Cheat Sheet

Addiction and Recovery For Dummies

From Addiction and Recovery For Dummies by Brian F. Shaw, Paul Ritvo, Jane Irvine, M. David Lewis (Foreword by)

To overcome an addiction, first you need to recognize it in yourself or a loved one. Explore addiction recovery programs and their treatment methods when deciding how to deal with your addictive behavior, or that of a family member.

How to Recognize Addiction in Yourself

Dealing with an addiction means you stop wasting energy and time on self-deception. Take a good, hard look at yourself and be perfectly honest. Are any of these statements true for you?

  • Your substance-seeking behavior is increasing (you are going to places where you can score), or your compulsion to do the problematic behavior (such as gambling) is increasing.

  • Your main reason for living is using.

  • You lose touch with important aspects of your life, such as friends, work, school, and family responsibilities, because of substance use or addictive behavior.

How to Recognize Addiction in a Loved One

If you suspect that a loved one is dealing with an addiction or behaving in self-destructive addictive behavior, look at this list of questions, which signal an addiction, and answer yes or no. Does your loved one . . .

  • Turn up late for functions or dates?

  • No longer follow-through on his/her commitments?

  • Have more trouble with illness than usual?

  • Have more problems at work than usual?

  • Appear to be withdrawing from intimate contacts?

  • Have unexplained absences from or inconsistencies in his/her usual schedule?

  • Appear to have a new set of friends who he/she is highly involved with but who you don’t get to meet?

  • Have major financial fluctuations (like carrying more or considerably less money than usual)?

  • Have lapses of concentration or memory?

  • Stay up later at night and sleep in more during the day?

  • Have more trouble than usual getting it together in the morning?

  • Appear surprisingly secretive about specific aspects of his/her life?

While this checklist cannot diagnose an addiction in a loved one, the more “yes” answers you produce, the greater the chances are that your loved one is suffering from an addiction.

Getting Help for an Addiction

Entering treatment for an addiction involves a sincere effort and finding the right method of treatment. Keep in mind that when deciding on your treatment options, all addiction recovery programs use one or more of these seven views on addiction:

  • Moral: People can sacrifice anything to feed addictions.

  • Disease: Addiction is like other diseases that cause unhealthy brain function.

  • Pharmacological: Addiction stems from chemical imbalances which non-addictive drugs can overcome (for example, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications).

  • Cognitive-behavioral: "Stinking thinking" or cognitive distortions drive addictions and can be replaced with "healthy thinking" and non-addicting satisfactions.

  • Learning: Different levels of learning cause addiction. Conditioning is important as it can be largely automatic and dominant, involving little or no thinking.

  • Psychodynamic: Difficulties in emotional regulation cause psychic numbing, emotional flooding and other extremes — addictive substances are then used to numb, calm, sedate, excite, sexualize.

  • Biopsychosocial: Physical, psychological and social aspects of addiction are addressed in combined treatments.

These views are structured into programs taking place in residential treatment centers (for example, 28 day program) or outpatient centers, guided by professionals or self-help trainers who apply twelve step and other treatment approaches.

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