What is the key to understanding addiction?
Well it depends a bit on your perspective. There are 2 possibilities:
One, you are an addict, or think you might be.
Two, you are the friend, family, or loved one of an addict, and wish to understand them.
So let’s take a closer look at these two possibilities, and see what we can learn.
You are trying to understand your own addiction or potential for addiction
In this case, you may be in one of two positions. One is that you think you might have a drug or alcohol problem, but you are not sure of the extent of it. The other is that you are certain that you are addicted–no doubt about it–but you still wish to understand the how and the why.
In the first case, if you think you might have a problem, then you should seek to learn more about yourself and really determine the extent of your problem. It might just be drug abuse or alcohol abuse, and you may just need to cut down and get things back under control. There are tests and experiments that you can do to determine if this is the case. For example, try to control your drug use or intake tightly for 30 days straight, with no slip ups. If you use more than what you planned on or exceeded your limits during this trial, then you probably have a problem.
Now if you already know that you are addicted, then the real issue here is that you should forget about this problem oriented thinking and start focusing on the solution. What actions are you going to take to move yourself forward in recovery? What are you going to do in order to better your life? These are the important questions that you should be focusing on. In fact, if you explore the answers to those questions and start to grow in your recovery, then one day you will look back with a much firmer understanding of addiction in general.
You are trying to understand a loved one’s addiction
The bottom line is this: don’t try to understand their addiction. It will just drive you crazy.
Whatever you do, do not place blame on yourself for someone’s addiction, especially if you are a parent. The blame is not yours to take. It has nothing to do with you.
Again: think about solutions, instead of analyzing the problem. Your best action: get to an Al-Anon meeting, and share your story openly with the people there. They will try to help you in any way that they can, and most importantly, they can empathize with your need to try and understand your loved one’s addiction.