It is exhausting being under the choke-hold of addiction – it wears you out mentally, physically, socially and financially. No matter what countless reasons led you here, you’ve finally said enough is enough! Awesome because awareness is the first step! But, keep in mind that it might not happen right away. Especially for people who’ve struggled with addiction for years, it can take just as long to quit. Rarely people are successful on their first try, but those who are successful keep pushing, taking it one day at a time. Putting a kibosh to this evil habit is possible and you’ve already done the hardest part – finding out how you can fix it!
I’m writing this article to share ways in which everyone, regardless of social status or income, can change little things in their lives to create a massive difference. All of these tips are free and can be done from anywhere. They are to help you feel better and live better, which will, in turn, eventually remove your desire towards your addiction.
Please don’t try to implement all of these things into your life at one time – this can be overwhelming and you’ll find yourself giving up on the entire process altogether. Start with one that you feel speaks to you the most. Once you feel comfortable with this and you’ve found yourself doing this almost subconsciously, move on to the next. Slowly build these habits into your everyday life and before you know it, you’ll have changed your entire lifestyle and be living a happier clean-free life from addiction.
Why Do People Have Addictions?
Any addiction – whether gambling, sex, drugs, or shopping – is a means to feel better. So many of us are bombarded by daily stressors that stem from bills, ourselves, family, and the future among a myriad of others. Add these to traumatic events in our past, it’s hard not to self medicate. Shopping, sex, gambling, drugs; these all make us feel better – if only for a little bit. We push away the long term effects of our actions.
The irony is that these actions only add to the problems and stressors. So how can we escape this vicious cycle? The first step is the realization that this habit is unhealthy and needs to end. The next step is knowing the reasons why we indulge in these acts. This leads us to a deeper understanding of who we are as well as why think and do what we do. Awareness is the key to ending our addictions.
All of these life tips are for the purpose of expanding our self-awareness, limiting our stress and anxiety, and developing healthier coping mechanisms when we do feel these life stressors. Addiction is a secondary effect of trauma, stress, and anxiety. When we come to terms with these core issues, we can, therefore, begin to deal with our addictive behaviors.
1. Join a Support Group
One of the most common ways people start to find help is by attending a local support group. Here, individuals can connect, share, and learn from others who have similar experiences. This cathartic expression has been shown to help countless individuals struggling with addiction. Types of support groups for addiction include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, or Gamblers Anonymous. Thankfully, these support groups are found almost anywhere in any town, city, or country. To find a local support group near you, visit the link to their website and search in your area.
2. Find a Sponsor
A sponsor is not a friend, but someone who will be there in times of need and hold you accountable. A sponsor should have a couple of years of sobriety under their belt and therefore be a reliable resource during the first few months of sobriety. The most common way to find a sponsor is at a local support group. The purpose of a sponsor is to be a mentor and help you through the difficult first few months and during a difficult time thereafter. Unlike friends and family, sponsors will be honest with you and not merely tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear. They can relate to your experiences and understand the importance of keeping your sobriety in check where family and friends might not.
3. Experience Emotions Instead of Avoiding Them
Often times when we engage in addictive behaviors, it is to escape uncomfortable feelings. To fully heal, we need to confront those feelings. Instead of hiding, face down those feelings head-on. Explore issues that you are trying to cover up to gain a better sense of self-awareness.
Sakichi Toyoda, the Japanese industrialist, inventor, and founder of Toyota Industries, developed the “5 Whys” technique in the 1930s. The goal of 5 Whys is to uncover the root cause of a problem by continually asking “why” like a curious four-year-old. Something like this:
- Why do I feel angry? (Because Rent is Due)
- Why am I angry about that? (Because paying bills is stressful)
- Why? (Because money is tight)
- Why? (Because I can’t seem to save)
- Why? (Because I like spending it on things that make me happy, like clothes, drinks, and dining)
Notice how this method helps me dig deeper to the root cause of my feelings? I start from being stressed about something that seems out of my control to something that I can manage. By using this technique you’ll begin to feel more empowered over your life. Believe it or not, many of life’s problems can be ironed out, but the first step is addressing the problem head-on. If you keep throwing them under the rug for them to pile up you’ll eventually trip and fall.
4. Exposure Therapy
Exposure therapy is a technique used by psychologists to expose a person’s fears they typically avoid. This exposure to the feared objects, activities or situations in a safe environment helps reduce fear and decrease avoidance. This exposure helps people learn that these things will not hurt them. This understanding is essential for people struggling with PTSD, OCD, and anxiety.
While this specific therapy is typically reserved for psychologists, the concepts of exposure therapy can be utilized. The only way to overcome your fears is to confront them head-on.
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is sitting on the other side of fear.”George Addair
5. Keep Track of Tiggers
We cant put bubble-wrap around our lives, which is why we have to learn better ways to cope with stressful events, but knowing your triggers can help you avoid stressors and temptations altogether. Tiggers are the places, people, and events that make you feel like you want to engage in addictive behaviors. For instance, vacations can be triggers people once addicted to alcohol as these environments, once associated with drinking, surface the desire. If you’re interested, here’s a quick article on how to maintain your recovery while on vacation. Boredom is also a heavy trigger for most addictions as well. Having a variety of hobbies and keeping a busy schedule can help you stay focused and on track. Keep track of the people, places, and actions that would tempt you and try to avoid them when you can. When you can’t, preparation is essential so let someone know and stay vigilant.
6. Find you Passion
Find what motivates you each day. When we find our passion our days start to become meaningful. We find our passion by starting with the things we like. Are you into sports or entertainment? Do you like books? What are your hobbies? These types of things don’t necessarily have to be related to your career, but if you can connect them then all the better! For example, if you love reading, try developing your writing skills to one day eventually become an online content creator. The goal of finding your passion is to give yourself something fun and engaging to work towards thus keeping you busy and motivated you throughout the year. What do you want to accomplish by next year? Who do you want to be in 10?
7. Avoid Toxic People
There are people out there who you will benefit from being around and there are others who will only bring you down. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If one of those persons is continually negative, judgmental, or self-centered, their toxicity becomes contagious and will eventually consume you. No matter how long you’ve known them or how close you are, you are better off without them. Exchange them for someone who supports your mission, has a healthy lifestyle, and fosters your personal growth.
The benefits of journaling are incredible! Besides meditation, there are few things on this earth that can help expand and heal your mind like journaling can. The benefits of journaling are practically endless; with everything from increasing intelligence, happiness, memory, creativity, and confidence to just name a few.
Journaling can be anything you’d like. Many people write down their current state of mind, their goals, current experiences, and what they are thankful for. The goal of journaling is just to write down whatever you like. Often times this process naturally aligns your thoughts in a clear way, much like meditation. The bonus about journaling over meditation is the power to look back and see where you were months or years before. This helps you both measure your journey but also gives you a chance to always remember your life with greater details then memory ever could.
Journaling should be done every day but this the hardest part about journaling. To start, always journal at a particular time during the day. Without having a dedicated time, it can be easy to push it aside until you find yourself already in tomorrow without having written anything. A good time can be when you come home from work or school. Mornings are a typical time for most journalers but mornings can often be rushed. Your journaling time should be calm and natural. In the beginning, it might help to set a phone alarm as a daily reminder.
I cannot express the benefits of meditation enough! If there is one thing you take away from this article it would be the power of meditation – if you were to start with one thing this would be it. Here are just some scientifically-backed benefits of meditation:
- Reduces Stress
- Controls Anxiety
- Leads to an Improved Self-Image and More Positive Outlook On Life
- Enhances Self Awareness
- Lengthen Attention Span
- Reduces Age-Related Memory Loss
- Can Generate Kindness and Empathy
- Improves Sleep
- Helps Control Pain
- Decreases Blood Pressure
Need I say more?! If there was ever a panacea for the brain I think this would be it. And the best part about it? Meditation can be done anywhere and anytime.
If you are unsure where to start, there are a variety of meditation videos on YouTube. There are also a variety of apps like Headspace and FitMind that offer a free trial for the first couple of sessions. There are certain guided meditations with different purposes like reducing anxiety, self-empowerment, or inner peace. Whatever your goal is, you can find a meditation for you. Starting out, guided meditation apps and videos are helpful to gain an understanding of how meditation works. After a couple of sessions, you’ll have to power to meditate anywhere you want!
There’s a reason so many addiction treatment centers include weekly yoga sessions in their program. Yoga is an extremely useful outlet to relieve stress and center the mind by combining both the powers of exercise and meditation into one. The great thing about yoga is that you can do it right from home. All you need is access to YouTube and perhaps a towel. Yoga studios are not necessary but they are very popular and can be a great way to meet people with similar healthy lifestyles.
11. Change Your Diet
What you put into your body can have just as much, if not a greater impact on how you feel that what you do to it. Studies have shown that a diet high in sugar can create a dopamine rush similar to drug addiction. When you improve your diet your blood sugar will stabilize, which can help reduce cravings and improve your mood.
Also, eating a protein-rich diet provides neurotransmitters precursors like amino acids that help build dopamine, and omega-3 fatty acid in seafood and peanut butter can help balance neurotransmitters while improving cognition and mood.
By eating a diet rich in nutrients, low in carbohydrates, and rich in water, can help you stay energized and in high spirits throughout your day. There are a variety of resources on the internet educating the variety of foods and their benefits, but a good starting point is green leafy vegetables. These can provide many of the micronutrients are body typically lacks from a greasy American diet.
12. Fix Your Gut
The stomach is known as the second brain and for good reason. Your gut produces up to 95 percent of your serotonin, and neurons in your gut can generate as much dopamine as those in your brain!
Leaky gut, caused by a variety of factors like nutritional indeficiencies and excessive sugar intake, is a digestive condition in which bacteria and toxins are able to “leak” through the intestinal wall. A nutritional diet filled with fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, and cheese can help restore the good bacteria in the gut. A nutritional diet can help restore leaky gut, but collagen has also known to support gut damage as well.
By having a healthy stomach, your body can receive all the important nutrients and neurons it creates – making you feel healthy and happy!
The benefits of exercise have been scientifically proven to improve mental health – which is directly correlated to your urges. Regular exercise (3-4 times per week) reduces stress, increases energy and mood, helps you sleep better, and protects you against diseases. Regardless of the long-term effects on your health, you will feel immediate effects from exercise within your first week.
Exercise doesn’t have to be marathon training or heavy weightlifting. In fact, during the first couple days of recovery exercise will not sound fun but over time I promise it gets easier
14. Get Enough Sleep
Traditionally you might think that anxiety caused sleep deprivation, but studies now show it may be the other way around. A good night’s sleep could be a straightforward way to manage our emotions. Researchers find sleep deprivation can adversely alter serotonin production, setting the stage for mood disorders and other neurotransmitter imbalances. At the very least, aim for 7 hours (preferably 8 or 9) of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep every night.
Many of us have a hard time falling asleep, so to help with this, tune into your circadian rhythm. Our circadian rhythm is your sleep/wake cycle that tells your body to either be awake and alert or sleepy and relaxed. Your hypothalamus controls this rhythm by reading signals like darkness and time. Therefore, sleep hygiene is essential. Set a schedule and go to sleep at the same time every night and stay away from blue light like phones and TV a few hours before bed. Your body will then produce its own melatonin making it easier to fall asleep.
You Will Notice A Difference
Have you noticed anything in common with all of these? They all have one common purpose – improving your mood. This is the fundamental aspect of escaping addiction. So many of us have become accustomed to negative habits, negative people, and negative thinking. Its no wonder why we look to drugs, gambling, sex, social media, and shopping to make us feel better. Fortunately, if you implement these little things into your daily routine little by little, you realize you don’t need these things to feel happy.
If you use these methods, they can and will help you – the hardest part is staying motivated. Addiction will often get in the way, so a good way to stay focused is to keep a reminder on you. This could be a motivational quote on your phone lock screen, or a keychain on your car keys – anything that can continually remind you that you are on a mission of self-betterment.
Building willpower, especially with an addiction, is damn near impossible. It takes the fear of not having a job and therefore money to get me and most people out of bed in the morning. Without these motivating factors, many of us would buckle to many of life’s unhealthy habits. While the desire to be free from addiction is strong, it usually doesn’t last very long, sometimes not even a few hours. This is why it is smart to have someone who will hold you accountable – either a sponsor, family member, or friend. This can keep you motivated throughout your time escaping the clutches of addiction.
Due to its nature, addiction makes hard to implement these life changes successfully. For instance, when most people have the option of exercising (which really isn’t all that fun until after the hard work) or their addiction, they’ll choose the latter. This will most likely happen, and happen often, but the important part is to never let go of your mission. No matter how many times you think you’ve failed, as long as you are still holding onto your mentality of wanting to get better, you are making progress.
Addiction Often Will Require Professional Help
Addiction is like quicksand, it seems like the more we try to escape it, the harder it pulls. While all of these tips would work in theory, reality rarely aligns. For individuals who have tried but can’t seem to end their addiction by themselves, this is where treatment comes in. An addiction treatment center eliminates the surrounding environments limiting the environmental triggers and temptations that people can’t seem to escape. This controlled environment allows people to focus on one thing – putting a stop to their addiction. An addiction treatment program, therefore, expedites the process of getting clean whereas carrying out these changes can take many months if not years to implement.
Nonetheless, everyone’s path is unique and therefore everyone should strive to achieve their mission on their own terms. Remember, one change at a time, one day at a time – Rome wasn’t built in a day…but they were laying bricks every hour.
Content Creator for Coalition Recovery