Letting the Shadows Fall Behind in Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery means reaching the light at the end of a long dark tunnel

Living in a world where illusion is sought after with passion, it is so easy to let the boundaries blur. CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg said, “We are making a long-term bet that virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily lives.”

With a myriad opportunities in this age of technology to escape the nitty gritty of daily living, people are tempted to take the easy way out and allow their fantasies full play. American cartoonist Lynda Barry said, “We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay.”

There are things people start doing just because they like them – for recreation. Thus, recreational use of substances or gambling do not get categorized as addiction, until the person is unable to give it up even when the pleasure of the activity has disappeared. What started out as a fun activity then becomes a cruel habit which takes over the person, compelling indulgence even though it brings no pleasure, but entails terrible consequences. The activity becomes a habit and then a deeply ingrained uncontrollable addiction, without which the person is unable to function.

Substance addiction is easily understood. The compulsion for cigarettes, alcohol, prescription medications and illicit drugs and the unspeakable ramifications of their uncontrolled consumption are shown time and again in movies and on TV. Harder to grasp are behavioral addictions, also known as process addictions. Even as people become addicted to sense-enslaving, isolating substances, they can also be lured by sense-enslaving, isolating behaviors.

However, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) only recognizes gambling addiction as behavioral addiction. APA lists internet gaming addiction as a condition to be studied further, but does not recognize it as an addiction. Nevertheless, the top behavioral addictions are known as food addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, love addiction, porn addiction, shopping addiction, Internet addiction, video game addiction and social media addiction.

Numbers lend strength to the total concept of addiction. For instance, 68% of the American population twenty years and older, is either overweight or obese. Director of Research for the National Institute on Media and the Family and development psychologist at the Iowa State University, Dr. Douglas Gentile, discovered through a recent research project  that 8.5% of young Americans between 8 and 18 years – amounting to around 3 million people – are addicted to video games. A University of New York study reveals that over 80% of American adults are lured into gambling annually, and that from 3 to 5 of every 100 gamblers struggle with addiction. Furthermore, about 750,000 young adults from 14 to 21 years are addicted to gambling. About 18 million Americans suffer from shopping addiction, and many have a tendency to engage in criminal conduct like shoplifting to satisfy their addiction. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong assess that 6% of the world’s population – that is about 420 million people – are addicted to the Internet. Statistics reveal that 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites and the global porn industry is valued at $4.9 billion. However, Internet porn addiction and online sex addiction have not been officially diagnosed as mental disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Thus, addiction is a real problem the world faces, and especially so in affluent and materialistic societies where availability and accessibility add fuel to the fire of mental instability. However, even as a prisoner can only break out of prison when he realizes he is locked up, an addict needs to understand the existing mental disorder in order to go down the road of recovery.

Societies concerned about the wellbeing of their people, try to help curtail and eradicate addiction from their midst. China, for instance, is at the forefront of trying to eradicate internet addiction, and was one of the first countries to call it a clinical disorder. The Chinese government has created 250 boot camps with the aim of helping its teenage population overcome Internet addiction. Porn addiction is widespread and extensive the world over, even though most societies prefer to ignore the problem. Pretending, unfortunately, does not make the problem go away, only aggravates it and its overarching consequences for individuals, their families and society as a whole. Thankfully, there are organizations brave enough to take the issue head on and who have identified ways to help porn addiction recovery.

Recovery from addiction will inevitably be an arduous and slow process, with tumultuous highs and lows and relapses. Ultimately, it is the will of the individual, the family and the collective commitment of entire societies that will help to reduce and eradicate different kinds of addiction. Vibrant societies need to have responsible citizens who are in control of themselves and are able to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. No country wants to be burdened with “behavioral addicts” who continually need the support of rehab or therapy to be able to distinguish right from wrong.

Yet, for addicts who achieve complete recovery, they have seen the light at the end of the tunnel, and are out in the sunshine again. As former US President Richard Nixon once said, “Only if you’ve been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

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