When facing an addiction of any kind, whether it’s rooted in substance abuse or in compulsive engagement in certain behaviors, admitting that there is a problem there is the most important step. Whether it’s smoking, prescription medicine, alcohol, gambling, or anything else, realizing when it has gone too far is important. But once you’ve realized that, it’s easy to get scared by how much of a path lies ahead. Breaking it down and understanding what it entails can be a great help.
Understand that it’s all connected
A lot of people don’t understand that addiction isn’t just about a certain substance or activity that you keep going back to. It’s deeply entrenched in a tangle of life circumstances and emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety, and stress. There’s no effective approach to battling addiction that won’t try to get down to the root causes and the side-effects of the addiction. Instead of seeking to stop your addiction alone, you should consider seeking treatment for co-occurring or dual diagnosis disorder. Both your physical and psychological well-being are at stake. This might include relationships and environments in your life that have contributed to the addiction. Without looking at those root causes, you leave yourself even more open to the chance of a relapse in the future.
Identify and master your triggers
Just as addiction is linked to your mental state, relationships, and environments, it can have a direct causal link with them. Some triggers are obvious. If you have an alcohol dependency, you might be triggered by attending a party. Other triggers don’t seem to make much sense, like a certain time of day. Learning about your triggers is the start, and can help you avoid some of the most high-risk situations. But through the practice of mindfulness meditation, you can also rewire your triggers. You can become aware, in the moment, of the thoughts and sensations in your head. Over time, you might be able to encounter one of your triggers and recognize it, but because of mindfulness, you can be aware of your inherent reaction and choose a different path.
Make and measure positive changes in your life
One of the most important metrics you’re going to potentially measure yourself by is how long you’ve gone without giving into your addiction. That’s the start, but it can be greatly helpful to measure other ways you’re making progress in your life, as well. For instance, you can start making changes to your diet and exercise habits. Exercise has long been proven to serve as a great distraction and a positive habit that can replace addictive behaviors. But setting yourself a project of any kind can be helpful. Giving yourself a reading list, something you want to craft, or a skill you want to learn all work. They don’t work without also endeavoring to improve your mental habits, but they can be a great tool for dealing with the day-to-day.
Don’t do it alone
Having some kind of support by people who are genuinely invested in your improvement and recovery is essential. A lot of people find this kind of support in groups that have the shared experience to show both support and understanding. But friends and family can be tremendously helpful, even if it can be intimidating to ask for that help. For one, they can hold you accountable. If you’re honest with your problem, with your triggers, and with environments and situations that contribute to emotional health issues, they can help look out for you. They can stop you from going to that party or offer company during that most troublesome time of the day.
You’re not going to be cured because you haven’t gambled in a week. You’re not going to be cured because you talked about your problem. You’re not going to be cured because you sought treatment. You’re going to cure yourself every day. Which means you should expect to face that resistance every day. Addiction is a lifelong struggle, so you can’t suddenly feel safe from it. You can be proud of your achievements and you can be aware of the real progress you’ve made. But there’s always another day to stay clean. Another success to be found. Recognize that and you’re going to have an attitude to recovery that’s both healthier and more achievable.
Hopefully, this is just the start of your education into what it means to fight addiction and to keep winning that fight. Depending on what help you seek, the methods might vary, but the most important thing is always taking the next step.