You can't do it alone! How to overcome an addiction
Love addictions, shopping addictions, gambling addictions: all addictions destroy lives. Trading one addiction for another is not the answer to overcoming an addiction. So what is? How do people overcome their addictions for good?
We can find ourselves addicted to specific behaviors like shopping, overeating, gambling, or even exercising.
And then there are addictions to actual substances like drugs and alcohol. As a society, we tend to talk more about those kinds of addictions.
But an addiction is an addiction. This means that we find ourselves out of control, and we can't seem to stop the destructive behavior. Why not? Because on some level, doing "it," whatever it is, makes us feel really good — at least for a while. Typically, we are often in denial about how serious our addiction is. After all, we can stop anytime. Right?
Beth (not her real name) found herself addicted to shopping. She shopped constantly. Her closets were stuffed full of clothes she never wore. Many of them still had price tags hanging from the sleeves. Her husband was furious. He accused Beth of destroying the family budget.
Shopping relaxed Beth. Calmed her down. When she got worried or stressed, going shopping made her feel happy. Picked up her spirits. Gave her something else to think about.
That is until her husband opened the credit card bills or found another unneeded new pair of shoes in her closet. Then he exploded, and Beth felt terrible.
"I'm not really hurting anyone," she told him. "I work hard. And I deserve a little fun!" But still the arguments with her husband continued.
Then one day, Beth discovered exercising. Now here's a healthy habit, she thought! Beth soon found herself at the gym morning and night. At home she worked out with weights. She took up running. And she stopped shopping.
Beth felt great, except for the fact that she was still neglecting her kids and her marriage. And she still felt out of control with another activity. Rather than ending her shopping addiction, Beth had simply substituted one addiction for another. Sadly, Beth eventually traded exercising for a love addiction, which finally destroyed her marriage.
Trading one addiction for another is obviously not the answer. So what is? How do people overcome their addictions for good? For most people, it happens one day at a time, or rather one step at a time. And often not until they've completed all 12 steps. *
The successful ones don't generally do it alone. The support and understanding of others is essential. And so is the help of a higher power.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem. You can't change when you refuse to recognize a problem that you've become powerless to control. Stop lying to yourself and others.
The next step is believing you can change. Ask for help. Both from God and from family and friends. Realize that you can't do this alone, and that you're not in this alone.
Then comes the really difficult part. You'll need to take a hard and realistic look at your past behavior. If it's done honestly, this won't make you proud of yourself. You'll want to blame others. Don't. Write it all down. Be honest.
Now you need to share what you have learned about yourself by relying on the help of others that you trust. Seriously? you say. I have to confess this to others? Yes. Confession is good for the soul. This is true. But it has to be sincere and heart felt, not self-serving. Confessing that you have an addition will allow you to connect with others, abandon your secrets, and free yourself from your past. It's essential.
By now you're feeling lots better. But it's not over yet. You still need to be careful not to fall back into old habits. Stay away from people who shared those habits with you. Don't go to places that remind you of those feelings you once felt.
Be patient. Have hope. Share with supportive others.
Make a list of the people you have hurt from your addiction and ask for their forgiveness. It will also help you to make a list of people you need to forgive. You'll discover that the two lists are interconnected.
Then let go of the hurt. It's a poison that's infecting your own well.
You'll need to continue to self-evaluate. How are you feeling today? Take your emotional temperature often. Don't isolate. And keep NO secrets. When you're wrong, admit it quickly, and move on.
Live one day at a time. Meditate. Pray. Spend time with those you love.
And don't forget to be grateful. Every day.
Focus on what you have. Not on what you lack. Live outside yourself. Help others.
It won't be easy to give up your addiction. It's been like an old friend for so long. But it will be worth it. No more invisible chains.