Process Addictions- Can you spot your warning signs?

Process Addiction

When the word addiction is mentioned, most people automatically think of addiction in terms of Drugs or Alcohol, but Process addiction can be just as detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health as drugs and alcohol.

There are many forms of process addiction which include food, internet, gaming and shopping. If the addictive activity is carried out on a regular basis, the individual may begin to build a tolerance to the reward state, and riskier behaviour becomes intensified to reach a higher state of reward/euphoria leading to increased levels of dopamine.

Unidentified Process addictions can cause the individual to have compulsive thoughts and behaviours, they may cause the individual to become irrational and take risks that would seem dangerous or insane to other people.

In the coming weeks I will be covering eating disorders and other process addictions, however, the most prevalent forms of Process Addictions that have received most media coverage of late seem to be gambling and sex addictions

Gambling Addiction/disorder develops into the uncontrollable urge/need take negative risks to gain reward, be it online, or physically walking into a casino or betting shop. The individual gets to a point where gambling is the one thought that overrides all others, the individual seeks to raise their endorphin levels, and just as with drug and alcohol can lead to chaos in the person’s life and the people around them. It can cause financial ruin, leading to severe financial insecurity, loss of assets and employment. This can lead to the breakdown in their relationships and the very real risk of committing crime to continue to fund their addiction.

Sex addiction is a persistent urge/need to partake in acts of a sexual nature and similarly to gambling the individual’s behaviour escalates. An individual who is in this process will engage with multiple strangers that they may meet with through the internet and the many apps that are being developed promising instant gratification and “no strings” they will risk arrest by kerb crawling and meeting with other individuals in public conveniences they also risk contracting sexually transmitted diseases. They will engage in excessive masturbation whilst watching pornography for hours at a time. Other forms can include voyeurism, fetishes and exhibitionism. These all carry risks, the individual may find themselves dissatisfied with the material they use and look for a greater high, the individual may look for images that involve minors, violence or humiliation. The fetishes may lead to injury or death and exhibitionism may lead to arrest for indecent exposure.

Process addictions can be hard to identify, and a good treatment centre will work with the individual to look at their negative patterns of behaviour to work on the process. As more and more of us spend much of our time online and on mobile devices these negative patterns of behaviour may sit beneath the radar for longer periods of time as the effects, and it may not be well into recovery that these traits will be identified.

Until recently drug and alcohol Addictions were the only addictions that were recognised by the medical profession in general, however due to the links to mental health issues, more and more it is been readdressed.

Many individuals in long term alcohol and drug addiction treatment suffer from one or more process addiction. Once abstinent from drugs and alcohol there is sometimes a void felt, and in order to fill it the individual may look to other mood altering behaviours. At this time it is an idea to maybe address the issues they face through re-entering treatment or to seek help from a therapist who can help identify the triggers and support the individual to overcome them, leading to a hopefully, a more manageable, secure existence and stronger recovery.

The Reality of Drug Addiction Recovery

Nobody warns you, no one approaches you in your 1st day of abstinence and says, “Here comes the pain!” Nobody warns you about the responsibility of being in recovery brings. For years you trundle up a treacle mountain of unmanageability and chaos, accepting the perception of reality that comes with years of sourcing substances, the mundane, often risky task of obtaining funds to purchase them, and the ritual of using, usually to be left with a feeling of emptiness, and the hopeless knowledge that it all has to be done again and again. You resign yourself to the acceptance that this is how it’s going to be forever, and that there is no solution apart from either an immediate or a long slow painful death.

If we get lucky, somebody close to us may stage an intervention and drag us kicking and screaming to a 12 step fellowship, where we may proclaim that we don’t have a problem and go back to using to do further research, or we are so beaten down that we stay and listen. We may take the drug addiction therapy route, maybe it’s been suggested by a medical professional or an acquaintance. There are many different routes we have taken, but they all lead to one place, abstinence based recovery and responsibility.

Some of us came into recovery with no ties, no family or employment responsibilities and had the ability to throw ourselves into the middle of it, partaking in groups, coffee shop recovery, copious meetings and volunteering for the treatment facility that supported us in our recovery. Some of us came in with the responsibility of children and employment commitments and could manage a few meetings and limited time for step work. Whatever route our early recovery takes us on, it’s individual to us.

The one thing we have in common is that we are usually emotionally, practically and spiritually stunted. We come in with debt, insecure housing health issues and unemployment. Some of us have been separated from our children as a consequence of our addictive and destructive behaviours.

What we are presented with, when we clean-up, is the dilemma of how to approach and deal with these issues, what we are presented with are new found feelings! We became numb through our using and didn’t have the capacity to feel or deal with reality, including paying bills, being reliable, caring for our children and participating in education and employment. It’s overwhelming and it feels like it was easier in our previous existence. We become accountable to those around us and we suddenly need to become present in our families lives. What this brings up are the flaws and dysfunction within our families, we become willing to change our behaviours and patterns, and our significant others can sometimes be reluctant to allow you to change. It’s very important to not take on board the issues your family have, your recovery is paramount. Working with your peer support group and speaking with your sponsor is very useful in these times, as they will have experience of how to address this. Over time it becomes easier to manoeuver the issues and separate out what is your property and what you can let go of. We let go of destructive, co-dependant relationships leaving room to form newer healthier relationships with likeminded people. We become emotionally mature enough to parent our children and to heal the relationship, set new boundaries and strengthen bonds, sometimes this takes years of work, but we are willing and are sometimes powerless over the outcomes.

Sometimes we struggle with multiple addictions, like food, nicotine, sex and shopping etc. all these can be detrimental to our recovery, but can addressed with the help of our sponsor, support network or seeking medical support. Overall our lives become better, we become reliable employees, friends and members of groups. We generally enjoy financial and emotional stability and when all seems hopeless we have an amazing group of people around us who have usually experienced the same feelings and who are on hand to remind us that it gets better, it will pass and you’re right where you need to be!