Overcoming the Plague of Addiction

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By Kevin Theriot, PhD | LDS Family Services | LDS.org |February 2019

Addictions can come from any outlet.  Some like to drink to forget their sorrows for a moment whereas others may have become dependent on drugs.  Some dive into pornography or gambling for pleasure whereas others may have become dependent on their social media so much that they have come to neglect their more important responsibilities, including their family.  No one really intends to become addicted to any substance or behavior, but once they give in to explore these dangerous areas, soon enough many of them find themselves in a darkened area, their freedom taken from them, and in a state of denial and fear.  

I am fortunate never to have found myself in this state, however, I have had loved ones who have been.  My father-in-law was one of them.  You can read his story here.   He is a great example to me of someone who turned to the Lord and was healed in all the ways that count.  I am so thankful that freedom can be found by turning our dependence on the Saviour.  ~Emilia

Understanding addiction is a key step in overcoming it. But we must also rely on the Lord and believe that He can heal us.

When someone struggles with an addiction, it’s important to know that there is hope. There are people every single day all around the world who are able to find freedom from the substance or behavior holding them hostage. It will take a concerted personal effort, an understanding of the factors that are unique to them that are holding them in the addictive cycle, along with a belief that God can inspire them in their personal path to freedom.

In my 38 years of helping people overcome addictions, I have seen our understanding and treatment of addiction improve over the years. I strongly suspect that this evolution will continue for years to come. While those in the field of addiction sciences face challenging questions, we continue to make positive strides. So the information being presented here is based on what we know today, with the belief that additional light and knowledge will continue to come forth in the future.

Understanding Addiction

I know what a heart-wrenching struggle it is to wrestle with an addiction, but the first step is understanding addiction yourself. Here are several key ideas to shed some light on the subject:

  • Addictions begin with initial exposure and end with dependency. Wherever someone is on this continuum, they can still exercise some degree of agency and find their way out of the addictive behavior.

  • Labeling someone as an addict can undermine their long-term progress. This is especially true in the early stages of the behavior. The label “in recovery” appears to be more helpful. It’s like saying, “I am choosing to rely on the Savior and His Atonement in order to become more like Him” rather than, “I am stuck in sin forever.”

  • All addictions have several components to them:biological (genetics, brain chemistry, etc.), psychological(self-worth, personality characteristics, post-traumatic stress, etc.), social (parents, friends, culture, etc.), andspiritual (personal and family religious practices, etc.). The combination of each of these components, and their relative strengths, are often as unique as the individual. Each component may require specific, individualized attention for the person as a whole to free him or herself from the negative behavior.

components of addiction

Components of addiction: biological, psychological, social, and spiritual

Signs on the Path to Addiction

The following are indicators that an individual may be on the path to developing a habit, then a compulsion, then an addiction:

  • Obsessiveness: They become less interested in healthy activities as the harmful substance or behavior gradually dominates.

  • Increased craving: They progressively want more.

  • Secrecy: They are increasingly reluctant to allow others to know of their decisions and behaviors.

    signs on the path to addiction 1

  • Denial: They lie to themselves about their growing dependency and believe their own lies.

  • Withdrawal: When they are denied access to the harmful substance or behavior, their sense of well-being fades.

  • Reverting back: In spite of their realization of the negative impact on their life, they return back to the substance or behavior.

signs on the path to addiction 2

Additionally, the individual is typically the worst person to accurately assess where he or she is on the addiction continuum once the habit starts. If you are wondering if a loved one is on the path to addiction, there are many resources available to help, in your community as well as online.

To learn more about finding treatment and other available resources, please visit LDS.org

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