Addiction is variously considered a response to inner demons, a lifestyle choice, a genetic quirk, a chemical imbalance, medical or psychiatric disorder - a distorted expression of spiritual longing - or a failure of moral will.

Addiction is a topic on which everybody seems to hold opinion – but on which few agree.

Some people seem more vulnerable to addiction than others. Those without it have difficulty to understand those who do. To those who suffer with addition – those without it are equally hard to understand.

Genetic and/or biological tendencies most certainly play a role. The events of early life - of family and social learning - may either defend or promote the likelihood of drug abuse and addiction. The widespread availability of symptomatic prescription drugs has produced an increasingly common path to addiction. 

Differing risk factors and life experience - accidents of chance and access - combine and mix to create an infinite variety of lives overtaken by the condition of addiction.

But often much misunderstood – is that true addiction is a condition distinct from its many possible reasons for occurrence.

Addiction is a condition best understood as similar to a heart attack.

Most of us know that there are many risk factors for coronary artery disease and eventual heart attack. These may include genetic tendencies, learned habit, obesity, a smoking addiction or cholesterol abnormalities.

But once a heart attack has occurred – something different and distinct has now come to be. A heart attack has its own symptoms and pathology. It has new ways to destroy health. It has a life and a course of its own. And it requires specific treatment to counteract its dangers.

To stop smoking after a heart attack – or to start on treatment for high cholesterol – are wise ways to minimize the likelihood of future problems. But they do not change the fact that a heart attack has occurred – and that your condition of health is now ever different than before.

All of this is similar for the condition of addiction. Addiction develops from – but is distinct from its risk factors for occurrence. It carries with it a powerful and destructive life of its own – and is requiring of specific measures to counteract its force.

The core and characteristic pathology that distinguishes true addiction from what came before – and from all other problems of drug use or abuse – is compulsion.

There are many reasons why one may begin to use a drug or a substance – and many other reasons for the abuse of such drugs. But the core and defining feature of true addiction - is a powerful, lingering and unexplainable compulsion - to us a drug or to engage in a behavior - that will dramatically alter your mental state and sense of feeling.

The compulsion to use drugs is tightly associated with compulsion to run – to avoid and to escape – away from any distress – and in pursuit of a magical state of perfect being.

Compulsion may grow out of habit. But compulsion is beyond habit. It has lost connection to any reason why one begins to use - to drink, to run or to evade in the first place. It arises from a place deeper in mind and brain than logical reasoning or psychological meaning.

True addiction is a compulsive appetite – a need for something and sometimes for anything – that will satisfy a craving for a way out of my self - and to a different state of feeling and of being.

Continuing to use when you do not really wish to do so – or relapsing after all best intentions to not due so – are hallmarks of compulsion and of addiction.

It is this compulsion that is so difficult for others to appreciate – either in its lingering persistence – or in its potential for destructive force over the addicted person. Many still search for meaning in compulsive behavior that has long lost connection to meaning or to psychological motivation.

Recovery refers to a process of learning to enjoy life – without the use of alcohol or other substances that alter mind or feeling. Recovery is specific treatment for the condition of addiction. The principles and the ways of Recovery counteract the tendency to act out with compulsive behaviors or relapsed use.

The process of recovery from addiction may benefit from all sorts of medical and/or psychiatric treatment. But a lasting recovery can never be manufactured by any of these means. And all treatment and/or support that is offered to one in addiction – may be measured in its therapeutic utility – by its concordance with the traditional principles and ways of Recovery.

The compulsion of addiction arises from a deeper place in the mind and brain than logical reasoning or psychological meaning. Recovery always requires a stepping beyond reason – beyond selfish ego and the habits of personal identity – and requiring an awakening to those aspects of experience that are beyond self centered wants and needs.

Addiction is a compulsive appetite for more and more of whatever fills me with the feeling that I desire at this moment in time. It is like a cancer of self centered ego – wanting what it wants – right now – at all cost and no matter what else.

Recovery is about learning that a healthy life is lived from the inside out – and about finding the means to make that possible.

SupportNet understands addiction as a condition of raging compulsion and its countless consequences – consequences to mind, brain, feeling, personhood, family, vocation, health and spiritual experience.

And SupportNet understands Recovery as the guiding principles and ways that counteract this compulsion – and that set the stage for a renewed and healthy life.

The goal of SupportNet is to educate and to empower your recovery from addiction.