The Grip of Addiction – by Jim Clancey BACP Accred

Addiction comes in many shapes and sizes. Drinking, shopping, gambling, drugs, pornography, gaming, sex and so on.  The repetitive returning to a behaviour that was initially supportive, can become counterproductive and harmful. What once felt like a gentle holding can become a firm grip that is difficult to break free from.

Whatever the reasons for getting caught up in an addiction, my training and experience informs me that the process is often the same. People choose to desensitise or escape from some uncomfortable aspect of their life or feeling. This is often coupled with a sense of belonging, maybe to a peer group, or to a sub culture of society. Initially the addiction can be supportive and helpful, equipping people with a deflection from stress and discomfort, enabling them to have a sense of belonging. Many addictions can also be enjoyable in their early stages enhancing peoples’ lives with euphoria, the belief that they are actually better off, or performing better when engaging with their addiction.

However, as the hold progresses, many people feel the negative effects of their addiction and often deny these, pushing them out of awareness. While friends and family members can often see the decline of the addicted person, they themselves will justify, minimise and attempt to deny that anything is wrong in an effort to protect the behaviour that has become not only familiar but a dependable. Along with the decline becomes health problems, isolation, relationships suffer, bills get put off, people begin to ignore their basic needs. In fact, I don’t know of another condition where people by choice, sacrifice their basic needs to continue engaging with a behaviour that is harming them on a day to day bases. Food, shelter, friendships and even people’s children can all come second to the addiction. This is the end of the scale where the grip has a firm grip and people struggle to free themselves.

There is a common metaphor often used in recovery circles.

‘Addiction is like an elevator traveling from the top floor to the basement. You don’t have to wait until it gets there, you can get of at any floor, however you have to take some action and push the button’.

The grip, no matter how tight, can be loosened and people can begin to revaluate the situation they Jim Clanceyfind themselves in. This elevator metaphor reminds me that people have a choice and can change. This is difficult to do alone and there are avenues open for people what want to make that change, helplines, addiction agencies, self-help groups and private counselling can all assist people in breaking free from this repetitive and often counter productive behaviour.


If you would like to book an appointment to see Jim Clancey, please call 01823 338968 or email

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