I’m frequently asked in many of my alcohol and drug addiction presentations with nursing students what causes a toxic addiction to rear its ugly head in someone and what type of person typically tends to succumb to it. Let me be very clear here in saying that anyone can succumb to a toxic addiction and it usually stems from a desire to avoid something that feels uncomfortable going on within an individual.
I always find it rather comical during any of my addiction presentations outside the rooms of 12 Step recovery when no one raises a hand there to my question of whether anyone has ever been addicted to anything in their lives. The truth is, everyone at some point or another has had an addiction to something, it just may not be one of the truly toxic ones that end up destroying a person’s life.
Some examples of non-life destroying addictions that people often succumb to are binge-watching, video game marathoning, frequent Amazon purchasing, indulging in large quantiles of sweets or caffeinated beverages, working long hours, etc. Doing anything of those for the purpose of receiving some desired effect or outcome is ultimately at the core of every addiction. Of course, any of those things can be done in moderation and there are good addictions as well, like working out once a day in a gym for example. But what happens when someone works out for hours and hours on end until they start harming their body? Why are they working out so much in the first place where injury begins to happen? This is precisely when a good addiction turns into a bad one for someone and how many of the more toxic addictions begin to take form in an individual.
Take the student who is pushing themselves so hard in their university due to external and internal pressures to succeed. Maybe their release from all that pressure initially starts out in a positive way by exercising in a gym. But one night, they’re invited out for a drink after a completely overwhelming day, on a day they didn’t get their workout in, all because of their heavy workload and pressures they are putting themselves through. That first drink that night really hits the spot well, so well that it provides them a quicker ease and comfort to cope with all that pressure they’re under than doing their daily workout. So, they have a few more drinks that night because of the benefit it’s providing, making them believe that pressure has subsided. It hasn’t though and at some point, the pressure gets overwhelming again, enough so that their mind reminds them it can quickly be alleviated by taking a few drinks. So, they do that again that night, for that desired effect, and once received, they are off and running to the addiction races so to speak, creating that vicious cycle. Not everyone will succumb to alcohol or drug addiction though under even similar circumstances because there are plenty of other toxic addictions out there to numb a person from something uncomfortable going on in their lives. The same person under those school pressures could have picked up food one night and binged incredibly because it made them feel really good doing it. Or maybe they went to a casino and won big. Or maybe they hooked up with someone and had great sex. In each of those actions, the individual is avoiding dealing with what’s at the core, that being all that heavy pressure they’re putting themselves through and don’t want to feel.
The reality is, doing any action in the excess, where it begins to consume a person, and interfere with them living out a balanced and positive life, is the start of every toxic addiction, no matter what the action is. Whether it’s seeking likes or comparing oneself to others on social media, looking at things like pornography on the Internet, saying yes when you’re already overloaded, or something else, each may start out harmless, but turn harmful when it becomes a repeated action to avoid some uncomfortable condition, feeling, or fact of life.
The bottom line is that everyone has the potential of succumbing to a toxic addiction at some point in their life. As soon as any individual starts trying to avoid an uncomfortable reality in their life by using some external means to numb themselves from it, it’s precisely when a toxic addiction begins to rear its ugly head…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson