What is an Addict?

What exactly makes someone an addict, an alcoholic, or a substance abuser? For those struggling with substance abuse habits that are causing problems, figuring out how to get your life back on track can be overwhelming, especially when doing it on your own.

We sat down with Dan Nichols, Scottsdale Providence’s Clinical Director and Co-Founder, to discuss what makes someone an addict and how treatment for substance abuse works.

If you are wondering if you are an addict or think you might benefit from treatment, read on.

Generally, signs of addiction include:

• Lack of control, or inability to stay away from certain substances or behaviors
• Decreased socialization, like foregoing commitments or neglecting relationships
• Ignoring risky behaviors, like sharing needles despite possible consequences
• Physical symptoms, like withdrawal or needing increasing amounts of the substance

Many healthy people become aware of a negative behavior and work to change it with a degree of success. Often, this is not the case for people with addiction issues. They will frequently be unable to see or acknowledge a problem or continue to try to manage it unsuccessfully on their own. So what underlies this type of behavior?

Here is what Dan has to say about it:

“What makes someone an addict? Is it genetic? Is it learned behavior? Is it trauma? The answer is YES. All those things contribute to making someone a drug addict or substance abuser.“

Dan elaborates and explains that for people with addiction issues, the problem usually runs deeper than just the substance itself.

“When I’m not using drugs or drinking, I don’t have that buffer to life that I’m used to. Once I’ve identified that [my behavior] is destructive, I’ve become dependent and I’m an addict, I have to find out how to learn to live without it. That means I need to be able to find my compass. Align my intentions with my behavior, which most substance abusers struggle with. And that substance became the compass. So we try to help people find that compass. Their inner self. Their higher power. Connect back to who they really are and so they can be the best version of themselves that’s in them.”

Part of Scottsdale Providence’s approach lies in this holistic approach – more than just stepping away from the substance or behavior, the program emphasizes helping people grow their foundations and fundamental coping skills in order to create lasting change and successful lives.

Dan elaborates: “People finally come to treatment and they admit – ‘Yes. I have a drug problem’ or ‘Yes. I am an alcoholic.’ And then in treatment, they find out no, actually, ‘I have a drug and alcohol solution to a “me” problem, to a life problem.’
At Scottsdale Providence Recovery Center we try to teach people how to live again, without their favorite substance. The only thing we can’t really teach is willingness—but we can teach people a lot of skills, and give them a lot of love. We can get them into a culture where they see that it is very possible to change, and we do that by giving people what they came for, which is treatment, and showing them what needs to be done and the avenues to do it—all from people that care.”

“It’s that simple – build culture, and then it’s up to the client whether they have the grit. We graduate a lot of people and we have a lot of success with people that are maintaining months and years of sobriety after they have left the program. But not everyone succeeds. Some people give up. It’s not easy. If it were easy everybody would get sober. It takes work. “

The truth is, coming to treatment alone is a good start, but it is just that—a start. In order to find sustainable, happy recovery, digging deeper is required.

“People come to treatment because people want to change their beliefs or they want to defend their beliefs. We try to help people recognize just coming to treatment isn’t it—you’re gonna have to work. You are going to have to change some major beliefs. At least some. That’s treatment at Scottsdale Providence Recovery Center.”

Dan Nichols’s vision for Scottsdale Providence is a result of over 15 years of experience in behavioral health and substance abuse treatment as well as 21 years of personal recovery. His clinical philosophy blends Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Narrative Therapy, Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT), and 12-Step Facilitation with a Trauma-Informed approach. He has additional certifications in Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) and Domestic Violence Intervention. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a Bachelor of Science in Justice Studies and Master of Social Work from Arizona State University. His most recent roles include serving as Clinical Director of TASC and Clinical Lead at Community Bridges Inc. He has a breadth of experience working with adults, adolescents, and families in residential and outpatient settings.

Want to know more? Reach out today.


It’s not the end. It’s the beginning.

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