The Nature of Addiction
Addiction feeds our need for instant gratification, providing short term gain, but often with negative long-term effects. It feels great when you’re doing it, so how can you know for sure whether you’re addicted, or you just like doing it? This is the very question that makes addiction both difficult to recognise, and accept. For a list of criteria specific to substance addiction, this article might be helpful in the recognising/accepting stage. Our 5 ways to beat addiction below assume that an addiction has already been recognised, and accepted. Remember, addiction can range from mild to severe, and does not have to be drug/alcohol related. Without further adieu…
1. List the Pros and Cons
Why are you addicted? Why do you want to break the addiction? Between these two questions, you should be able to list some of the positive and negative attributes of your addictive behaviours/activites. The first question asks what you have to gain from engaging in your addictive behaviour… After all, there must be something pretty great about it, otherwise it wouldn’t be addictive in the first place! The second question is encouraging you to consider why there is a need for change. Whilst it might feel good at the time, what are the longer-term issues that you’re creating for yourself, and possibly others? An analysis of your addiction, and some reflection on the effects, is a great starting point from which to build strategies to overcome it.
2. Replace the Pros
How can you replace the positive experience/emotions that your addiction provides in a way that is not damaging to your mental health/physical health? Consider your list of pros, and brainstorm ways that you could recreate those positive emotions/outcomes with an activity/course of action that is beneficial to your personal development as well. Take substance abuse as an example… In most cases, the feelings/emotions that many addictive substances make you feel are not new ones that are exclusive to that substance. However, the feelings are often quite intense, and minimal effort is required in order to experience them. And so, escapism and addiction is born. This brings us back around to the old saying, that nothing worth doing is ever easy. But often, the easy road is only easy for the first few kms…
3. Recognise the Triggers
Is there a particular situation or action that encourages you to engage in your addictive behaviour? Find out what it is, and be aware of it. You don’t necessarily have to avoid it as such, but it should help you to be more conscious of your decision-making process when relapse is beckoning. Understanding your triggers can also help you to decrease them. For example, if stress were a trigger, than you could put some thought into how you can better manage stress in your life to reduce the intensity and frequency of that trigger. You can have multiple triggers, or a trigger could be the combination of feelings/emotions/situations that drive your addictive behaviour. So, engage in some critical self-reflection and consider how you can limit your vulnerability.
4. Set a Goal
Set a goal that requires you to overcome your addiction in order to achieve your goal. The goal does not have to be centered around your addiction. For example, a heavy smoker may set a goal to run a marathon. Whilst this has nothing to do with smoking, it would be extremely difficult to achieve the required level of fitness to run a marathon with the lung capacity of a regular smoker. In doing this, it will highlight the effects of your addictive behaviour that are inhibiting you from leading the lifestyle you wish to lead. The smoker may turn back to nicotine in their hour of need, but they will pay for it later when their hands are on their knees in a coughing fit, after the first 500m. Nobody said it would be easy, but it’s a great way to keep yourself accountable.
5. Take Immediate Action
When will you choose to start fighting your addiction? Unfortunately, the most common answer is usually ‘tomorrow’. And it’s always the wrong answer. Thats your subconscious speaking, the part of you that doesn’t have to experience all of the negative effects. That part of you doesn’t want you to stop. That part of you is having the time of your life! So they’ll try to sell you on idea… “We’re too busy to stop now, let’s start on Monday”, or “NYE is around the corner, let’s make it our resolution”. Don’t get sucked in. This will only lead to more procrastinating and excuses. So, start right this very moment! Make the promise to yourself, and put a plan in place. How will you change for the better right now?
There are a number of variables to consider when approaching addiction. It would be crazy to assume that one addiction could be overcome as simply as the next. Personality types, education, genetic disposition, resilience, environment etc… All of these factors have a role to play. Some addictions are far more severe than others, and some far less damaging than others. Whatever your vice, there is a way to overcome, you just have to be willing to put in some hard work.
As always, thanks for reading! Hopefully you’ll be able to apply these steps and overcome whatever it is that is holding you back from living the lifestyle you want to lead.