Overcoming Addiction

Written by Heidi Godman | Published on July 21, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Akikur Mohammad, MD on July 21, 2014

What Is Addiction?

Addiction can take many forms. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, nicotine, food, and many other stimuli can be the source of addiction. Serious addictions can lead to problems with your health, finances, relationships, and almost every aspect of your life.

True addiction is a disease affecting circuits in the brain. When an addiction takes hold, your behavior control suffers. You lose the ability to consistently avoid the sources of your addiction. You also tend to minimize the extent to which the addiction is harming your quality of life.

However, addictions can be overcome with a variety of strategies and determination. The following is a list of tips you can follow to overcome an addiction, or to help someone close to you become victorious in their own addiction battles.

Decide to Stop

Your genetics, your surroundings, and your own biology all contribute to the likelihood that you may become an addict. However, your choices are also what fuel addictions. Deciding to try a new drug, for example, may be the first unhealthy choice in what becomes a hard-to-kick habit. But deciding to confront and overcome your addiction is the first positive choice in what will need to be a lifetime of healthy decisions. 

Only when you recognize that you have an addiction can you truly start to end it. It’s common for people with addictions to deny that they have a problem. They may actually sense that their behavior is unhealthy, but convince themselves that they are in control. If you don’t recognize your addiction for what it is, your friends and family may need to step in and confront you with the truth. These confrontations are often known as “interventions.” They are meant to help convince an addict that their behavior needs to change. 

Whatever gets you to see the problem and decide to overcome the addiction is the right start. The next steps, however, are also very important. They can give you the tools to kick your addiction and live a healthier life.

Get Treatment

Some addictions can be overcome through willpower and discipline. Quitting “cold turkey” can work for some people, particularly if the addiction is mild or has not been ongoing for a long time. If your level of addiction is serious, you may be best served by participating in an outpatient or inpatient treatment program. You may even need drugs and other medical attention to help you deal with withdrawal symptoms. 

Treatment programs teach you about your addiction and how to avoid returning to the addictive behavior. One key to successful treatment is sticking with the program for a sufficient period of time. You should also make sure the program addresses more than just the addiction. You may have depression or another form of mental illness in addition to your addiction. Make sure your addiction treatment program is comprehensive.

Get Therapy

You may feel like you don’t want to deal with your addiction after you get treatment or after you put an end to the destructive behavior. You may actually find it more helpful to discuss the addiction, as well as its consequences, with a therapist. Some people also find that self-help groups and support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, provide a safe atmosphere where you can share your feelings and experiences.

Therapy, either with a trained mental health professional or through support groups, can help you understand your addiction better. Therapy will also arm you with tools to keep from relapsing. Effective therapy can be done in one-on-one sessions with a therapist or as part of family counseling. Group therapy is also widely used to address addictions.

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Therapy, a support group, or both can help you on your continued path of recovery.

Fight the Urges

Understand that addictions may include periods where you relapse and want to return to your unhealthy behavior. The urges to have another drink or another cigarette, for example, may often return.

You will need to learn how to fight those urges. One way is to have an internal conversation. When you feel the urge to make the wrong choice, take a moment and remind yourself that you’re in control. You will make a smart choice. These urges may occur frequently, but they can be fleeting. 

You may also find it useful to distract yourself with other, healthier pursuits. Instead of starting your day with a cigarette and coffee, for example, go for a run. Exercise is actually a commonly recommended activity to anyone overcoming an addiction. Some people with “addictive personalities” may wind up focusing the same intense energy they used to direct toward negative pursuits toward martial arts, running, or other physical activities instead. 

Avoid Triggers

Another way to distract yourself is to avoid the places and circumstances that often triggered your addictive behaviors. Don’t assume you can hang out in your favorite bar and not drink. Find new, healthier places to spend your time. This may mean having to find new people to spend your time with, too. 

To help avoid triggers, it could help to make a list of situations that prompted addictive behaviors. Keep these triggers in mind as you start to move your lifestyle away from the behaviors associated with your addiction.

You Can Regain Control

When you’re in the grip of an addiction, you may feel as though you’ll never have control of your life again. Remember that others have gone through similar addictions and successfully overcome them. Also, remember that there are resources available to help you. You may feel as if you’re alone in the world, but there are others who have endured your struggle.

Recovering from addiction is a long-term process. Part of taking control is having a plan if you relapse. If you find yourself fighting addiction again, know who to contact and where you can go for help.

Overcoming an addiction can be challenging, but coming out the other side with your health and a more positive outlook on life is more than worth the effort.

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