Addiction is more than simply making a single poor decision.
Nobody wakes up one day and decides that they are going to become addicted to substance abuse. Instead, this disease is often rooted in deep-seated issues that you may not even realize you are struggling with.
You may not be able to see it, but over time you may slip ever-so-slowly downward into the spiral of addiction.
Addiction: The Early Influences
Growing up, were you exposed to healthy influences or unhealthy influences? These experiences are important because they can shape how you make choices later on in life.
Some examples of unhealthy influences and experiences are:
- Having easy access to alcohol
- Seeing others, such as friends or family, use substances
- Being exposed to physical or mental abuse
- Experiencing a traumatic event, or multiple such events
- Trying alcohol or drugs
When you combine these factors with poor or non-existent parental guidance, it can easily set you up for a lifetime of addiction.
Making a poor decision like substance abuse—when put into the context of early influences—helps you to better understand how addiction can happen in the first place.
Addiction: The Adult Years
Still, it is possible that you have grown up in a well-adjusted household and still struggle with addiction as an adult. Why? Because life throws you curve-balls all the time.
Think for example about things like:
- Losing your job
- Dental work
- Experiencing the death of a loved one
- Not fulfilling your goals
- Believing your life doesn’t have meaning
- Experiencing or witnessing a violent or traumatic act
When these curve-balls get sent your way, it can be tempting to cope with the feelings associated with those events through drugs or alcohol. Often, it is easier to “numb” those feelings than to have to face them head-on, because doing so would cause more pain and suffering. Something you would much rather avoid.
Yes, it may be a poor decision to use substances to cope, but it may happen anyways. Understanding why you use is important for getting the help you need.
Addiction: The Genetic Factor
There is still one other factor that contributes to addiction: genetics.
Obviously, there is no “magic gene” that is the big red warning light that signals addiction. Rather, there are many genes that can influence whether or not someone is susceptible to substance abuse, especially if the gene is present, missing or defective.
Some examples of genetic influences include:
- When the Htr1b gene is missing, one is more like to be addicted to alcohol and cocaine.
- A defective Per2 gene can mean a predisposition for consuming more alcoholic beverages than normal.
- Those who don’t smoke likely have the gene CYP2A6, which can help prevent them from picking up the habit.
- People with the A1 allele of the DRD2 gene may struggle with cocaine or alcohol use.
Of course, we have many genes and genetic traits in each of us. Your genes don’t have to doom you to addiction.
Yet, genes can help provide context and explain why addiction is occurring. This is especially true if you have a history of substance abuse in your family.
What to Do When You Struggle With Addiction?
As mentioned above, there can be several causes of addiction: early experiences, life experiences, and genetic issues. In fact, all three can be a factor at the same time for whether or not someone makes a poor decision to drink or use drugs.
However, instead of throwing up your hands and writing-off your addiction as hopeless, you can do something proactive about it. Take the step and work with a therapist who is trained in addiction counseling. By working with a counselor, you can better understand the roots of your addiction and its causes, get the help you need, and work towards living a healthier life.