How to Overcome Addiction
What's your addiction? Whether you're dealing with an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, sex, drugs, lying or gambling, admitting that you have a problem is always the first step to overcoming it, and it is not easy. Now it's time to make a plan for quitting, seek help, and prepare yourself for obstacles you'll surely encounter. If you want to learn how to kick that habit and start living life to the fullest again, keep reading.
1. Decide to quit
The first step to overcoming an addiction is admitting to yourself there is a problem. By acknowledging this you are ready and open to find a solution. Addiction treatment is only successful in people who want to be helped.
1.1 Write down the harmful effects of your addiction
It might not feel good to acknowledge all the ways in which your addiction is harming you, but seeing the list on paper will help you resolve to stop as soon as possible. Take out a pen and a piece of paper and brainstorm a list that includes all the negative effects you've experienced since your addiction started. Think about how your addiction has affected your physical health.
Are you at greater risk for getting cancer, heart disease, or another illness as a result of your addiction? Maybe the addiction has already taken a noticeable physical toll. List the ways in which it has hurt you mentally. Are you embarrassed about your addiction? In many cases addictions lead to shame and embarrassment, as well as depression, anxiety, and other mental and emotional issues. How has your addiction affected your relationships with other people? Does it prevent you from spending time with people you love, or having enough time to pursue new relationships? Some addictions take a big financial toll.
List the amount of money you have to spend feeding your addiction every day, week and month. Determine whether your addiction has affected your job. What daily annoyances are caused by your addiction? For example, if you're a smoker, maybe you're tired of having to leave your office every time you need to light up
1.2 Make a list of positive changes you want in your life
Now that you've detailed all the negative effects of your addiction, think about how much your life will improve once you've kicked the habit. Create a picture of your life post-addiction. How do you want it to look? Maybe you'll feel a sense of freedom you haven't had in years. You'll have more time to spend on people, hobbies, and other pleasures. You'll be able to save money again. You know you're doing everything you can to stay healthy. You'll feel immediate physical improvements. You'll feel proud and confident again.
1.3 Write down your quitting commitment
Having a list of solid reasons to quit will help you stick to your plan in the long run. Your reasons for quitting must be more important to you than continuing your addictive behavior. This mental hurdle is tough, but it's a necessary first step to quitting any addiction. No one can make you quit but yourself.
Write down the true, solid reasons you're stopping this habit. Only you know what they are. Here are a few examples:
Decide you're quitting because you want to have energy to live life to the fullest again.
Decide you're quitting because you're running out of money to support your habit.
Decide you're quitting because you want to be a better partner to your spouse.
Decide you're quitting because you're determined to meet your grandchildren one day.
2. Make a plan to quit
2.1 Set a date to quit
Don't set it for tomorrow, unless you're pretty sure quitting cold turkey will work for you. Don't set it for more than a month from now, because you might lose your resolve by then. Aim for a date in the next couple of weeks. This will give you enough time to become mentally and physically prepared.
Consider picking a date that's meaningful to you, to help motivate you. Your birthday, father's day, your daughter's graduation day, etc. Mark the day on your calendar and announce it to those close to you. Build it up so that you won't be likely to back down when the day arrives. Make a firm commitment to yourself that you're going to quit by that date.
2.2 Seek personal and professional support
It might not seem like it now, but you're going to need all the support you can get during your journey to overcome addiction. Because so many people battle addictions, there are many wonderful institutions in place that serve as support systems, helping you stay motivated, providing tips for success, and encouraging you to try again if you have a false start. Research in-person and online support groups designed to help people with the specific type of addiction you're battling. Many resources are free. Make an appointment with a therapist skilled in helping people through addictions. Find someone you're comfortable with so you'll be able to rely on him or her in the months to come.
A therapeutic setting ensures that you will have privacy and that the treatment will be based on your particular needs and goals. Seek support from your closest loved ones and friends. Let them know how much this means to you. If you're addicted to a substance, ask them not to use it in your presence.
Often the reason behind your addiction can be hard to find on your own. By seeking professional advice you will be able to target deeper issues that may be at the root of the problem - which will lead to a greater chance of long term success.
2.3 Identify your triggers
Everyone has a certain set of triggers that make them automatically want to indulge their habits. For example, if you're struggling with an alcohol addiction, you might find it difficult to attend a certain restaurant without feeling a strong urge to drink. If you're addicted to gambling, passing a casino on the way home from work might make you feel compelled to stop. Knowing your triggers will help you face them down when the time comes to quit. Stress is often a trigger for all kinds of addictions. Certain situations, like parties or other social gatherings, might act as triggers. Certain individuals can be triggers.
2.4 Start slowing down your addictive habit.
Instead of quitting immediately, start by decreasing your use. For most people, this makes it easier to quit. Indulge less frequently, and gradually continue reducing it as your day to quit for good approaches.
2.5 Get your environment ready
Remove reminders of your addiction from your home, car and workplace. Get rid of all the objects that goes along with the habit, as well as other items that remind you of the habit. Consider replacing the objects with items that help you feel positive and calm. Fill your refrigerator with wholesome food. Treat yourself to a few good books or DVDs (provided they don't contain content that could act as a trigger). Place candles and other aesthetically pleasing items around the house. You might want to try redecorating your bedroom, rearranging the furniture, or just buying a few new throw pillows. Changing your environment will give you the feeling of having a fresh start.
3. Quitting and handling withdrawal
3.1 Stop the addictive behavior as planned
When the big day arrives, keep your promise to yourself and quit. Those first few days are going to be hard. Keep yourself busy and stay positive. You're on your way to an addiction-free life.
3.2 Fill your time
If you need distractions, try exercising, taking up a new hobby, cooking, or hanging out with friends. Joining a new club, sports team, or other kind of community group will help you make new friends and start a new chapter of your life in which addiction is not a part. Positive social interactions can stimulate the release of neurochemicals which elicit feelings of happiness and satisfaction without the need for drugs.
Exercise releases endorphin chemicals like the ones released in addiction, which is why sometimes you'll hear the term "runner's high".Exercise could open a lot more windows for new and improved health and could lessen the blow of withdrawal by giving you something else to feel good about.
Being aware of yourself and your decisions is very important at this stage. It is possible that we may replace one addiction for another. This is why professional help is vitally important for us to identify the causes of our addictions. By dealing with the core issues we are not just finding another dysfunctional coping mechanism.
3.3 Keep clear of your triggers
Stay away from the people, places and things that make you want to go back to your old habits. You might need to construct a completely new routine for awhile, until the edge wears off a bit.
3.4 Don't give in to rationalizations
The physical and mental pain of addiction withdrawal is real, and you'll likely start telling yourself it's okay to take up the habit again. Don't listen to the voice telling you to start back up and don't give up on yourself when it feels hard. Every bit of pain will be worth it in the end.
Common rationalizations include the idea that "it's a free country" or "we all have to die sometime." Resist taking on this defeatist attitude. Go back to your list of reasons for quitting to remember why you're doing this. Think about why quitting is more important than staying addicted. Visit support groups and your therapist each time you feel in danger of relapsing.
3.5 Don't let a relapse be the end of your journey
Everyone slips up from time to time. That doesn't mean you should give in and return to your addictive habits in a full-blown relapse. If you have a slip up, go back over what happened and determine what changes you can make if it happens again. Then get back on your feet and start again. Don't let guilt and shame take over if you slip up. You're trying your best, and all you can do is keep at it.
3.6 Celebrate your accomplishments
Do something nice for yourself when you meet the goals you've made, no matter how small. Kicking an addiction is incredibly tough work, and you deserve to be rewarded.