September 19, 2018

What is Addiction?

Written by Alex Thompson

We recently sat with St. Christopher’s COO, Brandy Klingman, LMSW, BACS, and Zach Knippenberg, BSW, RAC, to discuss addiction and how it affects family members. The following is are excerpts from that conversation.

What is addiction?

Zach: There is a ton of stigma associated with the word addiction. You think of someone really down on their luck, maybe homeless or without a job. Our job through social media, and as treatment professionals and just advocates in general, is to raise awareness of what addiction really is, what it looks like, and how we can help.

Addiction isn’t a black and white thing. Addiction is a spectrum and on that spectrum, we can see how far along or not far along someone is.

Brandy: I think that spectrum is a really good way to perceive it. I think that it’s also a good way for families to understand that it’s not all or nothing for their loved one. Mom drinking a glass of wine is very different than mom drinking four bottles of wine every night, or someone drinking at parties in college is very different than someone drinking constantly or binge drinking. The most important thing about spectrum is it kind of gives us a perspective to measure what’s the damage and what we are going to be treating. Like what we do for most other illnesses, we say this is stage one or this is stage two, or this is an aggressive form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. Similarly, the truth is, that’s the case with addiction right now.

Zach: Absolutely! And that’s a great point, I’m glad you mentioned that especially comparing with other illnesses and seeing if it’s more aggressive or in remission or if it’s less aggressive, is an excellent way to view if someone might stand on the spectrum of potential addiction.

Brandy:  Sometimes that spectrum is used in a healthy way and sometimes it may be used in a harmful way and enable someone to stay in addiction a little longer than they need to be because we are minimizing the aspects of their use due to the spectrum. We say, “well in comparison they are not on the street, so they are not buying from drug dealers”. So we kind of let that slide a bit.

Addiction can be associated with trauma, but it can also happen to someone who had a great life. Mom and Dad didn’t do anything wrong or right in creating addiction, it just happens.

Have questions about addiction or think someone is in need of treatment? Contact us today for a confidential conversation about issues you or someone you know maybe facing.