Is texting addiction as serious as drug or alcohol addiction?
One could argue that it most certainly is just as serious, because the consequences are often just as serious, especially when someone is texting while driving. There is no difference between someone who died of a drug overdose compared to someone who died while texting and driving. The negative outcome is just as serious in both cases.
However, I would argue that drug and alcohol addiction represent a far more debilitating condition, whereas someone with texting addiction still remains much more functional.
For example, an alcoholic who is spiraling out of control will often lose their job, then start to slowly lose their relationships. Their family will shun them, their friends will abandon them, and their spouses will leave them. They won’t be able to hold or keep a job because their addiction is too debilitating.
Someone with a texting addiction, on the other hand, is not sliding into a negative spiral that is costing them jobs and relationships. In fact, if the texting addict happened to lose all of their relationships, it would instantly solve their problem, because there would be no one left to text with! So this is really more of a “first world problem” kind of addiction, because you have to have technology, you have to pay your smartphone bill each month, and you have to have relationships so that you have someone to indulge in your texting addiction with.
Compare this to real chronic alcoholism or drug addiction, where the individual can go so far down the scale in terms of destruction that everyone leaves them, they have no physical possessions, and they become entirely homeless with nothing but the clothes on their back. They can become so broken down in their addiction that they have nothing, they have no one, and they are only hoping to get to that next buzz. They are so miserable and so broken that they are hoping and praying for oblivion with their next drink. They are not looking for a party, they are looking to escape. This is how a real debilitating addiction works–it reduces you to almost nothing, no resources, no social relationships left to really speak of.
If you look at treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, there are several levels of intensity. We can learn quite a bit just by looking at the structure of these different services.
At first, you have counseling and therapy. Maybe an addict or alcoholic will go in for counseling or therapy for one day each week, maybe for an hour. They are talking about their addiction and seeking solutions with a therapist.
A more intense level might be IOP therapy in which the addict or alcoholic is attending groups for several hours each weekday. They are working with a group of peers along with a therapist to try to make positive changes in their life.
Step up one more level and you have inpatient treatment, such as the 28 day rehab model. So the addict or alcoholic checks into rehab and goes through a medical detox, followed by a few weeks of residential inpatient treatment. They learn about the disease and go to groups and lectures all day long while they are in rehab.
And finally there is another, more intense level of treatment, and that is recovery housing or long term rehab. Here the addict or alcoholic actually lives in the treatment center and immerses themselves fully into the world of recovery, often for several months or even years at a time.
Think for a moment about the kind of treatment program that is set up for the struggling addict to come and live there.
Why would such a program be necessary in the first place?
I can tell you why it is necessary. Recovery housing and halfway houses and long term rehabs exist because there is a demand for them to exist. And this demand is driven by a situation that addicts and alcoholics typically find themselves in.
And what exactly is that situation? What is it about a person’s situation that would require them to check into a halfway house, or to attend recovery housing?
The defining characteristic is that this person has run out of social capital.
They have used up all of their social capital, and now they have no where to turn to.
Put more accurately, now that person has no ONE to turn to. If they did, they would likely have a roof over their head tonight, rather than needing to stay in recovery housing.
Their drug or alcohol addiction has driven them to the point in which they have used up all of their available social capital.
A few years ago, they still had options when it came to social capital. If they drank themselves out of their apartment, they could go stay with aunt Betty, or sister Suzy. Or perhaps they had friends that would allow them to couch surf for a few weeks at a time.
But the addict or alcoholic in question was using all of their money on their drug of choice, and they had none left in which to build more social capital. They used up the people in their life, and now they have nowhere to turn to.
Now I will agree that this does not describe 100 percent of the people who seek out halfway houses or recovery housing. However, it describes most of them, or a very high percentage.
That is real addiction. Perhaps we could define a serious drug or alcohol addiction as something that causes the individual to burn through both financial and social capital. They use all of their resources, to include other people, in order to keep getting drunk or high, as much as they possibly can.
Now compare this to “texting addiction.”
Is it really fair to call obsessive texting an addiction at all?
Is the person texting so much that they betray their spouse, abuse their family, and devour both financial and social resources?
I think there may be a texting disorder. I think there may be something like obsessive or compulsive texting. But to call it a real, full blown addiction, in my opinion, is not justified.
Sure, there can be serious consequences to someone who is texting and driving. Or texting while walking near steep cliffs.
However, I think drug addiction and alcoholism are completely different beasts, and that you really cannot compare the two.
If you happen to be suffering from a real, debilitating addiction in your life, consider reaching out for help today.