Many people think that as long as they aren’t addicted to any of the big 3 (drugs, alcohol or nicotine) they don’t need to be concerned about it. And most feel that they definitely don’t need to be concerned with addictions that aren’t physical. Everyday addictions to screen time, late nights, toxic relationships, drama and much more go completely overlooked. People ignore the signs of addiction as they are losing their grip on their best life! And truthfully we all have an addiction of some kind! Whether yours is physical, psychological or both, it IS holding you back!
Habits vs. Addictions
The Merriam – Webster dictionary defines addiction as: “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence”.
A habit can become involuntary just like an addiction. You can even do it on autopilot. But unlike an addiction a habit could be beneficial (like brushing your teeth) and you wouldn’t have withdrawal symptoms if you tried to stop.
From Habit to Addiction
Sometimes very benign things go quickly from being habits to being addictions. It often happens without you even noticing. For example the simple act of watching a show on television before bed can become an addiction. Before we know it, despite wanting to change this habit we have anxiety or can’t sleep without our nightly tv time. Try as we might to turn off the tv and read before bed instead we can’t without significant discomfort and disruption. That’s right… your tv time has become an addiction!
I think screen time, whether it’s tv, cell phones or computers is likely a common addiction. And the research proves it’s detrimental to your health. But there are many other addictions that may be negatively impacting your life. I’m sure you’re aware of both pornography addition and gambling and you are likely also aware of food addiction. But, what about spending or shopping addictions or love. Some struggle with being addicted to other people, to acquiring pets or things or to sleep and other typical daily activities. This can even lead to other conditions like co-dependence and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Some are addicted enough to destroy their credit or their relationships. For others it just interferes with their personal hopes and dreams. Make no mistake… these can all be addictions!
Healthy Habits Turned Dangerous Addictions
Probably the most overlooked addictions though are those that appear healthy. Things like exercise addiction and orthorexia are scary and can even be life threatening. How likely is a person to get help though when they are addicted to exercising and eating “healthy”. They are very likely to be praised for their amazing self discipline! All the while they can’t live a normal life. They never feel like they’ve done enough exercise or are preoccupied with the latest fad diet trends to the point of never being able to eat away from home or take a vacation! Even if it’s healthy that doesn’t mean your relationship with it is!
Discover Your Addiction
We all have many habits and automatic behaviors in our lives so how do we know if we have an addiction?
If you suspect you have an addiction at play in your life consider writing down everything you’d like to be doing in your day / life. What would your best life and self look like? Now, make another list of the reasons you aren’t living this way. Then make a 3rd list of what you’re doing instead. This will help you to see where your habits or addictions are holding you back. Now try to change it. How hard is it? Does it cause anxiety or disruption to your daily life that is difficult to manage? Well… then you might’ve just identified an addiction!
If it is on your wish list to travel and the reason you don’t travel is because you don’t have the money to do so then ask yourself why. Why don’t you have the money? Do you spend to freely? Work too sparsely? Now, once you’ve identified why you don’t have the money make a plan to change that. It’s ok if that plan is difficult. But if it’s causing significant challenges and psychological or physical symptoms you’re likely dealing with an addiction!
Breaking Your Addiction
Once you know that you have an addiction, take charge and take responsibility! The only person who can change your habits and break your addictions is you! Make the choice to break them and follow the steps below.
How Does This Serve You:
To really understand and kick your addiction for good you need to start here! Dig deep and figure out how your addiction serves you. The problem really isn’t shopping or working to little for example. The thing you’re addicted to is the way your discomfort serves you! You definitely don’t want to hear this but no matter how miserable you may be with this current circumstance, it serves you! At the very root of all of our addictions is the fact that they reinforce something we already believe. If it didn’t you wouldn’t keep doing it!
What Are You Getting:
So think about it. What are you getting out of this? Does everyone feel bad for you? Do you get attention for all of your new clothes? Does being a serial monogamist, or love addict, help you avoid being lonely? Do you get the added bonus of drama or sympathy when the relationship you rushed into is a disaster. For real… be completely honest! What are you getting out of it! Most of us like to reinforce old themes so be extra watchful for behavior patterns that reinforce that you aren’t worthy or good enough. And, don’t forget to alsobe attentive to things that keep you from genuinely putting yourself out there, risking being hurt or taking the chance that you might fail. Many addictions serve that purpose… including the big ones like drugs and alcohol!
Assess the Damage
What damage has your addiction done and to whom. It’s important to assess the damage so you can try to start with a clean slate. Who, besides you, may have been hurt by your actions? Consider the answers to the portion above… how did your addiction serve you. This may give you insight into how other’s may have been effected. If you’ve been overspending your family may have been forced to make unfair sacrifices. Addicted to love? Your significant other may have been held to unreasonable standards. Longing for sympathy or a pass to not contribute equally… well that’s manipulation!
The truth is we ALL have addictions and being self aware enough to want out of the cycle doesn’t make you a bad person. So, don’t take this as an opportunity to beat yourself up! If you have a tendency toward that get some help with this step from someone you trust. But don’t skip it, you don’t want the guilt to come back to haunt you!
This is a familiar part of the 12 step programs and in my opinion an important one. If you skip this then the elephant that is your addiction or previous behavior will likely always be in the room. One or both of you will always be reminded of it’s presence. This will prevent healing and make it much more difficult to do the next steps to overcome your addiction!
So, go to the person and apologize. Get into as much detail as the relationship will allow and let them know that you are aware that your behavior put them in a difficult, unfair (whatever word is suitable) situation. Also, let them know that you plan to make a change and, if appropriate, what that change is.
Now, be patient. Firstly, it takes time to repair a relationship and build trust back. Secondly you may have formed a symbiotic behavior pattern with this person. You might be ready to change and they might not. If this is the case you might need to put some distance there, at least until you’ve completely broken the addiction.
**This doesn’t mean contacting your ex’s. This should only be applied to people who are a part of your present and future.
Change Your Mindset
Now you can begin working on changing your mindset. Get rid of the thought patterns that lead to your addiction by affirming yourself and validating your healthy behaviors. Write your affirmations on the mirror or somewhere you will see them regularly. Read them to yourself at least twice a day!
In the beginning consider writing one on your hand or somewhere else you will see it all day. This one should be specifically targeted toward the addiction you’re breaking. But it should be in positive tense just like all of your affirmations. For example: You could write “I am great with money and make wise financial choices” to help you break a shopping addiction. Then every time you are tempted to buy something you don’t need you would read it to reinforce positive choices and affirm yourself.
Eliminate negative self talk from the equation!
Start a Journal
Start a journal to vent your feelings and keep track of your progress. A month from now if you’re frustrated with your progress you can look back on those first few days and pat yourself on the back for your tremendous growth. And a year from now if you’re thinking about going back to your old habit you can review your journal to discourage yourself!
Find an understanding person who has not been harmed by your addiction and seek accountability! Consider hiring a therapist or life coach or attending a support group if necessary! It is always helpful to have accountability when we are trying to make a change in our lives! If you think about it, you probably weren’t alone when you started the behavior that is now addictive and you are unlikely to come out of it alone too!
There are some addictions that don’t need to be entirely eliminated but they do need to be limited! These can be the most difficult ones to master. For example screen time and food addictions. In this day and age most people don’t have the luxury of eliminating screen time. Computers and cell phones are often necessary for work. And certainly we can’t eliminate food (that would be a whole different and deadly addiction). In this case the best thing to do is set limits!
When setting limits it’s very important to be honest about your current consumption. This is best done by keeping a record. Then making gradual reductions. Having an all or nothing mentality will lead to failure! Instead focus on incremental small changes like eliminating between meal snacking or cell phone use within an hour of bedtime. This will make a huge impact which will give you momentum to continue!
Replace Your Addiction
Find a new healthier option to replace your old behavior!
For example, I tried to quit smoking MANY times but I always found that I would return to it. Not because I was struggling with the physiological addiction to nicotine but because of the routines I’d formed around it and the time it took.
Since I smoked about 15 cigarettes a day that’s an extra 150 minutes. If you suddenly had 2.5 hours added to your day you might be a bit thrown off too! So, I made a list of little things I could do with those 10 minute chunks. I would tidy up or write my affirmations or have a cup of tea. Once I became good at that I started combining the chunks into a half hour work out or 45 minutes on a project. Now I have NO idea how I had the time to smoke because I have so many other things to fill my time!
Consider taking on a personal challenge for personal growth to replace your addiction!
Meditation & Self-Care
Be sure to spend some time every day meditating and visualizing the life that you are creating. Be as specific as possible and try to write down your vision. Giving the brain a new goal to focus on will help keep you on track! You don’t have to spend a lot of time doing this. Just 2 – 5 minutes a day is an excellent start. Try to make it at the same time everyday (preferably in the morning) so that you don’t skip it! This is a great habit to form anyway!
Make sure that you are scheduling in plenty of self care! I don’t mean a big shopping spree or ice cream sundae. I mean, paint your nails, take a bath, read poetry etc. Whatever makes you feel good and nurtured (without indulging or starting a bad habit or new addiction). For some great self care ideas check out my list!
Addiction Overcome, Live Your Best Life!
As you’re going through this process don’t forget to be kind, gentle and patient with yourself! Consider treating yourself as you would your child or best friend! Overcoming addiction isn’t an invitation to beat yourself up! It’s an opportunity for growth and self-improvement!
Remember, you’re amazing! If you weren’t you wouldn’t even be aware of the need to change in the first place! Now that you’ve overcome your addiction, nothing can hold you back! So, get out there and live your BEST life!
Share this with all of the amazing people in your life and help them to live their best lives too!
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