Soft Addictions: We all have them, don’t we?

Posted on March 1, 2010. Filed under: addiction, Parent of an Addict | Tags: , |

My daughter, on our way to medical detox last August, asked if she could have a beer?  I said no.  She responded with, “Isn’t beer better than heroin?”  Hmmmm.  Yes and no.  She did have a point,  especially from a hard core drug user’s perspective.  If your qualifier is primarily an alcoholic, then no, alcohol would not ever be considered “ok”.  But if your qualifier is a heroin addict, then maybe a beer isn’t so bad?  Is it analogous, in some ways, to Tom at Recovery Help Desk, advocating for methadone use, itself a very addictive drug, to help get someone off heroin, out of the risky lifestyle, and lessen the addict’s craving? I don’t know. I’m merely posing the question.

I got to thinking about so-called ‘soft’ addictions, the insidious, more culturally acceptable crutches we all use to get through our days and lives.  What exactly is the difference between a habit and an addiction?

Have humans always used something to alter their consciousness in some way?  I think so.  And why?  Perhaps it’s because life is hard, and we all need coping mechanisms.  Some of these are healthier than others – but they all have a similar purpose – – – to numb and/or fill some kind of hole.

I have come to believe that we are born (nature) with a certain outlook on life – that is usually reinforced (nurture) by our life circumstances and family dynamics.  For me, life is hard.  We all, in my opinion, ‘use’ something to ease the burden of life’s everyday stresses and demands.

Yes, my heroin addict daughter represents the extreme in regards to this topic, but I ask the question – – – can you relate?  In many ways, I can.

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines habit as:  a pattern of action that is acquired and has become so automatic that it is difficult to break; an addiction, especially to narcotics.

And what about obsessive-compulsive behavior?  Where does that fit in to the habit/addiction continuum, and can’t OCD become harmful to relationships and life?

OK – let’s look at ‘soft addictions’.

After a tough day, do you come home and flop in your easy chair, grab a bag of chips and zone out in front of the television? Or maybe you compulsively check your e-mail, spend hours surfing the internet or stay up late chatting with strangers in chat rooms. Whether you get lost in cyberspace, over shop, watch too much TV, gossip, bite your nails, daydream excessively, procrastinate or over-exercise, you may be caught in what Judith Wright calls a “soft addiction”.

Soft Addictions are seemingly harmless habits that rob us of our time, zap our energy, numb us from our feelings, mute our consciousness and keep us from living the satisfying, meaningful lives we desire.

Soft Addictions can be activities, moods or ways of being, avoidances, and things-edible and consumable. Many soft addictions involve necessary behaviors like eating, reading, and sleeping. They become soft addictions when we overdo them and when they are used for more than their intended purpose.

Author’s Bio
Identifying Soft Addictions is just one of the eight key life skills shared by national best-selling author, speaker, and educator, Judith Wright in her new book, There Must Be More Than This: Finding More Life, Love, and Meaning by Overcoming Your Soft Addictions.

So – let’s look at ourselves.  Are you involved in a regular activity, avoidance, mood or habit that is a soft addiction?
Take this ‘Soft Addiction Quiz’ and find out, if you’re interested.

These questions, regarding addiction, are things to consider when evaluating if behavior is  a habit, compulsion, or addiction:

You Might Be an Addict If:

  • You are no longer comfortable around your old friends
  • You surround yourself with people who live their lives “high”
  • You have given up previously enjoyable activities – playing baseball, swimming, dancing, etc. to get high instead
  • You find yourself isolating yourself more and more – you spend countless hours totally alone and non-productive
  • People who love you (trusted family and friends) are telling you they think you have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol
  • The only people that agree with your assessment (you are not an addict) are the people you use with
  • If you have lost jobs due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have lost friends due to drugs/alcohol
  • If you have tried (time and time again) to control your habit … “I’ll only drink/use on weekends” … and you have failed repeatedly.
  • If you sleep something like 2 hours or 18 hours each day
  • If you have gained or lost a significant amount of weight rapidly
  • If you have ever been jailed because of substance use or issued a DUI

These are only some indicators that might suggest you have an addiction. Maybe the best indicator is how happy are you? Or, are you miserable a great deal of the time? As stated earlier, only you can determine if your substance use/regular behavior is a habit or an addiction.

“Our” heroin addicts are, of course, living with and exercising  ‘hard’ addiction.  But how big of a jump is it, really, from our culture’s socially acceptable  “soft addictions”, to the ‘big time?  What is the tipping point?  How many soft addictions are we allowed?  Which are ok?  Just wondering.

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6 Responses to “Soft Addictions: We all have them, don’t we?”

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This was a GREAT! Thank you for such a well thought out post. I think my soft addiction might be the internet.

Great post. I am “soft addicted” to food for sure, numb out on TV way too much (TIVO didn’t help this much). I don’t seem to have too much time to be addicted to anything else as I do the above together all evening after work! It comes and goes with me depending on the trauma in my life. I do feel more empathy for my son when I look at my own addictions and behaviors, especially the behaviors that I USED to do when his age. Thanks for an awesome topic.

Really interesting topic! I can empathize with addicts simply based on how hard it is for me to say no to chocolate. I don’t know what my soft addiction is at the moment, maybe reading blogs? I don’t watch TV and feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do, but I always make time to read blogs.

Your comment made me LOL Heather’s Mom!

I enjoyed this post too.

I do often think about how judgmental people can be about others when most of us show precious little self control in our own lives in some areas.

And remember that opiate dependence, for example, has strong genetic and physiological components.

I hope that thinking about our own soft addictions can help us have empathy for people who are opiate dependent (and often have co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety, depression, grief/loss issues or PTSD).

The key point is whether or not you are using a substance or behavior in spite of negative consequences.

Methadone is a slow-acting opiate that does cause physical dependence.

Methadone treatment results in positive consequences –not negative consequences. This is why it isn’t “just trading one drug for another.”

Thanks for this post.

That’s how I can relate to Heather – thinking of my “soft” addictions. I have to have desert after lunch AND dinner EVERYDAY. I escape through reading novels (usually about 3 hours a day) while smoking (not sure if this is “soft”!). Am known to hide in TV shows (usually with some Crunch’n’Munch). Oh, there’s FarmVille… I feel like I am in confession 🙂 lol
What an interesting post topic! Very thought-provoking and interesting. Thanks!
God bless.

Interesting. I often find the only way I can relate to my daughter’s heroin addiction is in comparing it to my need to self-medicate with food. It’s not immediately lethal like heroin, but an unhealthy habit, none the less. As for my daughter’s other soft-addictions (smoking and the occasional beer)…well, I prefer to choose my battles at this point. Heroin is the 800-lb. elephant in the room. If we can move him out, perhaps the lions and tigers will matter more. -Gal

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