Practical Steps To Overcome Addiction
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Talking about overcoming addiction is one thing, but if you’ve personally tried to quit one, it was probably more challenging than every 12-step program makes it sound. Even if you think of yourself as a strong, determined person, you can still struggle with quitting your addictive habits.
Don’t worry, you’re not broken. Or messed up, or destined to live as an addict.
Having trouble quitting your addiction or addictive behavior doesn’t mean you’re weak or incapable. It just means you’re human! Often, people treat addiction like a “myth” or a rare disease, and so don’t recognize their own addictive habits. Most people assume that they’ll be lucky enough to not get hooked, and experiment with dangerous substances and habits because they think they’re the exception to the rule. A lot of people live with addictive habits and don’t recognize them; but they might not be able to function without their phone or maybe they can’t go without a glass of wine every night without falling apart. It’s easy to read tips and tricks about how to quit addictive behaviors, but much harder to put them into practice. Quitting an addiction is a difficult process that takes coordinated dedication of your mind, body, and soul.
WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO QUIT?
Most people who willingly consume an addictive substance know about its harmful properties and side effects. Sadly, this usually isn’t enough to make someone quit, as their addiction has surpassed even their self-preservation instinct. The overwhelming craving to satiate their addiction becomes more important to them than theirs or other’s safety. Many addictions tragically end in suicide, either purposeful or accidental because of the lack of care for personal well-being that addictions cause.
Even if you can ignore the physical side effects, did you know that addictive habits can lead to depression, anxiety, and personality disorders?
Addiction has never positively impacted someone’s mental health. Along with the not-so-fun physical side effects, addiction ruins the way your brain interprets happiness. We’ve talked a lot about the negative effects that an addiction can have on your life, but here’s a refresher.
For example, alcohol addiction can ruin your body’s hormone production and disrupt the hormone balance that keeps your mood stable. People who consumed an unhealthy amount of alcohol produced 20% less testosterone.
Addiction can also reduce self-esteem, because when your natural dopamine levels decrease, your anxiety increases. Being able to quit an addiction empowers you with a sense of confidence.
LET’S BEGIN WITH THE BRAIN
Deciding to quit an addiction is the first step. You have to recognize that you have a problem before it can be fixed. You need a clear goal in your mind that is realistically attainable for you. Remember, addiction literally re-wires your brain to experience happiness through consumption of the addictive substance or habit. It takes a little bit of work to teach your brain to function normally again. Be kind to yourself, although quitting your addictive behavior is worth it, it won’t be easy.
Think long and hard about the reason why you are quitting your addiction. You might be doing it to save your relationship, to better take care of your kids, or to improve your self-esteem. Pinpoint a specific, personal reason for why you want to quit, and remind yourself of it when you are tempted to repeat the addictive behavior.
When you have a craving, ask yourself if it will be beneficial for you later. If it won’t be, then it’s not worth it now. Breaking the addictive habits your brain has made is a process that takes time, dedication, and self-control.
The good news: you don’t have to do it alone! Find a therapist or counselor that has experience dealing with addiction. Because overcoming addiction is such a difficult mental process, it helps greatly to have someone who is familiar with the process and challenges. I would love to be the one to help you be free of your addiction and live freely and confidently again.
WHAT ARE WITHDRAWALS?
Addiction starts in the brain, but very quickly takes over your body too. Why do so many people try to quit smoking or drinking, but go right back to it after a few weeks of trying? Once your brain is addicted to a substance, it becomes physically dependent on it to feel “right” or content. When you try to quit, your body will experience physical withdrawal symptoms like shaking, stomachache, headache, anxiety, depression, and sometimes, hallucinations and psychological symptoms. Lots of people try to quit over and over again because a little more of the addictive substance or behavior is all it takes to make the withdrawals go away.
If you’re trying to quit an addiction, get someone to hold you accountable, either a family member, friend, or therapist. If you have a severe addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact your doctor as well, as in some cases withdrawals can be dangerous and require medical supervision.
I’LL DO IT TOMORROW…
You can make a resolution or commitment to quit, and set your mind to it over and over again. However, despite your best attempts to quit, you may still face a conflict of interests. Even if you really want to quit, part of you probably misses the addiction and wants it back. Quitting an addiction is stressful. If the addiction itself, which is now off-limits, was your only way to cope with stress, you’ll likely be anxious and have difficulty handling conflict.
A therapist can help you to develop a different, healthy way of coping with stress and conflict, like running, cooking, painting, or memorizing Scripture. If you don’t have a healthy way of coping and directing your attention, it will be too easy and convenient to resort back to your addictive behavior.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Addiction is idolatry. When your addiction becomes your number one priority, you are idolizing it above God. Thank goodness we have a forgiving Savior, right? First of all, don’t be ashamed to admit your addiction to God and a spiritual mentor in your life. Trust me, God already knows, no matter how well you’ve been able to hide it from others in your life. Admit your weakness and need for God’s help. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says to, “Pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.” Talk to God like you were talking to a friend, and focus on his goodness and faithfulness. Prayer has power, and when you are struggling with the temptation to resort back to your addictive behavior, drop everything and pray, literally.
Although many addictions are embarrassing, don’t be afraid to find someone you trust to talk to. Find a spiritual mentor to confide in and hold you accountable. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
Quitting your addiction can feel too hard, too stressful, and not even worth it in the moment. Take it from someone who has seen many people overcome their addictions and continue to lead full, happy, confident lives.
Quitting is worth it.
Addictions keep you from having meaningful relationships and attaining your goals; when your life is controlled by an addiction you can never live fully and confidently. It might be a hard and painful process, but you will be able to live your life freely, and in my opinion, that’s more than worth it.