Addiction Vs. Habit? Which Applies to You?

“It is the nature of desire not to be satisfied, and most human beings live only for the gratification of it.” Aristotle

 When does a habit become an addiction? I have heard it said that with a habit you are in control of your choices, whereas with an addiction you aren’t in control of your choices—but what about a situation in which a habit slides into an addiction?

For example: It may seem like a harmless habit to drink on weekends, but what if it seriously affects your family? What if you say and do things that you would normally never do? Would you call this a habit, or an addiction?

Just because you can control the time and place when you exercise your habit doesn’t make it any less of an addiction if you lose control of what you do and say after you ingest the substance. Ask yourself, “Do I have a habit, or do I have an addiction?”

There are many definitions of addiction, but I prefer one stated in Addictions and Grace by Gerald G. May, MD: “Addiction is any compulsive, habitual behavior that limits the freedom of human desire.”

So if your habit leads you to act like a jerk (also known as a personality change)—if it limits your choices regarding your behaviors—perhaps you have crossed over from habit into addiction.

Does it really matter if it is “only” a weekend addiction and your can control your “habit” the rest of the week?

Richard Bach, author of Illusions, once said, “Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they are yours.”

When you see your freedom of choice compromised in any way, rather than arguing for your right to maintain your limitations, you might want to consider that you may have an addiction.

During the years that I used alcohol to escape my anxieties, I told myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone but me because I was holding down a job, continuing to work on a degree, making dinner for my children every night, and running a household. I told myself that since I had never had a DUI, didn’t drink every day, and didn’t get drunk every time I drank, I didn’t have a problem—despite the fact that my husband begged me to stop drinking because it changed my personality. When I drank, my personality change looked something like this: I became cute, funny, engaging and affectionate at first; then I became argumentative and/or totally disengaged as the evening went on and the drinks increased.

Here are a few questions, adapted from Grace and Addiction, to help you decide if you have a habit or an addiction:

1. How do I feel if someone threatens to take away my right to drink or get high?

2. When I have tried to stop or reduce my use of substances, have I experienced any stress reaction related to withdrawal (anxiety, agitation, irritability, resentment)?

3. Do I ever find myself making excuses, denials, or playing other mind tricks to rationalize my right to use substances?

4. Have I ever made resolutions to myself or someone else to reduce or even stop using, only to fail to keep my word?

5. Do I find myself anticipating the next time that I can drink or use without censor?

6. Do I sometimes struggle with thought of regrets or embarrassment when thinking of my last drinking or using episode?

7. Has anyone close to me ever told me that I drink/drug too much?

8. Has my drinking or drugging caused distress for anyone in my life?

Until you have honestly answered these questions—habit vs. addiction—you do not have the freedom to choose. You do not have drinking or using—drinking or using has you.

Picture: Compliments of

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. shorline says:

    Your posting is accurate; however it seems to focus on the “substance” abuser. As a former substance abuser I know my “denial” would have missed the message, but the path of the “non user” enabler or “co addict” is as addictive and intense. I could answer every posted question as affirmative except my answers would be about my addiction to the addict. I have a feeling most of the folks who read your wonderful blog have danced with the ghost of addiction and all its saddness and pain and though we may not “use” we still try to dance with those who do and that to can lead to a different kind of slavery. How do I let go and still whole and not frozen? How do I help but not enable? How do I distinguish between compassion and irresponsiblity? How do I know when enough is enough and know I may have to face and live with the consequenses?
    With love.

    • Hi,

      I am most appreciative of your comments. Your words are right on in every respect. I am focusing on the “substance” abuser at the moment but a well rounded series should address the other half of the addictive disease which is the “co-addict”, the enabling behaviors of family and friends.
      Would you consider writing a guest post for me on this topic ASAP?

      Thank you, dawn

  2. I have a friend (over 35 years) who has a habit of two drinks each night. I use the word habit because there have never been negative consequences such as a personality change (ignoring family, or becoming more affectionate or argumentative, difficulty getting up in the morning after drinking/using, etc.). My friend never experienced financial consequences or health related problems resulting from her two drinks each night. She has a habit. I, on the other hand, while never a daily drinker, cannot predict with one-hundred percent certainty my behavior after I take that first drink. My personality is altered and there are consequences. Therefore, I have an addiction and/or an allergy to alcohol. The fact that I did not get drunk every time I drank fostered the notice that I could drink responsibly. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, I argued for my right to drink. Alcohol was the most seductive lover I ever encountered. Addictions are cunning, baffling and powerful because they tell us we don’t have a problem which is also called denial. Dawn


  1. […] I found these pages that go over this topic too. Addiction vs. Habit – The Difference Between Addiction Vs. Habit? Which Applies to You? – The Faces We Live __________________ I have come here to chew bubblegum and smoke weed… and I'm all out of […]

Speak Your Mind


The Hungry Ghost of Addiction Took Our Daughter
Is Drinking Affecting Your Relationship?