COVID-19 Update: We are currently accepting new clients with increased safety measures. LEARN MORE ›


Table of Contents


Buckeye Recovery Network and the Support Group we run is all about recovery from addictions. A lot of people might not know the basics about addiction. Even if you’re a veteran counselor, or if you’re here for the first time and you have a loved one in your life that’s struggling and you’re overwhelmed with it, we created a series of questions that people ask. These questions are something that are going to hopefully increase your insight and understanding towards addictions.

What is addiction, in simple words?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Steve Jobs. We can get so complex about addiction, but to keep it simple, addiction is defined as the continued use of a drink, a drug or a behavior despite negative consequences. We can start talking about the brain disease of addiction, trauma, multigenerational patterns, etc., but if you’re new to addiction and wondering how to know someone is addicted, it’s the continued use of a drink, a drug, or a behavior, despite negative consequences. 


It’s not just drug addiction or alcohol addiction – behaviors can be highly addictive. Even patterns of communication such as anger can be an addiction. For example, if you’re a person who blows up angry all the time. When you get angry, sometimes people don’t even remember things, they black out when they’re angry. They cause a series of consequences. People get hurt, wounded, things break. Afterwards when they snap out they say they would never do that again but if it’s someone who is known as an angry person, do they do it again? Yes. 

Despite negative consequences? Yes.

Despite the fact that their child is scared of their anger? Yes.

Despite the fact that they got arrested for anger? Yes.

What’s the difference between anger, behavior, and someone who’s using drugs all the time? It’s the same thing – it’s the continued use of a drink, a drug or a behavior despite negative consequences – that is addiction in the most simple form. Overthinking does not help the addict (or humanity).


The continued use of a drink, a drug or a behavior despite negative consequences.

How does addiction start?

A lot of family members start to overthink and wonder, “How did this happen? What did I do? What did I not do? What role did I play? What could I have done differently?” But none of that stuff really matters. Addiction starts at the onset of stress. The more stressed out we are as people, the more we are addicted to things. Why is there a correlation between stress and addiction? Addiction to substances and behaviors is a maladaptive coping skill to be able to reduce the levels of our stress.

I once worked with a 13 year old who liked smoking marijuana. When asked what he gets out of it, he says “I feel so relaxed, I feel so light, I feel the weight of the world off my shoulders” – a 13 year od kid said that. Prior to addiction his world started to feel heavy and overwhelming. That weed was the solution to that weight. That weed was the solution for him to manage and cope with what was going on. How does addiction start? With the onset of stress. How does addiction start?  Because of traumatic experiences that lead to stress. How does addiction start? Because of life circumstances that were overwhelming.

Addicted to Sleep

Even as adults, not just children, when we’re stressed out we start to act in addictive ways. Some people sleep in addictive cycles to manage stress. They may manage it for one night, but what you’re using will cause you to become more stressed out.

Addicted to Food

Even as adults, not just children, when we’re stressed out we start to act in addictive ways. Some people sleep in addictive cycles to manage stress. They may manage it for one night, but what you’re using will cause you to become more stressed out.

Addicted to Sports

Long before drugs and alcohol there are other addictions that people go through. Such as when you start playing sports for a while. It’s a healthy choice – nothing wrong with that – it’s a beautiful addiction. All the athletes say that when they step on that field or the court, they don’t think about the stresses of their life. It all goes away, it melts away.

Addicted to Video Games

Sometimes people dive into books and video games – this is not a drug addiction problem. From the release they get they’re not experiencing stress. There was a generation that didn’t experience video games but for kids right now when they go into the gaming world and put their headsets on and they start playing for hours and hours, there is no difference between that kid at 12-13 years old than an adult binge drinking 8-10 beers. Of course, alcohol and ethanol are more dangerous to the body, but what’s happening in the brain of an individual is the same. There’s nothing wrong with being a gamer, but there’s something wrong with an escape that becomes prolonged. We all deserve an escape, we play video games, watch some tv, go on the phone and scroll for a little bit. But when the escape becomes the norm and we’re in a constant state of escape that means we’re never present and living our life. We’re living in a world that doesn’t exist because the life we’re living in is too painful.

Why we engage in Addictive Behaviors

Watching someone you love get sick is stressful. Watching someone pass away after that sickness can cause serious sadness and depression and a lot of pain. The more we’re in pain the more we look for painkillers. One of the painkillers out there is food. It’s because when we eat a pint of ice cream, when that food goes through the system the body needs to digest all that so it doesn’t feel anything. It feels numb. It’s only when we wake up from that and understand what’s going on that creates an awareness. 


Glutamate, dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters of the brain. When we engage in behaviors that increase these three things we can become addicted to whatever is giving us the response, ie., food, workaholism, shopaholism, nicotine, video games, toxic relationships, etc. These addictive behaviors release those neurotransmitters and as feel-good junkies, we love that pursuit of pleasure and we do whatever we can to avoid pain.

Does addiction have a root cause?

There is not necessarily a root cause for all addictions but research and data have proven that early onset childhood trauma, not just at 2-5 years old, but even from the time when the baby is in the womb may be a factor. A mom that is under stress, who is overwhelmed and anxious has an impact on the neurochemistry and how it all wires together in the brain of the child. But even to the time of 18-24 years old, the more one experiences adverse childhood experiences that are rooted in trauma may develop addiction later in their life.

Some past traumatic experiences may be:

Physical abuse

Psychological abuse

Emotional abuse or neglect

A family member who was addicted to drugs or alcohol

A family member who was mentally ill

A family member who was locked up, incarcerated, sent to jail

Divorce or separation

Exposure to mom being physically abused by another person

Adverse Childhood Experiences

The more people have those adverse childhood experiences, the higher the chances are statistically, of developing addiction in their life. When the child is going through this stuff, they’re dysregulated, they’re anxious, their attachments are all off, they’re feeling scared, they don’t communicate. And as soon as a substance goes through their body it takes all of that away. So it is impossible to understand addiction without finding out what it is the person finds or hopes to find from the drink or drug, which is – relief. People want relief. But when a child is experiencing it, he or she doesn’t have the words to articulate it. So what do they do? They use a substance, drink or behavior, to make it go away, and then they start using it as a coping skill. If the environment is not changing, they continue coping with something that causes physical dependencies, so they become dependent and then they become addicted. The root case oftentimes goes to traumatic experiences. I would suggest you look up adverse childhood experiences, by Vincent Felletti.

Choose your Pain

We’re all addicted to something that takes away the pain. Some of those addictions are disciplined actions that can be positive for us and can be good. Being addicted to the gym, or a certain type of nutrition, or helping other people out – some of these can be positive and can take away the pain. Does that mean all of us have some type of fundamental pain in our lives? Most likely. As the saying goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” All of us experience pain. If you don’t go to the gym you’re going to be in pain, if you go to the gym you’re going to be in pain, so choose your pain. One of them has regret attached to it and one of them has a reward attached to it. If you don’t go to the gym you’re going to be in pain – your back is going to hurt, your body will be out of shape, you will physically struggle, it is not easy going upstairs, you will huff and puff. But if you force yourself to go to the gym, you will have to wake up when you don’t want to, sacrifice something in your day, rip up your muscles and feel sore so you can be stronger later on. So whether you don’t go to the gym or go to the gym you’re going to be in pain. One of them comes with regret, and the other one comes with reward. Regret weighs tons, reward doesn’t weigh anything – it feels good, it builds momentum to continue to go forward. So choose your pain.

How is addiction treated?

The best way to treat addictions is to never look at the behavior, or the substance use. That’s the worst level diagnosis you can go to. When looking at a person you have to look at them through the lens of a biological, psychological, social and spiritual dynamic. You must look at their biological makeup – their mom, their dad and their family background. Then psychology – their mind, their mental health, their anxiety, depression, motivation, how their brain operates. Then you want to look at their social connections – who are they in this world? Who are they connected to? What is their self esteem like? Then you look at their spiritual connection, something that grounds them. When you look at all of those areas, you get a picture of that individual. From that picture you start to see what they need to be treated. The reason why a good treatment works is because counselors and clinicians look at that person from that lens.

And you move forward from there. 


Not in all cases, but in most cases, the family should be involved. Addiction impacts the family equally. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer. The person going through the addiction process is as much impacted and is equal to the mom and dad and family members getting destroyed through watching that. Whether they have a part in that or not, it still impacts their mind, body and soul.

Can I beat addiction on my own?

There’s always one guy or gal who did it, but their experience is not a typical experience. The reason why it is hard to beat addiction on your own is because of the definition of addiction which is,

The continued use of a drink, a drug or a behavior despite negative consequences. 

If you continue doing something despite negative consequences, and you stop, why were you doing it in the first place? Because if you try to stop addiction on your own does that mean you can stop being stressed out on your own? Does that mean you can stop being angry, sad, afraid on your own? Most likely, no. because you can’t stop that. Life comes to us on life’s terms. If you are capable of stopping it you would have stopped it prior to the rounds and rounds of consequences that you’ve experienced for days, weeks, months, years of your life. 

We’re communal by nature. The opposite of addiction is connection. We need connection to get through this. Do you think you would have been able to find recovery for yourself without the support of your family members? As soon as another family member talks about their experience and you feel like you’re not alone, that’s when you’re starting to develop the psychological and emotional muscles to understand what is going on, let alone beat it or defeat it. 

Why do you think support groups are so effective? Because we don’t have to go through this by ourselves. Trying to fix your addiction with the same mind that got you there is not a very good idea.

“If you want to go fast, go by yourself. If you want to go far, go with others.” - African proverb

Are addictions genetic? Can addiction run in the family?

Absolutely, addictions can run in the family. There is a lot of evidence based on what people say at a face value that alcoholism, and some kinds of mental illness could be genetic. We can’t say genetics has no role in human development. When we look at a person, and then we look at their child they look creepily similar, so we know genetics is a real thing, we can’t deny that. However, it is an excuse to say their addiction is solely genetic. That’s a cop out. 

Here’s how things might appear to be genetic. If a grandfather was an alcoholic, maybe he was cold or didn’t have good communication, maybe he wasn’t really emotionally present, he was just checked out. When his son or daughter is being raised, they never received what they needed from the environment – they never got the love, support and care. So that person starts drinking and they feel so warm and good, and they start having addiction problems. They find a significant other, they get married, they have a child, and if someone’s an alcoholic, what kind of environment are they going to pass on to the child? One that’s cold, emotionally distant, with poor communication. And that child is left with the same feelings they had. They then use substances and what does it do? Now that child comes to our treatment center and thinks, since his dad, grandpa and himself are all alcoholics, it must be genetic. In reality, the environment of the grandfather created the environment of the father, which created the environment that the child is living in right now. Environments also get passed down from generation to generation. That’s why the coping skills (such as addiction) also get passed down from generation to generation.

Environments get passed down from generation to generation. That’s why the coping skills (such as addiction) also get passed down from generation to generation.

How does addiction affect the family?

Addiction affects the entire system. In a family system when one piece gets hit, it impacts the entire chain. When addiction impacts one member in the family, it impacts all of those who are connected – the whole family. One change causes a change in the other. When someone comes in and is addicted, the mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, and other close family members are also impacted. Everyone is impacted differently because each human being is unique. When one person comes in to get clean and sober and to stop their addiction  and starts changing, when that person goes back to the family, it will have an impact – the family is also changed. When someone is in recovery the family also has to find and seek  their own recovery. If you don’t, the family system will never work. It will pull back to equilibrium. When there are family members whose child comes home from rehab and they can’t handle the new version of the child because he’s different, they just offer him a drink because they can’t handle the change, so they pull the kid down, subconsciously sometimes. Family recovery impacts everybody.

Addiction 101: Questions people ask

Kelsey Gearhart

Director of Business Development

Kelsey carries multiple years of experience working in the substance abuse and mental health treatment field. Her passion for this field comes from her personally knowing recovery from addiction.

Prior to Buckeye she held titles of Recovery Coach, Operations Director, and Admissions Director. Kelsey was brought on at Buckeye Recovery as the Director of Business Development. She has a passion for ensuring every individual gets the help that they need, and does so by developing relationships with other providers.

Kelsey also oversees our women’s sober living environments – The Chadwick House for Women. She is committed to creating a safe, nurturing, and conducive environment for all women that walk through the doors of Chadwick.