What is Addiction? Addiction has long been understood to mean an uncontrollable habit of using alcohol or other drugs, but more recently, we have come to realize that people can also develop addictions to behaviors, such as gambling, sex, exercise, and even quite ordinary and necessary activities such as eating. What these activities have in common is that the person doing them finds them pleasurable in some way. But If You Still Enjoy It, It Can’t Be an Addiction, Right? Wrong. Many people with addictions do not believe they are addicted as long as they are enjoying themselves, and they are holding their lives together hence never feeling the consequences of the destructive behavior. At some point, the addicted person may realize that life has passed them by, and that they have missed out on enjoying much other than the addiction.

Sometimes problems are directly or indirectly related to the addiction, for example, health or relationship problems. Other times, a person doesn’t feel they can cope without the addiction, because they are avoiding dealing with some other issue that the addiction distracts them from (such as being abused as a child), or because they do not know how to enjoy life any other way.

The harm of addiction may only be recognized when the addicted person goes through a crisis. This can happen when the addictive substance or behavior is taken away completely, and the person goes into withdrawal and cannot cope or as a consequence of the addiction, such as a serious illness, a partner leaving, or loss of a job.

Help is available