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There are many definitions of addiction. John Bradshaw, noted author and lecturer, defines addiction as "a pathological relationship with a substance, person, thing or event which is mood-altering and which persists in spite of negative life-altering consequences." Another way to ask yourself about the possibility of your being addicted is: "Do I have it or does it have me?".

The "it" in the statement above can be anything. It can be any of a multitude of substances including alcohol or other drugs. It can be a relationship with a person which seems necessary for you to continue living. It can be related to gambling, food, sex, work, power and control, or just about anything else. Bradshaw semi-jokingly used the example of a woman who vacuumed her floors 16 hours a day, saying that this woman might be addicted to cleanliness.

Compulsivity is the key factor in examining your relationship to anything in your life. Compulsion is at the root of addictive behavior. If you feel that you "must" perform a certain behavior, in spite of knowing that you are hurting yourself and/or others and knowing full well that there will be negative consequences, you are compulsively pursuing something to which you are likely addicted. If you tell yourself that you do not need to do something and you do not do it, perhaps you are not addicted or acting in a compulsive behavior.

Following are some issues to consider when evaluating whether you find yourself addicted to something:

1. Do you make plans for participating in this activity, relishing the thoughts of performing the rituals associated with the behavior?
2. Do you find yourself keeping your behaviors secret from others? Do you hide when performing these acts?
3. Are you focused on when you can next do this?
4. Are other people concerned about your behaviors? Have they asked you to consider cutting down or eliminating the behaviors in question?
5. Does it take more to get the good feelings, the "high" that is obtained from the behavior? In other words, do you need to drink more, drive faster, make a bigger bet, eat more, binge more?
6. Is there a risk associated with the behavior, and, if so, when you think of the feelings you have when taking the risk, is the risk an important part of what you are doing?
7. Do you take resources that belong to others, e.g. time, money, energy, to pursue your relationship with something, knowing that you are not behaving in ways that will enhance the health of yourself and others?
8. Do you find that you are increasing in frequency of the behavior in question?
9. Do you make promises to yourself that you will cut down or stop and then find yourself doing the behavior just as much or, probably, even more?
10. Do you have feelings of guilt and shame which are strong, but not powerful enough to make you stop?
11. Do you find that you are resentful and defensive when others ask you about your behavior?
12. Have you made efforts to stop, only to eventually return to the behavior?
13. Have there been negative legal, moral, social, financial consequences of your behavior? Have these situations embarrassed you, but still you have continued on the path?
14. Do you have a family history of compulsive or addictive behavior going back for generations?
15. Do you tell yourself that the dangers associated with what you are doing are exaggerated by others and in the press?
16. Do you feel at times that you are driven to do what you do? Do you feel at times as if you are in a trancelike state when performing the behavior? Have you experienced actual "blackouts" which cause you to not recall your actions of a given period?
17. Do you increasingly seek out the company of others who engage in behaviors similar to yours? Or, do you increasingly seek secrecy to hide the shame you feel?
18. Do you spend more money than you can afford on the behavior?
19. Do you find yourself making a promise that the next time will "definitely be the last time"?
20. Have you violated your own most strongly held beliefs and values?
21. Do you feel that you are not in control of your own life?

There are many types of addictions. If you answer "yes" to more than six of the above questions when thinking of a specific behavior you engage in, perhaps you need to look more seriously at your life.

One can be addicted, as mentioned above, to almost anything. Areas of addiction include, but are not limited to: gambling, sex, control, rage, food, exercise, another person, chemicals, spending, television, the Internet, smoking, rejection.

The good news is that today there is a 12-Step program for almost anything. The first course of action is to admit that you are out of control and are behaving in a compulsive or addictive fashion, break through your denial, and then seek help in either a 12-Step program, professional counseling, or both. There is plenty of help out there. You do not, cannot, should not try to fight this battle alone. Seek help. Do it today.

It is healthy to live one's life so that one is in charge. You do not want to have a relationship with any thing, chemical, person in which you feel that "it has you." The goal is for you to "have it" and to be in charge of your own life. It is not a sin or a source of shame to be addicted. Take an honest inventory of yourself and if you find you are addicted, do something about it. Admit it and seek help. A better, more satisfying life awaits you.