I was chatting to someone at a recent meeting when the conversation turned to public perception of addiction with this statement: “ Did you hear what the coroner said at Amy Winehouse’s inquest….  she was a intelligent woman, she knew the risks”.  It’s a sad reflection of society’s view and stigma in general that even someone of such standing should have such little understanding of the nature of the addiction.

Addiction is no respecter of social status

Social Ignorance – Sadly, there is an assumption that to take drugs or use alcohol to excess, to over or under eat or to gamble to excess is just a matter of willpower.  The compulsive nature of addiction is not simply a matter of willpower.  Of course willpower is required to remain abstinent from the behaviour, but to overcome any addiction there is also a need to fully comprehend the very nature of the addiction itself.

Obesity doesn’t just affect sad, lonely, poor people with little education and low social status, and neither does drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling.  Addiction is no respecter of social status, academic achievement or financial circumstances.  It is a huge health and social issue that affects far more individuals than you’d ever imagine.

Stopping an addictive personality trait takes time, effort, guts and also a lot of support from family, friends and professionals.  Looking at our society I imagine there will be many people who don’t even realise they are living with an addiction.  And I’m sure those who are smokers or calorie counting ‘gym bunnies’ don’t consider themselves in the category of ‘addict’ either!

 

Do smokers or exercise bunnies think they are addicted?.

 

Many of us live with multiple addictions, food, smoking, shopping, exercise, relationships, some are more profound than others and some will have more adverse effects than others

Education and understanding is crucial; education about those afflicted with the disease of addiction and its prevalence in our society.  Some understanding and compassion not only for the individual but for their family too, who suffer daily as they live with and in many cases, try to control the effects. Those who live in active addiction have to come to a point where they are ready to stop mood altering.  They also have to accept that they have to explore and address all of their addictive behaviours.

The 12Step ProgrammeAt Western Counselling we use the 12 Step approach. We ask all clients to accept their powerlessness over all mood altering behaviours and substances and we expect total abstinence, we teach about addictive personalities and the compulsivity of the disease.  This is how we help our clients achieve long-term recovery and maintenance of their sobriety.

Step One, is the foundation stone of recovery in the 12Step programme.  Individuals learn that by accepting powerlessness over the substance/behaviour and understanding it’s negative impact on their life.  With this understanding comes the recognition that the substance or behaviour must forever more be avoided.

In the case of Amy Winehouse she’d stopped using illicit substances some time ago but sadly had swapped her addiction to prescription medication and alcohol.  Undeniably she was an intelligent woman. But, she had the same disease as any other addict.