In the part of the site where we discuss matters of mental health and wellbeing, this time we want to have a natter about addiction.

Hello and welcome to Wellbeing Matters, our weekly spot to take time out and have a look at what may be weighing us down in life. This week, a few words about addiction.

Addiction is a huge topic, and in one short article we can’t really begin to touch the many types or the multiple factors that come into play when we think of what it means. What it encompasses. For some, addiction is chemical – drugs, sugar or alcohol. For others, it’s the mental stimulus of the thrill, such as gambling, shopping or gaming. It can seem innocuous, that popping of a pain killer for physical pain. It can quickly become habit, a crutch to prop ourselves upon.

From a personal perspective, I’m the child of an addict. As such, it’s easy for me to view the topic from the victim mindset. Many things were done in my father’s addiction that caused lasting harm to our family. It was easy to find anger towards him, to blame him for burning our lives down around our ears.

It is less easy to find forgiveness. As an adult, I can now look back and understand much more the genesis of the illness that took my father. This doesn’t exonerate him from his actions – alcohol is a jealous mistress who lays waste to anyone questioning her supremacy – but it does help me forgive them.

Addiction comes with a host of emotions and behaviours. Deceit, anxiety, secrecy, shame. Anger, frustration. Sometimes hatred. For the addict, for the people around them. It leaves us vulnerable, uncomfortable. We may not be the addict, but we are tainted by association.

It is very hard to step back from. Hard to get a handle on; to repair what has been broken. Perhaps the isolation of the past few months has forced a light on the topic in a domestic context. It may be harder to conceal, to deny when everything is magnified and we have been restricted to our own four walls.

There is no easy answer to addiction. No smart advice I can give to those held by its grip, or damaged by its ricochet. The path to sobriety is different for everyone, and you may find you’ve broken one too many flagstones in your passage that you can’t rebuild a way back to your family and loved ones. But if you have felt the snare of addiction casting a shadow over your life, whether it be yourself with the addictive tendencies or a family member or friend, there are resources out there that can help you understand what addiction is, and help to deal with it.

The NHS has a number of services to support people with alcohol, drug, smoking and gambling addictions, and provides a broad guide to addiction here. They include links to find online directories for targeting specific types of addiction across the UK. Your doctor can also provide a first port of call for support, and can provide medication to help with withdrawal and treatment where appropriate.

The NHS lists support organisation for alcohol dependency here. There is also Turning Point, a charity which looks at dependency along with mental health issues, and can give support to both sufferers and their families.

Talk to Frank provides detailed information about drug addiction, for both addicts and their families and friends. Other drug support services are listed by the NHS here.

Support organisations for those with gambling addictions can be found on the NHS website here.

This is not an exhaustive list, rather a starting point for anyone looking to seek help. There are many excellent locally based charities working within communities to give support. Finally, if everything is overwhelming you right now, the Samaritans are there to help you whatever the issue, and can be called on 116 123.

Never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help. Taking that first step to call someone, text a helpline, to put the bottle back on the shelf, is huge. There will be wobbles, crumbling good intentions. But one thing that my father proved to me was that there can come a point where – despite everyone else giving up on you and walking away – strength can be found to say, enough. I need to deny the mistress her due. Be myself again.

Thanks, as always, for reading. And stay safe.

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