Understanding Addictions

Getting Started on the Path to Recovery


Finding the way forward can be difficult. But there are guideposts to help.

Addictions are pervasive. They are perhaps the most common human frailty. My work involves helping people navigate the complex landscape of addictions, helping them find pathways forward by finding what lies behind addictions (mental health or developmental challenges, typically). Much of this work involves organizational and community development: schools, social service agencies, and community organizations are all grappling with new and scary addictive behaviors and consequences.

I am grateful that I can do this work. It teaches me about resilience, creativity, and the underlying dignity of the human struggle to heal. It reminds me about the importance of integrity and character. It forces me to face myself in a myriad of ways.

Often I visit parent groups and schools. At these events I try to offer practical tips and strategies for helping to heal addictions. This is a tricky business; there are no reliable shortcuts to this work, no secret methods to crack the whole thing open. Healing from addictions is a long and brutal struggle. This is the same as achieving anything meaningful: persistence, grit, hope.

However, it helps to know what we are dealing with, how it works, where it might lead. And for that, a good background summary can be very helpful. Here’s one:

This video, from my presentation at the Recovery Capital Conference, describes my basic approach to the interconnections between childhood and adolescent development, trauma, mental health challenges, addictions, and paths toward healing.

And here’s another one: an audio recording of a presentation to parents on the increasing challenges of parenting in the age of digital distraction. The onslaught of digital technologies in family life is leading to whole new categories of addiction, at ever-earlier ages. This is perhaps the most pressing issue for parents and kids today. We should be aware of what’s happening and what to do about it.

If you are searching for resources to help you understand addictions and how to move forward with purpose, these resources should get you started.


Ross Laird, PhD RCC

Clinical Consultant, Author, Educator

My work focuses on the interconnected themes of mental health, trauma, addictions, and creativity. I provide clinical consulting, professional development services, and community education for a wide range of institutions and organizations.