What does an addict look like? A threatening and aggressive junkie, lurking in alleyways? Or do you work with one? Are you one yourself?
Daniel, a successful company director in his mid-fifties, enjoyed a glass of wine a night. Every single night – and became very agitated if he couldn’t have it for any reason.
Alison loved her job in recruitment and loved her weekend shopping trips. So much so that she had a wardrobe full of clothes that she never wore.
If something controls you, rather than you controlling it, then it’s an addiction – and human beings can be addicted to just about anything.
Addictions often take root at bad times in our lives. If something makes us feel better – drink, drugs, shopping, sex, coffee, internet browsing – the brain labels it as a remedy for all times and circumstances. In this way, our natural reward and expectation mechanisms can be hijacked.
Once you’ve understood the true nature of addictions, the following tips will help you to loosen their grip.
1 – Be honest. You are not your addiction, so you don’t want to be fighting yourself in addition to the dependency. Admitting that you are being controlled by something is the first step to taking back control.
2 – What need is this addiction trying to meet? Can you meet the same need in a more helpful way? Problems usually start life as solutions. Addictions are often attempts to meet legitimate emotional needs by external means.
In Daniel’s case, the dependency on wine started as a means of relaxation after a busy day. Alison felt that shopping gave her independence and status. Daniel found he relaxed more profoundly by going to the gym after work. Alison became an active and leading member of a local fundraising group.
3 – Change your expectations. Remind yourself of all the negative stuff associated with the addiction. In Daniel’s case, he reminded himself of the excess weight he’d put on over the years, the dry mouth and fuzzy head that he woke up with each morning. Challenge every addictive thought that comes into your head.
4 – In a year’s time, when you’ve been free of this habit for a whole year, what will life look like? What benefits will you notice? Who else will notice? Expect the best!