A Quick Reprise of the Addiction Definition

I need to a clear addiction definition to stay alive.

Hi! Happy 2015! If you’re new to the website, welcome. I’ll hope you’ll keep coming back.

Addicts are masters of the bob and weave--dodging the addiction definition like a prizefighter. [See credit below.]

Addicts are masters of the ol’ bob and weave–dodging the addiction definition like a prizefighter. [See credit below.]

I wanted to bring up my addiction definition again. I’ve talked about it before, but it’s buried back under dozens of more recent posts. Unless you’re one of the stalwarts who has slogged through every post on the site, you may have missed it or just not gotten to it yet.

So here’s the deal: There are countless stabs at an addiction definition out there and the ongoing confusion has allowed addicts to bob and weave like a prizefighter to keep from having to face up to the frightful truth: Addiction and all it brings with it are destroying the addict’s life and the lives of those who surround him or her.

The addiction definition shouldn’t be a moving target.

Some people talk about addiction as though it were the same as a bad habit. Professionals will frequently employ an addiction definition that, while descriptive to the clinicians, leaves the rest of us glassy-eyed with a stream of saliva dribbling out the side of our mouth. Comedians use addiction as a punchline in their jokes. Some folks will even talk about addiction fondly and with pride. None of this is helpful to me.

The problem I ran into a long time ago was that while everybody else was doing this definitional barnyard dance, my life was a wreck and I was dying. I was going to be dead long before anyone reached a consensus about what addiction actually was. So I came up with my own addiction definition. I’m not saying it’s the best. I’m certainly not saying it’s scientifically accurate. I’m just saying that I can’t wait any longer! I need a definition that allows me to understand what’s wrong with me so I can get help and then help others.

Andrew’s addiction definition.

So here again is Andrew’s Addiction Definition:

  • Some behavior is messing up my life. So I stop the behavior.
  • Then I stop again. Then I stop again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again. And again.
  • I can’t stay stopped.
  • I am addicted. I need help.
  • Period.

See, the proof of addiction isn’t in how often I engage in the behavior; it’s in how often I’ve tried to stop and failed.

Think about it! If I stopped consuming porn and engaging in self sex fifty times a year at age twenty and then stopped fifty more times each year until I died at the end of my 80th year, that would mean that I stopped my behavior about 3,000 times.

Another way of saying it is that I never stopped!

A little disclaimer: I’m not saying that I’m the first person to articulate the addiction definition in this way. I’m sure many people have already said pretty much the same thing long before I got a clue. My point is that for purposes of finding a solution to my problem, I needed to own an addiction definition. I couldn’t rely on other people to define what was wrong with me. My life was at stake.

OK, so armed with this definition of addiction, I looked at my life and saw–for the first time, really–that I was an addict. Now what? I needed to get help.

With the right addiction definition, I can get help and get well.

I found help in Sexaholics Anonymous. Years later I continue to attend at least three meetings a week. Oftentimes, it’s more like seven meetings a week. I’ve become willing to do whatever it takes. I have a sponsor and make a lot of phone calls. Guys in the program help me and I help them. I work the 12 Steps of AA as applied to lust addiction. I remove every vestige of lust in my life the same as a recovering alcoholic might get rid of every bottle he’s stashed around the house.

I am experiencing an ever more profound sobriety and recovery and if I continue to work this program of recovery, I will be sober to the end of my days. When I die, the Lord will wrap His loving arms around me and say, “Well done, though good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).

Some people may think it’s a bit odd that I see my addiction as a blessing. Yes, it’s been painful, both before recovery and since. But it has also been wondrous. I wouldn’t trade who I am today for anything else in this world.

[Image credit: Mark Pellegrini by way of Wikimedia Commons]


A Quick Reprise of the Addiction Definition — 6 Comments

  1. Thank you again for a wonderful post. I have been going back over all of your posts and reading them again. I do this after my wife and I read the Book of Mormon together. Though the important program for recovery from addiction is in meetings (we have a PASG that is run exactly like an SA meeting.), our personal relationship with each other and God is strengthened by reading the B of M together.
    I have been sober now for almost 17 years, but still, I must continue to work the 12 steps so that I don’t slip back into denial. Your posts help me do this.
    Also, after having worked with an addiction counselor for several years, I believe your definition of addiction is a very good one.
    God bless you and keep writing!

  2. You have just PERFECTLY described my husband’s unsuccessful attempts to rid himself of his addiction. He is so angry now, when he’s not being utterly bland about it. He couldn’t see it, he wouldn’t see it, and he is drowning in denial. I am getting better, but some of my friends and acquaintances are not. It’s about turning myself in the absolute direction of God. I find that a lot of my “treasures” are left behind, and I don’t even notice they’re missing until I accidentally turn away from God.

    12 steps are a lifesaver. No exceptions, there is no person who couldn’t benefit from all of the 12 steps.

  3. I love this. Thanks again for your honesty and straight up answers. I hear guys in my meetings talk about how its only every once in a while that they struggle with it. I’ve never thought about it until now, but I wonder if there was a way I could ask them what they defined addiction like without it sounding like I’m trying to prove something, because I’m really curious.
    But I was just thinking about it and thought how I viewed it while acting out to lust for the last twenty years of my life until I realized that I was really addicted. I guess I just always thought of addicts like drunks wandering around aimlessly on the streets and fighting everyone. What’s funny is in a sense I was doing the same thing. Haha. It’s funny (but mostly sad) how completely messed up my view of reality was and still is. I feel like I’m learning every day how broken my thinking is, which is a good thing, but a crappy thing at the same time.
    Anyways, sorry to run off on a thought there, thanks again!

  4. Andrew, I have been looking around your website for a place to say “thank you” for the site and your postings which are so full of honesty. My husband is currently in an LDS facility for his porn addiction, and as the survivor left at home, confused, in pain, angry, I have spent a lot of time on line, looking for understanding and comfort. YOUR SITE wins the prize, everything here is just what I am looking for and need. Excellent work, again, many thanks.

  5. This is exactly why I created an Addiction Dictionary. Ive compiled a list of definitions from multiple sources all the way from Drs, to big wig companies, and even the lds church’s definitions. Im tired of programs (including SA) or therapists not being more up front about what things ARE. Most porn addicts don’t even know the true definition of pornography, masturbation, relapse etc. and are left to making up their own. The insanity has to stop.

    Addiction Dictionary: Definitions of Common Addiction Terms