Do I Have an Addiction?
By Kim Bowen
It can be porn. Or some other form of internet activity. Or food. Or alcohol. Or drugs – legal or illegal.
It can involve a behavior, such as gambling or video games. Or a relationship, such as an emotional attachment to someone you know isn’t healthy for you to be around. It can even be an addiction to a device, like your smart phone.
Regardless, every person who is serious about cultivating a thriving marriage needs to ask: Am I addicted to something – anything – that could damage my marriage?
What is addiction?
Rather than give you the technical definition as defined by the American Psychological Association, I thought I’d describe it in more simple terms.
Most experts accept four indicators of unhealthy addictive behavior, as outlined in the descriptions below by Kay and Milan Yerkovich in their “How We Love” series:
- Compulsion to use. The behavior becomes less of a choice, almost to the point that if you see it or think about it, you must do it.
- Continued use despite adverse consequences. You don’t stop the behavior when someone discovers you or it causes problems of some type.
- Lack of control. You’ve made repeated attempts to stop the behavior and failed.
- Craving. You experience what seems like an overwhelming desire for the physiological or physical effect of the behavior.
Could you be addicted?
Good question! How would you answer these questions?
- Have you felt compelled to engage in a certain behavior even when you know there will be negative consequences?
- Have you spent less time with your spouse, children, or work due to this behavior?
- Have you attempted to stop, and yet return again and again to the behavior?
- Do you, even as you’re reading this, look forward to the next time you can engage in the behavior?
If you answered yes to these, you have an addiction.
The real question
Now hear this – I don’t actually care how you answered these questions or whether you define yourself as an addict.
What I DO care about is what you do with it – the action you take.
We find in our work with couples that understanding something intellectually doesn’t produce change. In other words, just being aware of an issue doesn’t fix it. Taking action does.
If there is even a hint of something that could slither its way between you and your spouse, I say attack it with everything you’ve got. Your marriage is that important. A strong marriage serves as the foundation and launching pad for every other element of your life. From waking to sleeping, from work to leisure, from your children to your grandchildren – the richness of your marriage affects it all.
So Do Something!
One of the most basic, but critical, things you can do is to start talking about the issue.
Addiction, as with any other problem, only has power in the dark. If you want to attack it, the first thing you must do is flip on the lights and expose it. As I’ve said before, you have a choice: talk about it, or give into it.
We can give you a safe place to talk it out. Whatever the issue is, our counselors and coaches know how to guide you through it in a healthy way. Simply reach out. That is an action you can take right this moment. Do it now, for your marriage.