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How to break addiction habits

Addiction Replacement: Using Other Habits To Break Your Addictive Ones

Addiction is a difficult subject to tackle.

What is addiction, in the first place? In a loved one, especially in a child, it can cause feelings of intense guilt and responsibility. Then there are even stickier concepts, like relapse and triggers, and how much of that can be controlled by the addict, versus what is a natural consequence of their addiction.

Additionally, what role do alternate habits play in addiction recovery? How can we start to adapt new habits and get over cravings for a specific drug-of-choice…for good? We explore here. Then, we invite your questions or comments about habits at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all legitimate questions with a personal and prompt reply.

The Ever Growing Addiction Problem

When you begin to look at statistics dealing with addiction, it becomes even harder to stomach. According to a startling update to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the number of Americans with addictions to drugs and alcohol could be as high as 23 million, but we know it doesn’t end there. With the specification of “drugs and alcohol”, it doesn’t cover other addictions which can be just as harmful to one’s life, such as gambling, or even sex.

There is also a phenomenon known as addiction replacement. Addicts who go down this road will take one problem and switch it with another. For example, someone who is addicted to alcohol may begin to smoke large amounts of marijuana. A former opiate addict could begin habitually overeating to deal with the stress of losing their former coping mechanism. A gambling addict could begin engaging in dangerous impulse buying that bankrupts them.

Usually, the argument for this replacement is that the new addiction is less harmful than the old one. In some cases this might be true, but that doesn’t make it a good course of action. The point of battling addiction is not to reduce its impact by giving it a new focus. It is to recover from that addiction entirely.

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Healthy Habits, Not New Addictions

Instead, one alternative is to begin developing lifelong, healthy habits. It is harder work, but far more effective in both the long term.
In 2011, an interesting book was released on Kindle by a man named Mishka Shubaly. He had been battling alcoholism, and it had badly impacted his overall life and health. His solution? It wasn’t a rehab center, or a special medication. He began to run, starting at five miles, then gradually increasing it all the way to 50 miles.

You can find a similar story from the creator of the comic The Oatmeal, who talks about his constant fight against what he calls the “Blerch”. The Blerch is a character he created to represent his inherent tendency towards unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as drinking and eating.
Of course, it isn’t always that simple, and sometimes professional help is the only thing that is going to allow an addict to get past their problem. But it illustrates how one healthy habit can be a coping mechanism, and help lead away from addictive behaviors.

This is not a theory without its foundation in scientific study. Dr. Kelly McGonigal Ph.D found when working with addicts that something as simple as mindfulness could be the key to breaking beyond temptation. It could, in some cases, be a matter of willpower when it comes to beginning the recovery process. That is quite reassuring to anyone who has been impacted by this horrific disease.

5 Steps to Starting a New Habit to Beat Addiction

If you’re ready to begin a new habit and replace your addiction with something positive, there are five things you’ll need to do.

1. Simplify Your Goals. If you try to change your entire life in a day, you’re going to fail. Pick one goal and be willing to let others fall by the wayside for a bit. Focus first on what is most important and build on your goals as you gather more strength and resilience.

2. Make A Daily Change. Your goal for a healthy new habit has to be a change you make on a daily basis. This way it’s constantly occurring. If your goal is a weekly or monthly activity, then you’re likely to forget about it.

3. Set Reminders. Create reminders of your goal everywhere necessary. Write is on your fridge, your bathroom mirror, create an alert in your phone, tell a friend. Even the best goal setters forget from time to time to what goals they’re trying to focus on and WHY they were so motivated to do so in the first place.

4. Create A Trigger. This is some sort of ritual you perform right before you act out the new habit you’re trying to perform. If you’re trying to quit smoking, this could be something as simple as doing push ups or drinking a glass of water every time you fight the urge to smoke a cigarette.

5. Get Rid Of Temptation. Rid your life of anything that will tempt you to break your goal. Remove drugs or alcohol from the home if you’re trying to quit these substances. Do not go to places where you know they will be used. Avoid friends who use substances you’re trying to get away from if they’re unwilling to support your goals.

Breaking addictions, healing, forming healthy habits for a healthy and happy life is within your reach, no matter how far into addiction you or your loved one may have gone.

If you have questions that you’re struggling to find answers to, reach out to us! We’re happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction if you’re looking for resources, community, support, and healing.

Leave a Reply

3 Responses to “How to break addiction habits
mrm42
5:53 am February 14th, 2017

Stop the drug war with objective of shutting down the black market. The drug war has failed. The drug war is driving the problems, not fixing them. Decriminalization/legalization is necessary, it needs to be backed up with public health announcements explaining exactly why it is needed. Its not in any way condoning the abuse of addictors, it is done bc the alternative, the drug war, has made things infinitely worse on almost every level, to include making drugs abundantly available to any & all that wants them.
We need to pull LE out of the drug biz – that will free up a lot of resources currently chasing their collective tails. When the laws create more harm and cause more damage than they prevent, its time to change the laws. The $1 TRILLION so-called war on drugs is a massive big government failure – on nearly every single level. Its way past time to put the cartels & black market drug dealers out of business. Mass incarceration has failed. We cant even keep drugs out of a contained & controlled environment like prison.
We need the science of addiction causation to guide prevention, treatment, recovery & public policies. Otherwise, things will inexorably just continue to worsen & no progress will be made. Addiction causation research has continued to show that some people (suffering with addiction) have a “hypo-active endogenous opioid/reward system.” This is the (real) brain disease, making addiction a symptom, not a disease itself. One disease, one pathology. Policy must be made reflecting addiction(s) as the health issue that it is.
The war on drugs is an apotheosis of the largest & longest war failure in history. It actually exposes our children to more harm & risk and does not protect them whatsoever. In all actuality, the war on drugs is nothing more than an international projection of a domestic psychosis. It is not the “great child protection act,” its actually the complete opposite. Let’s remember, opioids (drug) prohibition is a historical and cultural aberration, just 100 years old. We had fewer drug problems in my own grandparents’ time when opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine and cannabis could all still be bought legally over the counter. (Re)legalizing opioids would not be a “risky social experiment”, as some think. On the contrary, drugs prohibition was the reckless social experiment. And its a massive failure. Alcohol prohibition didn’t work, and opioid prohibition is failing even more miserably. The longer we’ve had drug prohibition laws in place, the worse have the social and health problems they cause gotten.
The lesson is clear: Drug laws do not stop people from harming themselves, but they do cause addicts to commit crimes and harm others. We need a new approach that decriminalizes the disease. We must protect society from the collateral damage of addiction and stop waging war on ourselves. We need common sense harm reduction approaches desperately. MAT (medication assisted treatment) and HAT (heroin assisted treatment) must be available options. Of course, MJ should not be a sched drug at all.

Emma
11:20 am June 3rd, 2017

Hi thank you so much for this article, so accurate. I have been struggling fwith addicin for years and, have had hit rock bottom several times. done everything I said I would never do, was in every bad typical drug addict situation & scenerios. For the past 2 years almost I have changed my life drastically. I know longer am homeless, but I have been living in the same home for the last 2 years , by myself , I am in my mid twenties, healthy, I look so much better and am doing better, but I am really not completely better. It just appears that way I have just been switching one thing to another, I have gone from abusing opiates, to going to a daily dosing clinic, and am now really struggling with cocaine addiction. I am concerened because I know where this can go. But the crazy thing is late at night I meditate and become my true self with a calm and peaceful mind that’s so deep, but no matter how hard I try or plan , or try and do somethimg elce, it happened everynight , ove and over . I could really use some advice please

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:47 pm June 14th, 2017

Hi Emma. If you are looking for a treatment facility, call the helpline you see on the website to speak with a trusted treatment consultant. The number is free, confidential, and available any time of the day and the night.

About Tyler Jacobson

Tyler is a freelance writer/journalist, with past experience as the head content writer and outreach coordinator for HelpYourTeenNow. His areas of focus include: parenting, education, social media, addiction, and issues facing teenagers today.

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