reasons, they also respond differently to drugs. Some say that the use of alcohol is liberating, seems to set them free, or really takes the “edge off” the stress of a hard day at work. Two people who look very similar may react in absolute contrast to each other when given the same substance. Most people have the same opportunity to use alcohol; it is in stores everywhere. Yet some develop problems with it, and others don’t. It appears that the problem, the reason for the addiction, is in the person rather than in the drug.