Despite preconceived notions of the “addict,” alcoholism, drug abuse and addiction can impact the life of absolutely anyone. It is just as impossible to define what draws a person to a substance as it is to define what draws two people into a relationship.
Addiction develops out of a complex interaction based on how the effects of the addictive object match up with the needs of an addict.
Influencing factors often include:
- Lifestyle and personality predispositions
- Physical predisposition
- Attitudinal predisposition
It is difficult to say who is at risk for alcoholism and abuse. In New York and Princeton, otherwise highly functional people cope with addictive behaviors every day. High stress levels, biological vulnerabilities and environmental exposure to substances all influence a person’s risk of developing an addiction. For this reason, it is difficult to pigeonhole a stereotypical “addict.”
Once a person has learned—from family, society, or his or her own experience—that activities like food, sex, gambling, alcohol and drug use provide a magical transportation away from uncomfortable feelings or moods, it is a short hop to the next circular path down the vortex of addiction.
As the ability to assess realistically either the original problems or the negative effects of the addiction are lost, denial sets in. Blame for the original stressors and for any new or emerging problems related to the addiction are frequently placed on external circumstances or others. Once denial sets in, the addict no longer perceives reality appropriately and is unable to understand the negative consequences of their alcoholism and abuse, or the evidence that their habit has progressed into a problem.
At this point the communication lines are severed, and an otherwise intelligent and high-functioning person may find themselves deep within the grasps of addiction.
Addiction is often a slow decline, but in particularly stressful situations the onset of addiction may develop quickly. The important thing to recognize is that addiction can affect absolutely anyone. Once a habit becomes a compulsion and negative consequences are emerging the behavior can start to be looked at in terms of addiction.