No one goes to an addiction because its draw is appealing. Think of the first time you had a drink of alcohol, the first time you smoked a cigarette, the first time you took drugs, the first time you over-ate, watched TV for over 4 hours or any other addiction. It might be hard to think of the first time, because you have so many memories of your addiction having a draw. But before it had a draw, it had a repelling effect, a disgust with oneself, shame and embarrassment. So, why did we go back to it? Why did we think doing it again would serve us?
It’s not the draw of an addiction that pulls us in to its allure. It’s the surrounding issues in our life that push us to an addiction. What was going on in your life at the time your addiction started? And what is going on right now as you continue to go to it? Did life take some rather drastic turns, ones you couldn’t reconcile in your heart? Were you overwhelmingly sad, depressed, angry, ashamed of yourself or others? Was there a break in significant relationships or with family members?
What is it today that keeps you going back to your addictions? It may not be the same thing that started the addiction in the first place. What is it in life that triggers you to consider doing something you know you’re going to regret? Is it anxiety, depression, feeling out of control, certain conversations with people, work environment, being exhausted, tired, hungry or angry? Alcoholics Anonymous has an acronym for checking in with yourself when you are tempted to start drinking—HALT—are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired?
Whatever it is for you that keeps you living a life of compromise, there is hope that you can change. You do not have to keep going to your addiction. But it won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy. Here are some pointers on how to overcome an addiction:
1. Start by checking in with yourself about what you’re feeling when you want to indulge. Spend 5 to 10 minutes doing that, then go on and succumb to your addiction if you must. Do that for a week or a month.
2. Check in on your feelings for 10 to 20 minutes and journal about what you’re feeling. Again, succumb to your vice if you can’t stay away. Do that for a week or a month.
3. Check in for 10 to 20 minutes, journal and call a trusted friend who knows about your addiction. Tell them what you’re going to do, and again if you can’t fight the urge, indulge in your addiction.
4. Check in with yourself, journal about it, call a friend and ask them to come be with you as you struggle with your urges to act out. If you can’t stay away from your addiction even with your friend present, indulge in it.
Surprised at the above steps to healing? So was I when I started dealing with my own struggles. But here’s what happens:
1. By slowing down the process and taking a break from acting out, I was able to begin identifying what was going on in my heart that made me want to act out. I realized there are feelings of insecurity, restlessness, anxiety, depression, sadness, anger and more that trigger me to feel like I deserve to act out.
2. By giving myself freedom to act out after the exercise, I wouldn’t skip on doing the emotional work. Through it I also learned to give myself grace and an understanding that addictions run deeper than just another poor decision. I learned to have compassion on myself for my struggle.
3. As I continued to spend time processing what was going on in my heart and then involving other people in my addiction, it became harder to follow through on my commitment to act out. With friends there, I couldn’t continue hurting myself without feeling some responsibility to them and myself.
In all this, give yourself time and know that growing out of an addiction into healthy living is extremely difficult and not for the faint-hearted. It might be the hardest emotional work you’ll ever do and those that don’t struggle like you do have no idea how hard it is. If you are a person who believes in a God, pray for strength in your struggle, grace as you fall, and love as you begin to address the feelings in your heart. Recovery is possible.