Over the years, studies have been conducted to examine the connection between addiction and genetics. Many of these studies have suggested there is no such thing as an addiction “gene," but merely a biological difference that makes some people genetically predisposed to addiction. These hereditary factors increase the likelihood of developing the same or similar addictions as other family members. Genetic make-up does not automatically determine that a person will become an addict, but the probability increases when combined with environmental factors.
To be clear, addiction is not limited to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine; it can include anything from gambling and food to television and video games. People who exhibit personality traits such as impulsive behavior, the inability to deal with stress, or the constant search for instant gratification are often said to have an addictive personality. If this is you, don’t feel alone. I too have an addictive personality, but here’s how I made it my healthiest trait.
For most of my life I can recall seeing a large portion of my family members smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol. I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, where drugs and alcohol were prevalent in my neighborhood and in my family. They were responsible for the demise of countless loved ones and at one point had taken a hold of my life as well.
In my early 20s, I battled an addiction to over-the-counter medication. Fortunately, within a year I was able to kick my addiction to medication. It was quickly replaced with an addiction to nicotine. Despite the smoking-related deaths in my family, it was still very difficult for me to quit. During that time I had developed Generalized Anxiety Disorder and a minor case of asthma. I felt like I was slowly losing control of my life and couldn’t find a way to get it back.
On September 19, at approximately 12:09 pm, I was rushed to the hospital due to breathing complications. I thought I was having a severe asthma or anxiety attack, but it turned out I had pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinusitis. The doctor on staff asked if I was a smoker, and I told him that I was. He advised me to quit smoking immediately and said there was a great chance that my lungs would have collapsed had I waited any longer to get to the hospital. He informed me that my breathing complication was attributed more to my being a smoker than my having pneumonia. Needless to say, that was my last day as a smoker.
I knew it was only a matter of time before I found something else to attach myself to, but this time I used my biological differences to my advantage. People often look at addiction as a negative attribute due to the stigma attached to it from drugs and alcohol abuse. But having an addictive personality doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an addict; it simply suggests an increased probability that one may become addicted. Understanding that was my first step to changing my personal views about my addictive tendencies. With an anxiety disorder, asthma, and an addictive personality as my luggage, I started the exploration that would spark a transformation into the person I was to become. Here's how I did it:
Take Action. From that point, my entire perspective changed. I was determined to reverse the damage that years of addiction had caused. I joined a gym and began training as if I was preparing for a marathon. Ironically, I ended up working for that gym as a Lifestyle Consultant for their new members.
Get Educated. I read and studied countless books, guides, and magazine articles about proper nutrition and the importance of raw vegetables. I eliminated 80% of all milk based products from my diet and I eventually evolved into an avid juicer (not the bodybuilder kind). Now I’m a Certified Personal Trainer, I own a private training company, and I’m in the process of completing my Sports Nutrition Certification. In July I start my 200 Hour Yoga RYT Class and plan to continue my journey to a healthier, more prosperous life.
Make a Difference. So, what's my new addiction? To keep it simple, my new addiction is YOU, the reader of this article. I’m addicted to helping people like us create and implement healthier lifestyle practices. Having an addictive personality doesn’t make you a weak person. In fact, it’s one of the many imperfections that makes you perfect. So take control of the wheel and enjoy the ride! But remember; no matter how long the road you travel, only you determine the destination! Good luck!