Many marriages and families are quietly struggling with a spouse or family member with some sort of addiction. This is never really discussed openly in many cultures. Growing up, I saw a number of uncles, aunties, cousins and distant relatives that had one form of addiction or the other, especially alcohol, and this went on to destroy families and lives.They say too much of anything can never be good for you. Some of the most complicated relationships in life can be those we actually choose: the people we date, the people we live with, the people we marry, the people we have children with. Unlike our relationships with parents or siblings or cousins and so on – we actually seek out and are selective about those with whom we are romantic. Somehow, however, those relationships can take the most work. Addiction is destructive in any relationship and we need to know what it really is before we even start trying to find solutions to it.
Addiction is a psychological and physical inability to stop consuming a chemical, drug, activity, or substance, even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. The term addiction does not only refer to dependence on substances such as alcohol, heroin or cocaine. A person who cannot stop taking a particular drug or chemical has a substance dependence. Some addictions also involve an inability to stop partaking in activities, such as gambling, eating, pornography/sex or working. In these circumstances, a person has a behavioral addiction.
A lot has been said about Physical addiction, but today I want to focus on Behavioral addiction as this is a growing problem in our society affecting marriages, families and relationships. Also known as non-substance addictions or addictive behaviors, there are certain actions out there that people have found to be addictive. These can include addiction of , Food, Gaming, Plastic Surgery, Sex, Social Media,Gambling, Internet, Extreme Risks, Shopping and Pornography. The idea behind these is that someone feels the symptoms of addiction, but not to a substance. Rather, an action or set of actions that creates some calming feelings, or even euphoria, in the user.
I have had some friends and colleagues in my life that have had serious challenges in their lives and relationships because of a spouse gambling or addicted to some sort of pornography or substance abuse. Unfortunately the consequences of some of these addictions led to a couple of my friends losing their lives. These issues troubled me for some time as I wondered how such a disastrous consequences could have been avoided in families.
Some activities are so normal that it’s hard to believe people can become addicted to them. Yet the cycle of addiction can still take over, making everyday life a constant struggle. People may seek out more and more opportunities to engage in the behavior. The desire to experience a “high” from the behavior becomes so strong that the individual continues to engage in the activity despite negative consequences.
What are the Key Causes of Behavioral Addiction?
Often, when an individual does not feel his or her self-value, and worthiness for health and happiness, addictive behaviors can provide a sense of power, relief, and euphoria. When suffering from low self-esteem, happiness is obtained from outside sources, rather than from within. It opens the door for a sense of higher reward when engaging in pleasurable and exciting behaviors.
Trauma, Loss, and Guilt
Repressed childhood trauma, loss of a loved one, or guilt can devastate lives when left unaddressed. While the cause of the turmoil is often identifiable by an individual, it is often easier to “escape” the resulting pain and depression rather than address and process the cause. When this happens with any person, he or she is more susceptible to an addiction of all kinds, as there is a constant desire to escape the reality of the trauma.
Poor Social and Communication Skills
The most effective means of problem solving and survival is communication. As life-sustaining skills, socialization, and communication are inherent to human survival. Without developed communication skills, the ability to solve problems, and cope with life’s stressors, finding the path to happiness becomes difficult. Lack of skills to properly communicate and socialize deteriorates self-esteem. Additionally, this causes problems and stress to be internalized with no outlet. Living in such a state can quickly lead to the compulsive engagement of isolating behaviors. For example, these behaviors include gambling, gaming, internet usage, pornography and cutting.
I dont think anyone makes a choice to get married to an addicted spouse. There are a whole host of different things that can happen in the process of life that can cause this. In some committed relationships and marriages, addiction isn’t something that comes up right away. Addiction in a marriage, May not be apparent at the beginning of the relationship, May seem like normal behaviors early in the relationship, May develop after a short time together, May develop after years together, May have been there all along, May have been hidden from you by your partner
Understanding the addictive process and the danger signs can help you to tell the difference between addictive behavior, problematic behavior that’s not an addiction, and normal behavior that’s non-problematic or healthy.
Red flags include:
- Spending the majority of your time engaging in the behavior, thinking about or arranging to engage in the behavior, or recovering from the effects
- Becoming dependent on the behavior as a way to cope with emotions and to “feel normal”
- Continuing despite physical and/or mental harm
- Having trouble cutting back despite wanting to stop
- Neglecting work, school, or family to engage in the behavior more often
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal (for example, depression, irritability) when trying to stop
- Minimizing or hiding the extent of the problem
Often people with behavioral addictions eventually tire of the toll their behavior takes on their lives and the lives of those around them. They may also suffer losses that seem too great to bear, such as money problems, or relationship problems. What had at one time seemed exciting and fulfilling becomes an embarrassing burden.
So how do you as a spouse deal with a partner who has any of the above symptoms. Fortunately for those suffering from behavioral addictions, treatments that have been developed to treat substance dependencies have been successfully used to treat behavioral addictions. Addiction professionals are developing competencies to treat a range of addictions, and clinics exist that specialize in treating behavioral addictions. But the key think a spouse can do is to study your partner and get to the root cause of the addiction through dialogue. The healing can only start when the problem is known. What caused this once great person to start a pattern of addictive behaviors.
It is imperative to treat the individual and heal the mind, body, and spirit, facilitating the necessary empowerment and awareness to reclaim a happy and healthy life.No matter what the cause, behavioral addictions can be overcome with an individualized treatment specifically tailored to the person, his or her belief systems, and preferences. There is no generic solution. The key is to address the root of the problem, and then take the medical , psychological and spiritual steps to healing. In most cases, an intervention of some sort is necessary as most addictive behaviors are not easily let go of willingly. There are also specialized organizations that deal with specific addictions so it would help to get advice and counselling from people who know exactly how to treat this if it does become extreme.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthian 10:13-14 , “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”
What this means is that let us not put anything before God. Seek first Gods Kingdom and His ways. Anything you put before God is an Idol and must be cut off.
Wilbert Frank Chaniwa – Talking Marriage Today