Are you concerned that yourself or a loved one may have an addiction? Is addiction starting to affect your relationships, work, or family life? Sometimes it?s just a niggling thought in your mind that there is an addiction problem. Find out more about addiction behaviours.
Addiction is a compulsive behaviour and, like a magnet, pulls someone to engage in a behaviour even though they know that there can be adverse side effects. The behaviour can be harmful not just to the user but also the people around them.
Addictions come in many different forms. The consumption of certain substances, like drugs and alcohol, is a common example, but many behaviours can be addictions as well. As time goes by, addictions become stronger and can get to the point where they are difficult to deal with.
If you are dealing with personal addiction or have a friend or family member who is suffering from an addiction, the following article is for you. By understanding a little more about this condition, you can help yourself and others from an enlightened perspective.
The names of the people mentioned in this blog post have been changed to protect their identity.
This post is about what you don?t get told about addiction.
Noticing you have addiction problems
When you have addiction problems or a bad habit you may think that what you?re doing is very normal. It soon reaches a point when you hardly think about what you?re doing. But stepping back and surveying the results of these repeated addiction behaviours, can help you learn a lot about the addiction.
One good way to gain a clearer picture of your addiction is by observing and recording your day-to-day life. For example, if you are smoking habitually, you can begin to write down the times you smoke and what was the impulse that caused you to pick up a cigarette.
This is going to reveal a pattern of impulses or times when you see that the desire for a cigarette is impossible to ignore. For example, after a meal or after considerable physical or mental effort. When you see your habits presented back to you in this way, you can make efficient and well-targeted actions in addressing your addiction problems.
?I had an addiction for alcohol. This addiction for alcohol was taking over my life. I didn?t realise it in the moment. In the moment all I knew is that I was underage but being 17 I thought I wasn?t far off being an adult so it?s not that big of a deal.
My first drink was with a few friends. If I had known that this first drink would turn into an addiction for alcohol, I would never have taken a sip. I was always quite an anxious person. I think anxiety may run in my family.
The alcohol took the edge of the anxiety. Before I knew it I was going to parties and drinking every weekend. Then it became more frequent to drinking through the week. My parents were going through a separation, and it was extremely stressful so the alcohol helped with the anxiety. Or so I thought at the time.
Before I knew it my life started spiralling out of control. My grades fell and I was feeling really disconnected to those closest to me. My anxiety when I wasn?t drinking was through the roof. I just didn?t know what to do. I knew the alcohol addiction wasn?t helping but I just couldn?t stop.
I think I was kind of in denial as to just how bad it was to begin with. I was drinking after school and every weekend. I thought it?s not all day everyday so it?s not an addiction.
It wasn?t until a concerned friend went and told my Mum what was happening that I realised that I needed addiction help. Even then it still took a lot of convincing and there were many many tears cried.
It wasn?t until I saw a therapist that I learnt about why I was drinking. I kept a journal of my thoughts, and we discussed that in our sessions. I did have relapses and I?m certainly not perfect. But I did manage to recover from my alcohol addiction.
It certainly was the hardest thing I?ve ever had to conquer. Addiction for alcohol is something that takes over your life. I was lucky that I had people in my life to support me and I am so grateful to them.?
Addiction behaviours. Are you sure you?re ready to quit?
Most of the time, adjusting our behaviours is a lot easier said than done. After creating the habit, trying to resist the urge to repeat the behaviour can feel almost impossible.
This is the reason so many well-intentioned people will begin the quest for addressing the addiction with confidence but will soon relapse and take up their habits once more. The addiction behaviours can take over and you need to find what?s motivating you to quit.
It is important to be committed in your mind that breaking an undesirable habit is what you want most in life. One way you can do this is to consider the risks of continuing an unhealthy habit. For example, nicotine and alcohol abuse has been associated with a wide variety of health risks and can even lead to death. Furthermore, the path to this death is likely to be very difficult on your family and your finances.
By the same measure, you may find you?re not at a point where quitting an addiction is necessary. But you may consider beginning to take some control over the addiction behaviours so that you can minimise its health risks.
For example, switching to a milder type of cigarette can begin reducing the unwanted side effects of the habit. This can also give you some practice in quitting the addiction behaviours altogether in the future.
Dealing with addictions can be a very subjective topic. It is not bad to have something you regularly enjoy in your life until it begins to force you to deal with the negative side effects.
?I started smoking in my teens. It was just the odd one here and there to begin with. My parents smoked and whilst I knew it wasn?t good for your health it just felt like it was part of life.
By the time I was an adult I was smoking every day. I soon learnt that it was an expensive habit especially once I reached the point of smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.
Cigarettes gave me something to turn to when I was angry, upset, frustrated or stressed. Cigarettes soon became something I couldn?t live without. As I started getting older, I began to feel lethargic and just unwell all the time. I was not longer at school playing sports or being active. I was unfit, overweight, and miserable.
Then when I was hit with pneumonia, I ended up really unwell. I was so scared as I just couldn?t breathe properly. It felt like someone was sitting on my chest every breath I took. I really thought I was going to die.
This was a turning point for me, and I knew I needed to quit smoking. Making up my mind to overcome an addiction was daunting. I was petrified as cigarettes was what I turned to when times were tough.
I lost count of the number of times I relapsed. In the end I needed support from my doctor who then referred me to a counsellor to help with my stress. Overcoming addiction is such a nightmare. You know you need to do it but you don?t realise at the time what an uphill battle it is. Once you beat it though it?s the best feeling. I feel so much healthier now. In fact, the healthiest I think I?ve ever felt.
Ending up sick with pneumonia was a real turning point in my life. I can now say i have given up my addiction.?
Addiction effect on family and friends
If you are currently engaging in addiction behaviours that are beginning to have some very negative side effects, you may think that you?re the only one affected. This is generally not the case. Your best friend may say that they support your decision, but deep inside they worry about you.
Your family may try to intervene but find no resolution when they try. In one way or another, the negative consequences of addiction do pervasive damage to those connected to the person with this condition.
Addiction behaviours not only take their toll on those closest to you, but they can also prevent you from advancing in your choice of career. If you were not already moving upwards in your choice of profession, addiction can make it even more difficult to make advancements due to the various issues that addictions can cause.
This can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle where you are not advancing professionally, and you spend time repairing the damage that addiction has caused your professional life.
?I felt like I was flying high climbing the ladder in my corporate job. I was working in a marketing agency and considering my age was doing exceptionally well. There were always numerous parties to attend, and I loved that. But I lived with my boyfriend so would leave these magnificent parties early.?
One night I returned home to find my boyfriend cheating on me. Words can?t describe how I felt in that moment. In my haste I just headed back out the door and went back to the party thinking my best friend would still be there.
Mark explained that I?d just missed her but seeing me visibly upset he asked what was wrong. I literally blurted out what I?d seen. Mark handed me some serviettes to wipe away the tears and a drink. After a few more drinks Mark said he was joining a few other friends out back and invited me to go. By this time, I could feel the effects of the champagne but couldn?t go home so I followed Mark.
When I walked in, I saw lines of a white powder. I sat down next to Mark and watched him snort. Then he offered me some. Before I knew it, I had had my first experience of cocaine.
Unfortunately, though it didn?t end there. It became a regular weekend event. Then the odd weekday event. Then before I realised, I was getting hooked. I became addicted. I started showing up to work late. I was compromising the company standards by not completing my tasks on time.
Eventually this led to me being fired. Everything I had worked so hard for was destroyed. I did commit to getting myself clean and have done that now. But it has really taken a toll on my confidence and my professional career.?
Why Quitting Can Be So Hard
Another issue with facing addiction behaviours is that habits make themselves easier and easier to repeat. For example, an alcoholic may have a liquor store as part of their daily itinerary. They may even know where they can get their hands on alcohol for little or no money if they are desperate.
Addicts often know places where they can sell items if they need to get their hands on money to do nothing else but drink the day away. When you are trying to break a bad habit, you are trying to initiate new thought processes where old thought processes that lead to repeating the habit have been well-established.
When you truly desire to quit, you just begin by admitting to yourself that this is a problem, and you need to quit. This can be difficult because the person with the addiction behaviours is often too close to the problem to even recognise it ? a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. If you are not sure if an activity you perform regularly is a problem or not, it may help to speak with a therapist and get a professional perspective on what you are experiencing. They can help you identify the habits you may want to change and give you advice on how you can begin your recovery of addiction.
?Sometimes you don?t realise how strong you are until you pick yourself back up?.
You do not have to face your addiction problems alone. By working with an experienced counsellor, you will gain an understanding and education about the cycle of addiction and how to break the cycle.
Whilst you may think you can battle addiction problems on your own, you may not be fully aware of the number of challenges to breaking addictions that you will need to face with a plan and intention.
Furthermore, addictions come in many different forms, and an experienced professional that has seen this situation before can provide invaluable help and support.
When you begin working with your counsellor, the best place to begin is with complete honesty with yourself, about yourself, and what you do on a day-to-day basis.
You may feel that it is difficult to open up and fully describe your situation to another person. But it is important to know that your therapist is someone you can speak to with no fear of judgment.
?Having a gaming addiction, I thought was a healthier addiction. I thought it?s not hurting my physical health. Looking back now whether it?s a gaming addiction, addiction to social media or addiction to alcohol it can affect every aspect of your life?.
Recovery of addiction
Many people start the challenge to break a habit but are soon discouraged by the amount of work and roadblocks they face on this path. But recovery of addiction does get easier. Having supportive people around you are essential.
It is normal to have a relapse. But the vital thing is to keep trying to quit the habit until you are completely free. By following your plan to quit your addiction, you can begin building your way to your new life.
It is also important to remember that you don?t have to change everything in one day, or even in a few months. It can take years to reach the point where you?re completely happy with quitting your habit.
Sometimes the path will seem daunting, and you will feel like you have such a long road ahead. But remember to take each day as it comes. Each day is another step closer to breaking your addiction behaviours.
?When you?re addicted you think giving the habit up will mean having no life. It?s not until you quit that you start living life?.
Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Facing your addiction is never an easy thing. One of the most common concerns is that people will look down on you or think less of you if you admit that you have addiction problems.
Many people will not understand your situation or will have a difficult time dealing with this information due to their limited knowledge of addiction. But try not to focus on what they?re thinking and instead stay focused on the things you?re doing to overcome your addiction problems.
You may lose friends as you begin your path to a cleaner life. This may even include people with whom you have shared a deeply personal experience.
People that also have addictions may leave your life as they still want to continue with their habit. This may be difficult to deal with but in the longer run you want only the supportive people around you as they are the ones who only wish the best for you.
?People may be quick to judge but remember they haven?t walked in your shoes.?
Lose the toxic people
When you choose to quit your addictions, be sure to burn your bridges too. Making it as hard as you can to engage in your former habits will allow you to extend that moment between impulse and response.
This golden moment is the choice to accept your freedom. Sometimes making it as hard as you can to contact your dealer, can allow you this moment to exercise your freedom.
You may find you need time off work, time in a rehabilitation centre or time with a family member to help you stay away from the toxic people in your life.
?How to deal with toxic people ? realise that your commitment to sobriety is stronger than your commitment to them. This can be tough in the beginning but mighty freeing when achieved.?
Celebrate Your Progress
While dealing with your addiction one of the greatest challenges is losing sight of your direction. By keeping track of your progress in a journal can act as motivation and encouragement.
This way when you begin to feel disappointed at your apparent lack of progress and consider relapsing, you can look at the amount you have already accomplished and see that it?s the smallest decisions to stay strong that have helped you through up to this point.
Not only will you feel inspired by this, but you may also see that you felt even worse a while back and still stayed strong, this means you are more than capable of doing so again.
Your social media profile or photo album can also be a place of great support for your efforts. You may see the progress you?ve made and the things you have accomplished without your addiction, and this can help you stay on course.
?I love drawing, so I?d do drawings of my thoughts in my journal. Looking back, I see how tormented I was by the addiction. Now I see how I became more positive and uplifting as I recovered. It?s like a plant that you think is going to die but then starts becoming greener and greener until one day it blossoms.?
When you Feel Like Giving Up
You will have bad days. There will be times when you think your new life isn?t offering you anything better than your old life and maybe all this is just a waste of time. You may meet a personal challenge or emotional difficulty and you don?t even have your addictions to see you through. But even if you manage to push back your addiction for three hours, be proud of those three hours and make that your new benchmark ? soon you will transform three hours into three months.
When you feel like giving up it can be extremely beneficial to have a counsellor. They can help you challenge those negative thoughts and help remind you of why you wanted to break the addiction in the first place.
?I found having a counsellor was not only great support, but it helped me in being accountable for my actions. In the beginning it was a bit of a love/hate relationship but as things became better, I realised that my counsellor was my rock as she copped my frustrations, anger, sadness and hopelessness. And she was still there!?
Relapses Are Not The End
Many people will feel utterly despondent after their attempt to quit their addiction ends in failure. But this is not how this situation should be handled. It is important to understand that no one makes it to the top on their first attempt. Some people fail many times on their way to full sobriety and this is not an indication of anything except your real desire to change. There are no time limits, and this is not a race. You can expect to have relapses on your way to sobriety and this can help you plan how you will not give up and still keep moving forward.
?Each time I relapsed I felt like I was starting all over again. But then I realised that the time between each relapse extended. I would never buy a packet of cigarettes but instead have one from a friend to try and help reduce the number of relapses. Eventually after nearly 2 years I quit my addiction of smoking.?
You Cannot Fix Everyone Else
If you have a close friend or family member who has an addiction and you would like to help them, take things slow and intuitively. There are many times that an addict will simply not want to quit and there is little or nothing you can do about that.
You may think that if you were to quit a habit, you can expect your friend, romantic partner, or family member to do the same, but this is simply not the case. It is best to remember that not everyone is ready to quit an addiction, and some are simply not ready to.
Some of the people you may know who were participating in the addiction with you may be difficult to walk away from. Many people that are addicts are also sincerely good, but this doesn?t mean they will be able or even want to quit their habits. It is best to keep focused on beating your own addiction.
Why Should I Even Care About Quitting?
Many people are not concerned about the effects of their addiction behaviours and may be wondering why even go through the process of quitting. Maybe they don?t see their habits as dangerous, for example, maybe they are playing video games excessively and although it is affecting their professional life, their health and relations are just fine. But when you come to see that a habit is beginning to affect your life in a negative way it is important to do something about it.
If you recognise that quitting your habit is going to be a more desirable path for you in the long run, then today is the day to start your plan for healthier you. It is no easy task to admit that you have a problem, so talking to a counsellor can help. You can expect to come across challenges, but you can also expect to reap many great benefits from kicking the habit.
This post was about addiction behaviours and the things that no one tells you.
Thank you to those that have shared their personal story with me. If you would like to share your journey with me privately or would like to comment, I would love to hear from you.
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