What is Addiction?

Addiction is a complex, chronic brain condition influenced by genes and the environment that is characterized by substance use or compulsive actions that continue despite harmful consequences.

For a long time, addiction meant an uncontrollable habit of using alcohol or other drugs. More recently, the concept of addiction has expanded to include behaviors called process addictions, such as gambling, internet use, gaming, and pornography, and even ordinary and necessary activities, such as eating and exercise.

Rather than using the term “addiction,” the DSM-5 classifies substance use disorders. While the diagnostic criteria vary for each type, the DSM-5 describes these disorders as a problematic pattern of use of intoxicating substances that leads to significant impairment and distress. These symptoms can result in impaired control, social impairment, risky use, and tolerance/withdrawal.


The signs and symptoms vary from one addiction type to another, but some common symptoms of addiction include:

  • An inability to stop when intended
  • Changes in mood, appetite, and sleep
  • Continuing despite negative consequences
  • Denial and minimizing the impact or amount of use
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Feeling preoccupied with the substance or behavior
  • Legal and financial problems
  • Losing interest in other things you used to enjoy
  • Putting the substance or behavior ahead of family, work, and responsibilities
  • Secrecy, lying to cover up the use or behavior
  • Increasing the amount of a substance (or behavior) used to achieve the desired effect
  • Taking more of the substance or involvement in the behavior longer than intended
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the substance or behavior has abruptly stopped


To recover from an addiction is an incredible accomplishment. Going to a treatment program and becoming sober means you have done something to help yourself and those around you.   There are free programs right here on Moloka’i to welcome anyone who has the desire to find sobriety.    Intensive Outpatient and Outpatient treatment is available.  Referrals for residential treatment can be made to off-island programs.  It begins with a phone call to KHP (808)558-8480 or to CARES (800)753-6879.  Addiction recovery is possible and very rewarding, but maintaining sobriety is still a-day-at-a-time challenge. If you begin to lose sight of the reasons you agreed to get help in the first place, stop and consider the benefits of staying sober.

Benefits of Sobriety

Whatever the cause or reason for one’s addiction, the recovery process is not easy. It can be especially hard when one’s family members or friends are involved in drug or alcohol misuse or the process addiction behaviors are normalized.  Unless the individual changes how they navigate their environment, relapse can occur.  Yet, the advantages of sobriety far outweigh returning to active addiction.  These include things like:

  • Improved Physical Health: One of the greatest benefits of staying sober is the positive physical condition your body will be in as you continue to heal from the toll that addiction took on it during active use. Many drugs including alcohol have long been robbing the body of nutrition, energy and can result in chronic health and organ damage.  Amazingly, a person’s body can begin to heal and vitality is restored.
  • Restored Mental Health: A sense of wellbeing, clarity, peace of mind and focus return soon after becoming sober. Memory improves as well.  Using drugs including alcohol alters the mental processes. Adverse addictive behaviors can also change the way the brain functions. Active recovery can aid in having a sense of mental freedom from many of the things that once caused stress, worry, fear and sadness.
  • Stronger Spiritual Connection: Being sober and finding emotional balance, allows one to see the amazing things life has to offer.  There are more fun things to experience.  Financial balance improves.  No longer suffering from addiction, folks find themselves thinking more positively about their life and future.  Substance dependence can cause people to lose respect for themselves and others.  It often makes them feel unworthy of a better life.  In recovery, hope is restored.  Many people find that they can feel a new sense of faith and direction and can overcome the feelings of failure, isolation shame and guilt.
  • Better Relationships: One of the most stabilizing aspects of staying sober is the improvement in relationships. There is joy in no longer feeling alone. This part of the recovery journey offers people the opportunity to make amends with their friends and family members. Sobriety sustained over a period of time is one way to make a “living amends” to those that have been hurt by one’s addiction.  True humility, integrity and steadfastness bring healing to damaged relationships.  These are the very tools one uses to maintain sobriety.

Life Takes On a New Meaning: Once a person begins experiencing all of these benefits of staying sober it soon becomes obvious to self and others that the restored life has new meaning, purpose and a contagious exuberance. Sobriety offers a chance to continue healthy relationships bringing peace along with emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.  All of these things lead to a truly fulfilling life, one worth living sober.

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