Everyone is addicted to something. For me it is coffee. I love it. Others have an addiction to drugs, sex or video games. And the sad thing about addictions is that they overtake your entire life; everything else comes second. In this post I am going to give you some practical and meaningful ways to overcome your addictions. It is my sincere hope that you beat them soon.
How do you know if you’re addicted?
The first step that we need to look at is whether or not you are actually addicted. Some people say they are addicted to coffee when, in actual fact, they just really like a cup in the morning. I would say that this is a bad habit as opposed to an addiction.
Addictions are a different kettle of fish. They are more consuming and debilitating. One sign that you are addicted to something is that feel like you cannot live without it. You need it. You have to have it. And when you don’t get it you feel sick. That is and addiction.
There are also many signs that point to the fact that you are becoming addicted. For example, let’s take a Facebook addiction. One sign that you are on the path to addiction is when you are late for meetings or appointments because you are using the website. If your poison is interfering with the normal function of your life then chances are you are on that slippery slope.
How to overcome your addictions
The suggestions that I am about to give come from a lifetime of dealing with a very addictive personality. Although I have never been addicted to anything serious like drugs or alcohol I do sometimes feel the “pull” of some other addictive behaviors. I also grew up with an alcoholic father which ignited in me a wish to learn more about addictions.
I should point out, however, that I am not a doctor, psychologist or counselor. Nothing that I say should replace the advice of a professional.
1. See the damage your addiction is causing
The first thing that you need to do if you have an addiction is realize the damage that it is doing to your life. Once you can truly see and accept this negativity you will be more likely to make a change.
Let’s take the example of an alcoholic. This is a very destructive addiction because it really affects every area of your life. Your work starts to become unproductive because you are either intoxicated or in desperate need of a drink. Your family life starts to crumble because you lie to your spouse about where you are and how much you’ve been drinking. And your health is impacted – weight gain and liver problems.
If you feel you are addicted to something and you want to fix the problem you really need to take an honest look at the damage your addiction is causing. You really need to be honest with yourself. Don’t blame anything or anyone else – be honest. When you can do this you are ready to change.
2. Admit it to someone else
The next step you need to take is admitting to someone else that you have an addiction. A lot of self-help strategies tell you to admit it to yourself but I think this is not enough. You need to admit it to someone else.
Here’s why. You KNOW you are addicted. Your mind has self-awareness and you know exactly what you think and feel. You might make excuses for it or dodge the issue but deep down you know you are addicted. So admitting it to yourself only takes you so far. However, if you go out and admit it to someone else you are acknowledging that the addiction is a problem. This is one step further from merely admitting it is there – you are admitting it is dangerous.
Make a date with your spouse, mother, father, brother, sister or friend. Or book some time to see a counselor. Tell them that you have a problem and you need help. Tell them that you intend to get better and politely ask them to check in on you from time to time. This is important.
3. Get specific information
The next thing you need to do is get information specific to your addiction. We all know the saying “knowledge is power” and it is as true as ever when it comes to overcoming addiction. You need to know exactly how your problem works, why it came about and how to go about fixing it.
When you are looking for information you need to do a little better than blogs and internet resources. You need text books written by professionals and you need advice from experts who are trained to deal with your specific problem. The internet is a wonderful resource for many things but when it comes to serious addictions you need to make sure you are only working with the best material. Be careful.
4. Take a vow
The next thing you need to do is make a vow. This is probably the most important step in the whole process. Without this vow you will struggle to stick it out when times get tough.
When I was young I was introduced to the idea of Buddhist vows. I was fascinated with the way they shaped a person’s life and kept you from straying down negative paths. I was mesmerized by the monks and how pure they were because of their vows. Their vows were the most important things in their life. In fact, many monks recite a prayer that says, “I will protect my vows like I protect my own eyes“. This is how you need to consider your vow.
Your vow is your word. It is your promise to yourself and to other people. It is your guiding light – the pathway that will take you from sickness to health. Take a vow and stick to it no matter what. When you feel tired and sick and helpless and are tempted to go back to your poison remember your vow – rely on it.
5. Make a plan
Beating an addiction is a battle. And like any battle, you need a plan to be successful. Imagine running into Iraq with a team of soldiers and no idea what your plan was. It would be suicide. The same is true of your addiction – without a plan you will fail.
Your plan should be made in conjunction with the information that you got earlier. It should be clearly laid out and put somewhere where you will see it everyday. Try to include as much detail as possible – how long you are going to take to quit, how much support you need, your daily activities, etc.
It is very important to pick a date by which you will have quit your addiction. Without that date your journey is just a dream. With that date it can become reality. Pick a date (a reasonable one) and stick to it.
6. Find inspiration
This step is one of the most important of them all. Inspiration. You are going to need someone or something to rely on when the going gets tough. Make sure you know exactly what yours is so you don’t have to scramble to find it when you are feeling down.
If you have a religion it can be very useful in these times. You can look at the great examples of the Saints of your lineage and see the hardships that they went through. I feel quite an affinity for the Buddhist masters and as such I draw a lot of inspiration from the Dalai Lama and the great yogi Milarepa. These are real human beings who have faced some extremely tough circumstances and come out as better people. That is inspiring.
Do some research and find out who or what inspires you. As I said, make sure you know before you start to panic who you are going to go to. If you don’t you will just end up back on the booze or the drugs.
7. Get rid of negative influences
Once when I was traveling in India a great Buddhist master was giving a series of teachings. On the last day of these teachings he said something that has become a steadfast rule in my life, “If you put a rose in a bag of fish soon the rose will start to stink too. Be careful of the company you keep”.
Quite often our “friends” are the worst thing for us. When we hang around them we are brought under their influence and end up doing all sorts of things that we wouldn’t have done otherwise. If you have an addiction or feel like you are going that way it would be a good idea to see whether any friends or events that you participate in are negatively influencing you. If you can identify any get rid of them straight away.
8. Develop strength and embrace failure
The final thing that I want to talk about in this particular article is the idea of developing strength and facing failure. When you are trying to beat such a deeply ingrained habit you need to have a lot of strength. And you need to be ready to fail.
If you fail on your journey it is not a signal to give up. Rather, you should rejoice at the amount of time that you were able to accomplish and re-start with a renewed energy and sense of ambition. Tell yourself that this time you are going to go all the way. Don’t give up.
Every single human being has the potential for happiness. If you are addicted to something you are really holding yourself back from achieving your true potential. If you have happened upon this article in search of some answers I truly hope you find some inspiration. I wish you all the best on your journey and sincerely hope you can overcome your vice, whatever it may be.
Does anyone out there have any words of wisdom to share? Has anyone overcome an addiction or helped someone who has?
Originally posted on March 13, 2009 @ 1:12 pm