Addiction and Recovery

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Regardless of income, race, colour, religion or gender, addiction does not discriminate and may affect anyone. Recovering from addiction is a lifelong journey where individuals are faced with varying obstacles and challenges throughout everyday life.

The courage and strength of those recovering from addiction is unprecedented, as they often face discrimination and stigmas while maintaining their sobriety. With the majority of individuals never facing or being directly impacted by addiction, it may be difficult to understand the daily challenges individuals with an addiction face. The recognition that addiction is not an individual issue, but a societal concern, is a simple truth.



What is addiction?


To better understand what addiction is, and when treatment may be needed, it is helpful to understand what constitutes an addiction. According to World Health Organization, addiction classification must include three of the following criteria: (1)

  1. Tolerance. Does the individual increase use or exposure to the substance or activity?
  2. Withdrawal. Has the individual experienced physical or emotional withdrawal when they have stopped using the substance or withdrawn from the activity (i.e. anxiety, irritability, shakes, sweats, nausea, vomiting)?
  3. Limited control. Has the individual sometimes drunk or used drugs more than they would like? Do they sometimes drink to get drunk? Does one drink lead to more drinks sometimes? Do they ever regret how much they have used the following day?
  4. Negative consequences. Have they continued to use or participate even though there have been negative consequences to their mood, self-esteem, health, job, or relationships?
  5. Significant time or energy spent. Has the individual spent significant time in obtaining, using, concealing, planning, or recovering from their use? Have they spent a lot of time thinking about using or participating in addictive behaviours?
  6. Desire to cut down. Has the individual thought about controlling their use or limiting their activity?

If the answer is yes for three of the above criteria, you or the individual in question may be experiencing addictive behaviour. Realizing the first step is acknowledgement, and recognizing that support is needed in addressing the addiction are courageous beginnings to the recovery journey.


What causes addiction?


There are various causes that can contribute to an individual developing an addiction. The most common reasons often result from: (1)

  • Family history.
  • Poor coping skills when dealing with stress.
  • Negative thinking.
  • Underlying anxiety and/or depression.



What options exist?


There are numerous options available to those seeking help with their addiction: (2)

  1. Inpatient treatment.
  2. Outpatient treatment.
  3. Detox centre.
  4. Community and group therapy.


Life after treatment: Advice for maintaining sobriety.


Addictions are chronic diseases of the brain which arise from habits. Addictions are extreme forms of habits. An addicted person does not have any control over their impulses and is sometimes not conscious of their addiction.

Todd Ware is an Addictions Counsellor with the Homewood Clinic in Vancouver. Todd encourages transparency and supportiveness in the household and workplace.

“Try to cultivate an open door policy. It’s important for individuals to feel safe to admit when they are having health problems, whether mental or physical,” Todd says. “Instead of feeling like they’ve been caught, individuals with health problems should feel comfortable coming forward to ask for help.”

For employers and managers, he adds: “make clear what supports your organization has in place in terms of:

  • health and safety standards;
  • the transition to treatment;
  • job protection during treatment; and
  • support upon returning from treatment.”



How to support someone in recovery?


Being in recovery is a permanent state for the individual and the people who are supporting them. If you are involved with someone who is recovering from an addiction, here are some principles to live by: (3)

  1. Addiction is a disease. This is important to understand as someone who is supporting an addict. It means knowing you are not supporting someone with a character flaw or who is morally impaired. Addiction is both a medical and psychological disorder, and long-term use of drugs and/or alcohol can physically change the size and structure of brain cells. This in-turn changes the individual’s ability to manage their impulses related to substance use and abuse.
  2. Learn to recognize the signs of relapse. Depending on their drug of choice, or addictive behaviour, relapse signs may vary. Notice when the individual may seem off, especially if that off feeling persists.
  3. Listen. Be there to support and listen when needed.
  4. Engage in healthy habits with them. Being there to show positive lifestyle changes can help those in recovery feel better.
  5. Be supportive. Helping an individual to get to their 12-step meetings and support groups, or attending with them, can help to show that you are there for them.
  6. Be patient. Recovery isn’t easy. Changes won’t happen overnight. Relapse can occur and your loved one may not always be wholly focused or happy about living in sobriety.

Addiction and recovery are never-ending. It isn’t easy, but you are doing something that most people could never do.

If you or a loved one have questions about addiction and/or recovery options, speak to your primary physician or a qualified medical practitioner, local agencies within your community, or contact your Employee Family Assistance Program for the options available to you.



  1. Melemis, S. (n.d.). What is Addiction? Understanding Addiction. Retrieved from
  2. Addiction Treatment - Recovery Options for Drug Addiction. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Being a Good Friend: How to Support Someone in Addiction Treatment and Recovery. (2017, May 30). Retrieved from


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