What really is addiction? The dictionary describes it as an “obsession, compulsion or excessive physical and psychological dependence.” We at Family Outreach Ontario believe alcohol is also a drug; it is mood altering, as are over-the-counter and illegal drugs.

A person’s addiction to alcohol and drugs is today recognized as a disease, it is one of both physical and mental dimensions. The mental part of the disease is an obsession with the mood altering drug; the physical part is an intense craving. To understand this better consider for example a “normal” drinker. After two or three drinks normal people feel tipsy and a little out of control. Since alcohol is a poison, your body may even feel nauseous; it is probably telling you you’ve had enough and more would tell the body to vomit. For the alcoholic, they never feel slightly tipsy or out of control! The addict feels in control, and the body’s physical craving takes over. What was to be one or two drinks becomes three, four and so on. The same holds true for a drug addict. Once the physical craving has set in, the mind has lost all control. The physical craving happens only when a substance is introduced initially into the body, not before. Once introduced, the physical craving occurs, the addict cannot stop. This is why we believe in total abstinence, and it is very achievable through support and education. Remember, for the “normal” drinker the mind AND body says that’s all I want and need after two or three. In the case of a drug other than alcohol, the beginning of use is different but the outcome is very similar as in alcohol. Drugs in general are highly addictive and often dangerous in the first “try”. It is not willpower that will stop a normal drug addict or alcoholic from using, it is the mind and body in unison.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is permanent, progressive, predictable and primary. It is not curable but is definitely treatable. Through wrong choices and repeated abuse, the addict has lost control over the affect that the drug (alcohol included) has on his/her mind and body. In order to live sober a day at a time, an addict has to seek the community and support of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol can be overcome. It is holistic and an “equal opportunity” disease. It is no respecter of race, religion, gender, profession or wealth. Addiction is more than a moral issue. It affects the person in a physiological and psychological manner.

Addictions affect relationships. Thus the whole family adapts, covers up, and enables the addict to continue. Not only the addict but also family members develop delusional systems often not even noticed by the family involved. This denial contributes towards co-dependent behaviour for family members and friends.