An origin of an Addiction and a treatment perspective

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This post will present a story about the origin of an addiction and also provide a treatment perspective regarding the addiction’s progression. {Disclaimer: The story is neither a part of any of my case files nor am I using real names. The story was presented to me as a “what would you do?” situation}.

Jake was a carpenter who worked for a large construction company. His wife, Linda, was an elementary school teacher. Jake’s job was steady and he made decent salary and was generally happy with his work. Linda, however, hated being a teacher and decided to go law school.

While Linda was in law school, Jake supported them, as Linda did not work any paying jobs. After the three (3) years, Linda graduated, passed the Bar, and obtained a job in a private law firm. Linda was intelligent, hard-working, and proved to be a fantastic lawyer. However, the Great Recession hit Jake’s company hard and within two (2) years of Linda beginning her law career, Jake was laid off and, while he would find an occasional side job, he couldn’t find anything steady.

Linda, for her part, spent more and more time away from home, both with work and with social outings that didn’t include Jake. Socializing, according to Linda, came with the territory. Though Jake hadn’t been a heavy drinker, he began spending more and more time at bars, having a few beers. Over time, a few beers became several beers that included several shots of whiskey.

Soon, Linda started an affair with a coworker that escalated into a serious relationship. As she spent more time away from Jake, she had less and less in common with him. Coupled with her growing resentment that she worked while Jake frequented bars, it was only a matter of time before Linda left Jake for good.

Not only did Jake’s drinking escalate, but he also sank into a severe depression over losing his job and his wife. Without Linda’s income, Jake had no way to pay his rent. Due to his alcohol consumption, Jake’s health deteriorated until one day, he just didn’t wake up. The time elapsed between losing his job and his death was approximately three (3) years.

From a treatment perspective, there are three (3) key points: 1) Jake’s addiction did not happen overnight; rather, it developed in response to circumstances; 2) While treatment may have helped at any point, had Jake sought help to cope with the loss of his job, there is a probability that he wouldn’t have deteriorated further; and, 3) Jake’s depression was more than likely the key variable upon which a treatment plan could have focused, as his sense of self-worth was depleted as his life fell apart.

To distill a general framework, the origin and progression of Jake’s addiction is common: Adverse circumstance occur, a person does not know how to respond to those adverse emotions associated with the circumstances, the person seeks negative external means through which he or she can “cope;” an addiction develops until life orbits the addiction.

This general process underscores the need to develop mood regulation and coping skills such that adverse circumstances do not overwhelm someone. That is, bad stuff happens, how we respond to that bad stuff will generally determine our emotional and psychological health.

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2 comments

  1. Well said. Coping skills are essential.. For everyone.. Identification of proper skills and PRACTICE should be mandatory as well. All crises present opportunity for learning, growth and change. But we can save ourselves a few crises by having an ever-expanding reliable set of coping skills. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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