Every addiction – like every other "dysfunctional" behaviour – serves a purpose. When I work with people with addictions – whether to alcohol, drugs, sex, eating, gambling, or something else, my particular focus is on resolving the underlying causes of the problem of addiction, rather than only on modifying the addictive behaviour itself. Regardless of the specific focus or "substance" of addiction, addictive patterns of behaviour can be seen as a means of managing or "medicating" some internal stress response, an internal pattern of reaction, or feeling, that existed before the person developed any addiction to a particular substance or behaviour. The pattern of feeling or reaction was experienced as unmanageable or intolerable, and the addiction was developed as a means of masking or escaping the feeling(s). At a certain point, cravings themselves take over as the intolerable feeling that must be "medicated," creating a secondary layer of problem that also serves a purpose - to mask the original problem.
I engage in a holistic approach that includes modifying behaviours, addressing patterns of thinking, encouraging people to follow a recovery program such as a 12-step program, while also focusing on helping the person become more aware of their internal reactions and feelings that are associated with their addictions. This sometimes involves learning where these responses originated and then addressing, healing or correcting those earlier life experiences.
Addictions are sometimes a “mask” for depression, or “self-medication” for anxiety. In these cases the underlying depression or anxiety must be addressed. I also help people to learn new skills to regulate their emotions and reactions, as well as to develop a new sense of self that is based in wholeness, in self-awareness and in engagement in life, rather than in shame. The more a person has confidence in being able to tolerate and manage their feelings, and to successfully manage situations that "trigger" them, the less they feel the need to "use". The more feelings of inner shame and negative beliefs are changed into positive beliefs and a positive sense of self, the stronger the motivation to be well and to stay healthy.