The True Cost Of Addiction Extends Far Beyond Money

The story of Erick Lindgren epitomizes the extreme highs and life-threatening lows that result from addiction. Lindgren, a professional poker player, has earned $10 million in his 15-year career playing tournaments and live games all over the world. But his other gambling ventures, particularly sports, caused him to simultaneously accumulate about $10 million in debt in that same time period.

The 37-year-old husband and father of one child checked himself into a rehab facility in Newport Beach, California at the beginning of 2013. He also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. His reputation quickly changed from All-American success story to lying, cheating thief who duped many individuals out of millions of dollars. Despite admitting his gambling problem and completing rehab, Lindgren is back on the circuit playing poker today.

Gamblers Anonymous, the country's oldest and most prominent fellowship for problem gamblers, says via its website that a compulsive gambler will never be a "normal" gambler again. One small bet after abstaining is like a recovering alcoholic taking one sip of beer. The obsession that your mind and body have no control over ultimately returns with disastrous results.

Several individuals in the public poker forum Twoplustwo.com continue demanding Lindgren pay them, while mocking him for gambling days after exiting rehab. Addicts, whether its gambling, drugs, pornography or shopping, simply have no control over their problem. All 12-step programs require complete abstinence from the addiction and acceptance of the fact you've lost control.

The consequences of unchecked addiction extend far beyond the individual with the problem. That is why taking that first step of admitting you have a problem is the most critical of all.

Destruction of Marriage and Families

Data compiled by Prodigals International, a sex addiction recovery organization, found that 40 million Americans view internet pornography on a regular basis. Not surprising, 47 percent of families surveyed said pornography is a problem in their homes.

Pornography addiction changes natural chemical processes in the brain's "reward center," causing a physical dependence on it similar to drug addictions, according to researchers at Cambridge University. Husbands will ultimately be unable able to become aroused with their wives, while a study recently published in the Journal Of Sexual Medicine found female porn addicts to be more hypersexual and promiscuous.

Violence, sexually-transmitted diseases, infidelity and ultimately divorce are the most common results of porn addiction within families. Sex Addicts Anonymous urges anyone who feels they suffer from pornography addiction to find a meeting in their area immediately. Again, the first step is the most crucial.

Financial Disaster

Elenor Smith charged up more than $34,000 in credit card debt due to her oniomania, better known as compulsive shopping. Making matters worse, she did it all behind her husband's back until that fateful day in 2005 when he answered the phone and was greeted by a bill collector.

Smith told the Daily Mail she's lucky her husband didn't leave her, but the couple is still paying off her debt as of May 2013. They have been stuck living in a small apartment despite having two children and needing more space. The family was in such dire straights at one point, their diets consisted only of noodles, rice and ketchup as they couldn't afford anything else.

The Smiths are lucky commitment, love and opportunity have kept them afloat over the years. Psychologist Bonny Forrest told CNN that buying something/anything gives compulsive shoppers that euphoric feeling similar to what alcoholics get from drinking. Similar to gamblers, compulsive shoppers are vulnerable to committing crimes and will even go as far as stealing to fund their addictions.

A 2006 study published in Journal of Psychiatry estimates that 6 percent of women and 5.5 percent of men are compulsive shoppers. Spouses who suspect a problem should immediately get a service like Lifelock to monitor their accounts. You will also be alerted if someone attempts to open a new account in your name.

Addicts have one of two choices: admit they have a problem and take action, or end up homeless, imprisoned or worse. The choice seems simple.