“At the core of every addiction is an emptiness based in abject fear. The addict dreads and abhors the present moment; she bends feverishly only toward the next time, the moment when her brain, infused with her drug of choice, will briefly experience itself as liberated from the burden of the past and the fear of the future—the two elements that make the present intolerable. Many of us resemble the drug addict in our ineffectual efforts to fill in the spiritual black hole, the void at the center, where we have lost touch with our souls, our spirit—with those sources of meaning and value that are not contingent or fleeting. Our consumerist, acquisition-, action-, and image-mad culture only serves to deepen the hole, leaving us emptier than before. The constant, intrusive, and meaningless mind-whirl that characterizes the way so many of us experience our silent moments is, itself, a form of addiction—and it serves the same purpose. “One of the main tasks of the mind is to fight or remove the emotional pain, which is one of the reasons for its incessant activity, but all it can ever achieve is to cover it up temporarily. In fact, the harder the mind struggles to get rid of the pain, the greater the pain.”

~Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction 

The term addiction is generally used to describe a behavior that is obsessive, compulsive, or indicates an excessive psychological/physical dependence on a particular behavior or substance. When a behavior or substance causes harm and wreckage in one’s life and yet they still persist with the behavior, we can presume that an addiction is present. 

Often, when we think of addiction, we think of substance misuse. Addiction does include substance misuse, however, addiction is so much more than that. Addiction is a behavior, a coping strategy. A compulsion to continue doing something repeatedly over and over again despite the negative consequences it is causing. Addiction to substance is the most successful way of escaping from one’s own life; to be something else, to be nothing, to seize to exist for just a moment; a moment that the addict chases after over and over again. When Albert Camus spoke of Suicide he mentioned two types; physical suicide and philosophical suicide. Addiction is philosophical suicide; one is physically here on this earth, but is not participating in their life. I go more in depth about Albert Camus in my blog.   

Addiction is continuing to do the same behavior over and over expecting a different outcome, trying to relive a successful outcome from the past, and/or the behavior is giving the person a positive outcome i.e. The immediate rewarding experience makes people want to repeat it. All substances and even behaviors with addictive potential stimulate the release of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that is associated with reward and pleasure. 

Some examples of how it affects one’s life: 

  • Obsessive, compulsive thoughts/behaviors i.e. impatient, lashing out, repetitive    
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Problems with relationships
  • Loss of hope, feelings of emptiness.
  • Loss of control or feeling out of control 
  • Intrusive thoughts 
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Paranoia  

How can counseling help 

Counselling generally aims to:

  • Increase people’s awareness of how their behaviors affect their lives.
  • Assist people in examining their thoughts and emotions and learn how these inner experiences affect how they behave, how they interact with others and how others see them.
  • Promote physical, emotional and spiritual wellness
  • Assist people in managing and maintaining new behaviors 
  • Assist people in communication skills
  • Assist people in finding ways to meet people and form relationships
  • Provide resources that can assist people in finding community, connection and sense of belonging.

Counselors provide a necessary support system for individuals recovering from substance misuse, and behavioral issues by forming a relationship built on trust with their clients.

Counselors in this field help people with both crisis and long-term addiction management issues, which can range from immediate medical intervention, to supporting them manage their recovery long term.

“There is nothing in the world…that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one’s life.”

Other supports and services

Their are a variety of other supports and services, including information and counselling about:

  • Stress or anger management
  • Grief and trauma
  • Finding a job or going back to school
  • Healthy eating
  • Accessing safe, affordable housing
  • Getting social assistance or disability benefits
  • Managing money and budgeting
  • Developing parenting skills.