What is Substance Abuse / Addiction? In simple terms it is to continue drinking alcohol, using drugs and or gambling despite the negative consequences and expecting that it will be different that time.
Addiction is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a disease. Therefore I believe nobody chooses to have it. There are those who believe that if you are an alcoholic or you take drugs or gamble that it is your fault, but that is untrue. Certainly some of the choices made might not have helped or been healthy but as a recovering addict myself and the many years experience working as a counsellor in a residential treatment centre, I have not met one person who, growing up as a child, thought "when I am older I would love to be a Doctor and an alcoholic, or a Firewoman and a drug addict or a Teacher and gambler.
There are many factors that come into play with addiction - some genetic, environmental and psychological. Alcohol, Drugs and Gambling can be a way to escape painful life events such as sexual,physical and mental abuse. The thing is it works, at least for a short while. Then the very thing being used to cope with painful events and traumas starts causing a whole new area of pain and suffering for the individual. For others there might not be any past trauma or "reason to abuse". It could be simply heavy social use developing into dependence and addiction.
Due to the nature of addiction it leaves the person steeped in denial. You have been lying to yourself, blaming other things or people for what is going wrong (protecting your addiction). The values and principles that you once had no longer seem to count. Addiction warps and twists your viewpoint to help you justify your behaviour. Have you found yourself minimising the extent of it, playing it down, trying to rationalise it by comparing yourself to someone worse than you? I certainly did all of those things and when I was finally pushed into treatment I still tried to do the same thing: play it down, admit some but not all, partly out of my own sense of shame, guilt and embarrassment. But by working with a counsellor who specialised in addiction and wasn't afraid to challenge me, he helped me to educate myself about the Disease of Addiction, removing the embarrassment and shame I had attached to it and helping me to take responsibility for the things I had done. It helped me to recognise just how distorted my thinking, values, outlook, principles and behaviour had become as a result of my addiction. By identifying these distortions for myself with the help of my counsellor I gained something that had been missing for many years - a choice.
I could now choose to continue despite what I had discovered and the consequences I knew that it would bring. Or I could choose to live and regain those values and principles that my addiction had eroded and rebuild relationships with my family and myself
Whatever the reason why you drink, drug or gamble, when you get to the stage that it starts causing you and those you love pain and distress there is no going back to managing it. It is time to stop for good and that is where Addiction Counselling will help.
Addiction doesn't care who you are. It doesn't care about race, age, sex, religion, or if you are rich or poor. It doesn't even care if you had the happiest or worst childhood. Anyone can become an addict. It is an equal opportunity disease but the good news is that it is possible for any addict to recover.
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Belfast City Counselling
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