The First Steps Towards Overcoming Addiction

When we think of addictions we usually think of the most obvious: alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, gambling. While these are examples of some of the most prevalent addictions in society, there is a newer crop of addictions that have become more prominent over the last decade or so. These addictions do not come to mind as readily as those listed above, but they are no less destructive to our lives when they affect us in adverse ways and cause our lives to spiral out of control.

Addiction is defined as a physiological/psychological need to continue to use a substance, behavior, or activity after it is no longer useful or healthy to continue. Addiction is destructive. We all need to escape from the mundane reality of our lives from time to time, but the difference between a healthy escape, such as a vacation, and an addiction is that a vacation recharges us and leaves us feeling refreshed and ready to return to our daily lives. Addiction is something or someone that we feel we need as a constant presence in our lives in order to function. Without the person, place or thing that we are addicted to, our lives become unmanageable and we feel that we simply cannot go on until our addiction is fed.

Healthy escapes sustain life; addictions diminish and can destroy lives. Addictions leave us feeling alone and powerless to stop the behavior(s) that we are engaging in. Some addictions are so strong that many addicts live in a state of denial about their addiction that may be clearly obvious to others. Denial is the defense mechanism that we use to sincerely convince ourselves and others that we do not suffer from addiction.

Albert Rossi knows all too well how large of a role denial plays in dealing with addiction. He is a recovering alcoholic who has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for more than twenty years. Like many alcoholics, Albert denied that he had an addiction to alcohol for years before he finally attended his first AA meeting. He was at a party one evening for the department in which he taught at Pace University. He intended to consume only three glasses of wine. As the evening wore on, however, he drank far more than he had intended.

As he was preparing to leave for the night, the department chair, Richard, helped Albert to put on his coat. Richard must have noticed how much alcohol Albert consumed because he told Albert, “Al, you are a good professor and we want to keep you in the department. Please drive home carefully.” Initially, Albert was quite angry with Richard for his comments. Albert didn’t think that he had consumed that many glasses of wine. Richard essentially told him otherwise. Richard’s comment was the beginning of the end of Albert’s denial about his addiction to alcohol.

Reflect on Albert’s advice on what the first steps are that we need to take in order to acknowledge and overcome our addictions. First, we pray for the courage to see ourselves clearly. Second, we admit that we might be addicted to something or other. Third, we must be open to the comments of others about our behaviors, even if the feedback is not always valid.