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Defining Addiction


So many wonderful people struggle with the question of whether or not they have an addiction or a dependency on a substance or a certain behavior. Denial, of course, prevents us from being completely honest with ourselves.

We are taught from childhood to be self-sufficient, to solve our problems, to learn to care for ourselves. Naturally, we feel we must be able to stop these behaviors without any help. The problem is, we do not really understand why we behave in such ways.

Here is my definition:

When the need to fill your inner emptiness by using something outside yourself to provide a sense of inner satisfaction or fulfillment becomes desperate, repetitive, or automatic, you have an addiction.

I have underscored some of the critical words for us to focus on today. When the need becomes great, we drink, take a pill, shoot up, watch porn. What is that internal drive that makes us feel that it is not optional, it is an absolute “need?”

We get the feeling that our “inner emptiness” is begging to be filled, that the pain needs to stop, that the anxiety, the fear, the sense of hopelessness must be quieted.

But how?

So, we find something “outside” ourselves. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling – to give ourselves a “sense” of “inner satisfaction.”  It works for the moment, but in a short number of hours it is gone and the only way to resolve the negative feeling is to repeat the process over and over again. It becomes “automatic.”  Of course, it only gives us a “sense” of satisfaction.  It doesn’t take care of the problem, otherwise, we would never repeat the behavior again.  What we NEED, is a permanent solution.

This is where the understanding of trauma comes in. Learning what the “inner emptiness” is that must be filled regularly. When we learn that answer, we begin to find ways to fill in those feelings with healthy behaviors that work.

In treatment, we not only make this critical discovery, but we also learn how to manage other issues in our life that have become corrupted by our negative behavior. This is how the life we always knew we could have becomes a reality. Our family and friends, our job, our health come back to us in a wonderful way.

As I have told tens of thousands of patients over the years – Treatment Works!

Live in Joy, befriend all you meet, Love yourself!

Dr. Fred

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