We all face problems, stressors and anxieties in our everyday lives. This is a fundamental part of the human condition, and there is no escaping this basic truth. Indeed, challenges help us to grow. The normal process is to perceive a problem and then bring our emotional and thinking abilities into play in order to solve the problem. We can draw on our own legacy of experiences, and we can find support from our life partners, friends, the community, society’s body of knowledge, and spiritual sources. Faced with a problem, we experience some anxiety – and this uncomfortable feeling motivates us to solve the problem in order to find our balance again. In the process, we become more flexible and more adept at dealing with problems in the future. As we mature, we discover that problems are not insurmountable – and we get better at problem-solving.

Consider, however, the addictive way of dealing with problems. The addict, too, faces life’s challenges. Rather than easing the anxieties associated with a problem by drawing on a diversity of healthy resources for a solution, the addict knows that at the end of the day there is always the alcohol, the drug, the food, the gambling, the sexual outlet, the work, any addictive substance or activity which will ease the anxiety. Thus, the problems are never solved in the real world, and the addict instead develops the illusion that the problem has been solved. The pain is gone and there is no perceived need to work on solving the real problems.

Unfortunately, it is the children, the partner, the family and friends of the addict who must suffer. Their needs for comfort, nurturance and safety are compromised, since the addict’s primary relationship is not with them, but with the addictive substance. Instead of finding true meaning in life, the addict pursues an illusory and primitive quest for the feeling of pleasure and power over life’s challenges – and it is those who truly matter in the addict’s life who suffer greatly.

Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT

San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.