At Omega Recovery we view addiction as a self-medicating symptom of some other underlying distress. That underlying distress can be different in each person: childhood trauma, psychiatric imbalance, physical pain, toxic relationships, existential crisis, habituation to addictive medication, personality disorders, unresolved bereavement, internalized shame, etc. For each person, those issues can come together to form a unique “perfect storm” of active addiction. But meaningful recovery is not just detoxing the person from the substances or the addictive behavior; it’s understanding and then treating the issues that led to the self-medication and also helping the struggling addict develop a better sense of Self–and to re-write and reframe their “story” in a more healthy and meaningful way.
Further, we understand that addiction corresponds very highly–by some estimates, over 70% of the time–with other mental health disorders, primarily anxiety and depression; that in those cases, the addiction is the result of a person who is attempting to self-medicate the anxiety and/or depression, but then became hooked or dependent on the alcohol, substances or behaviors that were providing some relief for the depression and anxiety. But what the field of psychology is beginning to understand–and what we embrace at Omega Recovery–is that many of these underlying stressors (anxiety, depression, isolation, fear, low-self esteem, a sense of emptiness) are culturally based and byproducts of our modern Western society.
According to Dr. Steven Ilardi, the University of Kansas psychologist, researcher and author of The Depression Cure (Da Capo, 2009) “Americans are 10 times more likely to have depressive illness than they were 60 years ago…and a recent study found the rate of depression has more than doubled in just the past decade”. Globally, things aren’t much better; according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 450 million people worldwide are directly affected by mental disorders and disabilities and that by 2030 depression will top the list of all other health conditions as the number one financial burden around the world.
Why? Why are we getting more stressed out, more depressed and more addicted?