One step at a time

What is Addiction?
A substance addiction meets two criteria:
  1. You have difficulty controlling how much you use or how long you use. For example, one drink leads to more drinks, or one line of cocaine leads to more.
  2. You continue to use even though it has negative consequences to your life. For example, you continue to drink even though it has hurt your relationships.
Those two criteria define all addictions. They are true for alcohol and drug addiction, but they're also true for gambling addiction, eating disorders, and sexual addiction.
There are different stages of addictions. The late stage is the non-functioning addict. They've lost their job and have to use every day. It's what people think addiction is like, but that stereotype is rare.
The early stage is the functioning addict. They still have a job and their relationships are intact, but their life is suffering because of their addiction. That is the most common scenario. You don't have to suffer major losses to have an addiction.
The consequences of addiction get worse over time. Addiction is a progressive disease. It's never easy to quit. But if you've already suffered negative consequences and don't want them to get worse, there's never a better time to quit than now.
What is the Medical Definition of Addiction?
An addiction must meet at least 3 of the following criteria. This is based on the criteria of the World Health Organisation (ICD-10).

1.
Tolerance. Do you use more alcohol or drugs over time?
2.
Withdrawal. Have you experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when you have stopped using? Have you experienced anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, or vomiting? Emotional withdrawal is just as significant as physical withdrawal.
3.
Limited control. Do you sometimes drink or use drugs more than you would like? Do you sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do you ever regret how much you used the day before?
4.
Negative consequences. Have you continued to use even though there have been negative consequences to your mood, self-esteem, health, job, or family?
5.
Neglected or postponed activities. Have you ever put off or reduced social, recreational, work, or household activities because of your use?
6.
Significant time or energy spent. Have you spent a significant amount of time obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from your use? Have you spend a lot of time thinking about using? Have you ever concealed or minimised your use? Have you ever thought of schemes to avoid getting caught?
7.
Desire to cut down. Have you sometimes thought about cutting down or controlling your use? Have you ever made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your use?
How Does Addiction Feel?
An addictive substance feels good because it stimulates the pleasure centre of the brain through neurotransmitters such as dopamine and GABA. If you have a genetic predisposition, addictive substances don’t just feel good. They feel so good that you will want to chase after them.
This is where addiction comes in. If you have a genetic predisposition, addictive substances feel so good that you are willing to suffer negative consequences in order to get more and to continue to feel the high.
Addictive substances feel different inside an addict’s brain than they do to a non-addict. This is why the two sides have difficulty understanding each other. In someone who is not addicted, drugs and alcohol only produce a mild high. Therefore a non-addict cannot understand why the addict would go to such lengths, when it is clearly destroying their life.
Denial is a big part of addiction. Because addictive substances feel good, an addict will initially deny that they have a problem. In the long-run addiction isolates you from the people and activities and that mean the most to you.
The Consequences of Addiction

People only stop using drugs and alcohol when they have suffered enough negative consequences.
When you've suffered enough pain and enough regret you are ready to stop.
You are ready to stop when the two sides of addiction collide. On the one hand, addiction feels so good that you want to use more. On the other hand, addiction leads to negative consequences. After a while, something has got to give.

You don't have to hit rock bottom.
The purpose of websites like this is to show you the potential negative consequences of addiction so that you will be ready to quit before you've lost everything. You can imagine what it would be like to hit rock bottom. And that can help motivate you.

The most important consequences of addiction are social, emotional, and psychological.
People usually think of the physical and economic consequences of addiction. "I don't have a serious addiction because my health is fine, and I haven't lost my job." But those are very late stage consequences.
As far as work is concerned that's usually the last thing to suffer. You need your work in order to pay your bills, so that you can continue your addiction. When your work begins to suffer, you've slipped from being a functioning addict to a non-functioning addict.
The damage addiction does to your relationships and self-esteem is far deeper and takes longer to repair. You've hurt friends and family. You've disappointed yourself. You've traded important things in your life so that you could make more time to use. You've lived a double life. You've seen the hurt in your family's eyes, and the disappointment in your children's faces.
Those are the consequences that can motivate you to begin recovery.