Addiction can be a multifaceted state of being but most often it only involves one behavior that is psychologically or physically habit forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma and this persistent compulsive activity is harmful to the user or others. There are two types of addictions: substance addictions (i.e., alcoholism, drug abuse, and smoking); and process addictions (i.e., gambling, spending, shopping, eating, and sexual activity). The question of some behaviors being addictions such as talking too much, collecting memorabilia or habitual crossdressing are debatable as to their harmfulness or severe trauma from quitting. It is important to understand that an addiction is habitual and harmful to the user and/or others by definition. So if what you are doing is harming no one then it is not an addiction. It could be a habit or even a compulsion and not be harmful. We are concerned here with activities that are habitually harmful which can be debated and often are by the person who simply does not want to face their situation. This situation can be obvious to everyone or well hidden, but it is up to the individual to make the choice to change this behavior from harmful to harmless. The simple fact is that the behavior needs to stop, but it will not till the perpetrator decides to change. Let us just pick an addiction for example, say drug abuse. The person abusing drugs by using them to the point of harming themselves or others must choose to change this behavior or it will never really change. Most addicts know that they are harming their bodies and/or others and just are compelled to continue, so they must face what is going on and be willing to take the actions necessary. So what is a person to do?
The first thing that must occur is the person must admit they have an addiction and then they must decide to change. This decision must have conviction, clarity and follow through. Once the decision is made an action plan needs to be written down and shared with someone who is willing to help. When you are accountable to someone else it is harder to cheat, but then we all know that there is only one person to cheat, yourself. The action plan should be simple and step by step. Depending on the severity of the addiction, quitting “cold turkey” is not wise. A slow weaning of the use or behavior is advised. It may be worth consulting a professional who has experience in addictions and it is highly recommended to find a support group or at least a friend who is not addicted also. Someone who has previously quit can be of great help. Once you have a plan of action and some support you need to ask yourself some serious questions. The first and most important being, “How does this addiction serve me?” What do I get out of using drugs, smoking, drinking, eating, compulsive sex, etc. Can I get this without harming anyone? If so how? Find something constructive and supportive to replace your addiction with. Most addictions start from simple boredom. You tell yourself that this one time will not hurt, and then it becomes time and again. Next thing you know you can’t stop. And I am telling you that you can stop if you want to. It may take help and will definitely take support both from yourself and from others. So when you create a hole in your life by ridding yourself of an addiction the hole will fill back up if you don’t replace it with something constructive. Be careful here, you don’t want another addiction. Going from smoking to overeating is not helping anyone. However going from smoking to running or exercising each day is both creative and supportive. Be very aware of your small talk when you are going through this! It is easy to talk ourselves out of making a change and if you can be supportive of yourself you may just succeed. Think about it, if you are constantly telling yourself and others that you have to have a smoke and a cup of coffee each morning that is exactly what you will do! If on the other hand you say to yourself that you enjoy orange juice in the morning (and you really do) then that is what you will do. Choose something that you enjoy but is not harmful. If you don’t enjoy it then it will not last. Be kind to yourself. Praise yourself and find a constructive way to reward your efforts. If and when you slip, just say that is ok and continue on without beating yourself up. Just let it go and stay positive. Consistency is the road to success. The other question you need to ask yourself is, “How is this addiction affecting those I love?” Really look deep inside and be not afraid. When we really Love ourselves and accept who we are then all else is easy. Be careful not to judge yourself on your past and just take what you have and move forward. It is like a board game in which you look at where you are and roll the dice moving forward one space at a time. The other thing you must understand is that addictions are usually started to cover up some emotion you did not want to deal with. This is why it is helpful to find a professional. There is a reason for everything and so there is a reason you got stuck on whatever it is that you are stuck on. Look for this answer because the things we think will kill us probably won’t and usually make us stronger. It is funny but did you know that you are more likely to succeed than fail? What we so often do is get afraid of failing and then do things to make that true, thus making us a success at failing. The point is that whatever you set your mind to, and not allow doubt or persuasion to distract you, you can do.
In the department of support it is imperative that you choose friends, activities and places that support you. If you are quitting alcohol and your friends all drink it may be difficult. If you are no longer a smoker but go to bars that allow smoking it will not last. If you are getting past an eating addiction, then going out to eat 5 nights a week, that may be counterproductive. The point is that moving past an addiction is a lifestyle change. Our activities will reflect our spiritual, emotional, and physical development. Which in turn are reflected in our habits and addictions. Not to say that just because you work out 5 nights a week that you are healthy. It is more about your state of mind and attitude. In creating this new lifestyle your self-image will change and that is where you want to be. When you can get to the point where you no longer identify with our addiction, i.e. “I am drinker, smoker, etc.” and instead see yourself as a success it will all be downhill from there! Simply be happy with who you are and accept that you are getting better and better each day. As your daily choices support your decision to change your lifestyle will change and so will how you feel. By keeping busy with daily activities it will take your mind away from your addiction and toward a more creative and supportive life. Remember to fill the void with something creative and productive. And by productive it doesn’t have to be a big project, it could simply be reading a book or washing the laundry. Keep yourself busy and focus on things you enjoy, but not the addiction or anything that reminds you of it. If you always smoke on your walks then do something besides walking. If you always drink when you watch the game with the guys, then don’t watch the game with the guys or find a group that does not drink. It is about breaking habits that no longer serve you. Long walks in nature are a good thing as long as you stay focused on the beauty surrounding you or the good things that are happening in your life.
Now let’s review the major points so we can get a clear picture of what we must do to move beyond addictions. First we define addictions, see what perspective we are viewing them from in order to understand what they are and accept our addiction. Then we set a clear intention about them – quit, tolerate, or ignore. In order to quit the intention must be clear and the action consistent. Develop a plan of action which is no action at all (meaning stop doing the addicting habit). How does this addiction serve you? How is it affecting those you Love? Get support from a professional, a friend and/or your life partner. Find something to replace it with that is both creative and supporting to your life and that of others. Choose friends, activities and places that support your choice to quit. i.e. If you are going to quit smoking, don’t go to bars that allow smoking. Once you de-Identify with being “xzy addiction” then the rest falls into place and you will develop a new lifestyle that supports your choices. It is important to fill your life with other things and the less you think about “xyz” then the easier it will be to maintain this new lifestyle. Now simply know that as you think, say and do, so will be your results. Enjoy life it is a gift!
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