One can be addicted to all kinds of things. The most common are alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or food. But it could also be some kind of behavior, like exercising.
Substance abuse is more tricky than anything else because there is a chemical interaction with the body that in itself holds it in place. It can be difficult to change the person's mind unless she at the same time goes through some kind of physical program and gets off the actual drug. There can be physical residues and other garbage that needs to be cleaned out of the body with some kind of purification program.
Typically polarization is a problem with addicted personalities. An alcoholic is a different person when she is drunk than when she is sober. The chemical reactions will reinforce that of course.
The problem is that the actually addicted part of the person might not be there in the session. It is the sober part of her that decides she needs sessions, and it is probably the sober part that you are sitting talking to. The drunk part is nowhere to be found unless she gets a few drinks. And when the drunk part is active it probably has no thought as to the interests of the sober part. Do you see the problem? We are only likely to resolve it if we get the different pieces of the puzzle into proximity with each other.
For most polarities we can get the parts together with simple imagination exercises. We might be able to do that with an addiction, but it might also take some clever work, probably over a longer time.
We could quite well say that fragmentation is the main ingredient in having an addiction. One side abuses something compulsively, the other side has a big problem with it, none of them function well.
An eating disorder is usually quite obviously polarized. A woman who is interchangeably eating till she throws up, and then starving herself, is operating out of two different modes. Since we are not talking chemical drugs, that is usually not too hard to handle. One side is totally unrestrained and seeks pleasure without any regard to the consequences. The other side denies itself enjoyment and tries to do everything correctly.
Severe polarities almost always include some heavy traumatic incidents. That will usually be childhood incidents of mental, physical, or emotional abuse, or at least the perception of it. There will usually be quite a number of them. For example, a little girl is repeatedly scolded in an overwhelming way about how she should behave nice and eat properly. When apparently denied enjoyment she sub-consciously splits of a part of herself that gets all the pleasure, but in an out-of-control way, because she is not allowed to be responsible for it.
Aside from the polarization, the other key thing to know in relation to addictions is positive intention. People basically do what they do because there is some kind of positive intention or benefit in it somewhere. That applies sub-consciously even more than consciously. There is no such thing as just having a "bad habit". People don't get hooked on drugs just because somebody talks them into it, and now they can't get out of it. People take drugs because they get something out of it.
Public anti-drug campaigns are generally insanely ineffective for the same reason. They totally leave out the fact that the person is cause and is behaving the way she does because it somehow works for her. They present the erroneous idea that people become drug addicts because they don't know how to say the word "No". Most drug-rehabilitation institutions make people wrong and treat them as being sick and effect, and never ever address what the benefits are in the drugs.
Common anti-addiction organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous are somewhat successful in that they provide people with some of the benefits they would otherwise get from the drug. They provide a group, supportive friends, social interaction, a purpose in life, and so forth. But they don't really admit that they replace the benefit in alcohol with the benefit in the group. Most AA members are now addicted to AA and have to go to meetings several times a week. And they are polarized very strongly against any interaction with their former substance. An AA member would stay far away from alcohol. Part of the philosophy is also that once one is an alcoholic one is always an alcoholic, so basically one has to follow the program and stay away from alcohol for the rest of one's life.
That is not how processing works. We can achieve much more balanced results. One addiction doesn't have to be replaced with another addiction to the opposite. Often it is more difficult to wean people off the cure than it would be to get them off the original problem. An AA member is often not open to negotiation at all, but is very insistent on holding on to the problem forever.
Notice how many ex-smokers are absolutely frantic about cigarette smoke. You know, starting coughing 30 feet away, and getting really agitated. And every single one of these were people who for years used to enjoy putting that kind of smoke into their lungs. What happened? Well, somebody instilled them with enough fear of the effects of smoking to create a potential traumatic incident of enough magnitude to polarize them against smoking. They became addicted to non-smoking and are denying the side of themselves that used to smoke. That is more difficult to change than it would have been to get them to stop smoking in a balanced way in the first place.
It is not our job to moralize or decide what people ought to do or not do. A process facilitator's job is to set people free so they can do what they really want to do. If that includes smoking we'll help them enjoy that better. If it includes non-smoking we'll help them accomplish that.
No behavior is good or bad. It is all a matter of what you are accomplishing with it and how well it harmonizes with other things one wants. Most people desire to change addictions because they are in conflict with other desires they have. Alcohol use maybe conflicts with one's desire of being a good driver, cocaine use wears out the body, smoking might conflict with a desire for cleanliness, etc.
The most effective way of dealing with a substance addiction is to find out what benefit the substance provides and then establish more, different ways of accomplishing that. The idea is not to get rid of the choice of taking the substance, but rather to add some more choices.
Sub-consciously one would tend to always choose the best option for the current situation. If the chosen option turns out not the be the preferred one for the conscious mind, then the thing to do is not to get rid of that option. The thing to do is to add more options that are equally effective, but maybe more consciously preferred. Otherwise she just won't feel like doing anything but the old choice. Feeling is an indication of the sub-conscious choices one is taking.
A substance addiction usually accomplishes multiple benefits. Smoking, for example, might provide relaxation, social interaction, a break, faster metabolism, increased creativity, and a bigger space. All of which are probably very nice and desirable things to the person. She might decide to stop smoking because she coughs up slime, is out of shape, it smells, it is expensive, and people complain about it. But in order to really feel like not smoking, she must acquire other ways of getting the positive benefits. She might not be able to get that in one package, but might have to learn several new skills. Maybe she learns to breathe differently to relax more, she changes her diet to digest her food better, and she gets a hobby that can activate her creativity. That probably has to happen in several steps. It is therefore important that the issue is broken down into its component parts and that it is noticed when one aspect is improved.
The first step of this kind of handling would probably be to talk the client into seeing the issue as having a positive intention. That might take a little work. The client came to you to get rid of her addiction, and now you are trying to persuade her that it is OK? You will need to teach her the difference between accepting the positive value in something and being resigned to it being unchangeable. She will not be able to change it effectively before she will appreciate what it is there for.