Realizing that addiction was so complex, not just a matter of self control or strength of character, was an eye-opening concept for me. For the alcoholic, booze is psychiatric medication (a bad one, of course, but it serves the same purpose.) The angry person thinks he's drinking because he enjoys it, when actually he enjoys having his dark thoughts muted for a while. The person with sever anxiety says that he drinks to be more social, when really he drinks to not feel awkward for once.
Antidepressant drug trials have been known to provide an unusual side effect: Some of the test subjects found that they didn't need to smoke anymore.
It's such a powerful concept that I'm surprised weight loss isn't approached the same way as AA (and maybe some programs do, but not enough.) Surely there are a lot of people who, like the alcoholic, are simply using food as medication-a temporary escape from crippling psychological issues.
And I think it goes much further.* When I see someone who invests himself completely into his job, who constantly obsesses over his appearance, who spends all his time on a particular hobby or interest (even the healthy, productive ones) I think to myself "What deeper need is this filling for you? What are you medicating?"
*Which is why I don't put any stake in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the mark of the most prolific creators isn't comfort, it's damage.