An addiction is when you have no control over what you are doing, taking or using. It is a helpless state. Common addictions are gambling, smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, porn, money, internet, phone. In fact, you can be addicted to anything including fitness.
It’s easy to say ‘stop smoking’, “stop drinking” but in reality, it’s not easy to stop.
THE SCIENCE OF ADDICTION
To break an addiction, it’s necessary to understand how addiction works. This will help you to know how to break free from your addiction.
Addiction occurs when we do a habit and there is dopamine release in our brains which makes us feel good and what us to do the habit again. This is known as “Positive Reinforcement”. For example, for every cigarette, there is a dopamine shot which makes you feel good and makes you want to do it again.
This dopamine release and positive reinforcement pathways are what leads to addiction.
Now, you get dopamine shots not by the adaptive interactive behaviour around you, for example, doing exercise but by consuming drugs or whatever habit triggers the addiction. People with addiction don’t live in the same world the rest of us do. Their brain is not responding to the same things the rest of us are responding to.
Now that you understand how addiction works, let’s teach you how to break free from it.
10 STEPS TO BREAK FREE FROM AN ADDICTION
1. Decide to quit. It is necessary to decide to quit. No matter the amount of help you get if you don’t decide and try to quit then nothing else will work. Note down the negative consequences of your habits, what people in your life are affected by your decisions.
For example, smoking is the primary cause of Lung cancer. You can note this down.
Then note down the positive things that will happen if you quit. For example, good health, better productivity and so on.
2. Start small. Deciding to quit all at once is very difficult and almost impossible. If possible erase the word “quit” from your mind. Tell yourself you’re just going to do fewer of the bad habit as much as possible.
For example, if you smoke three times a day, you can start by reducing it to one. After a month or two reduce it to once in two days. After a while once a week.
This goes for all undesirable habits. In a short time, you will realize you have little or no urge for the habit.
3. Replace your urge with something else. Why not just replace your habit with something else. Since we know each time we do an addictive behaviour, there is a dopamine shot, we can just change this bad harmful habit with a good habit that will give us dopamine shots.
For example, anytime you feel like smoking do some exercise, listen to music, whatever it is that makes you happy.
4. Get your environment ready. Remove reminders of your addiction from your home, car and workplace. Get rid of all the objects that go along with the habit, as well as other items that remind you of the habit.
You can replace these items that make you feel good such as good books, music, films, using the internet and so on.
Also, you might want to try redecorating your bedroom, rearranging the furniture, or just buying a few new throw pillows. Changing your environment will give you the feeling of having a fresh start.
5. Stay away from your triggers. Stay away from the people, places, and things that make you want to go back to your old habits. You might need to construct a completely new routine for a while until the edge wears off a bit.
Fitness releases endorphins and dopamine in our brains which makes us happy. This is a really good habit with lots of benefits that can replace your addiction. Keep in mind you can be addicted to fitness as well, but in my opinion, it’s better and more rewarding to be addicted to fitness.
7. Get a passion to keep you busy. If you need distractions. Get a passion. It might be fitness, taking up a new hobby, cooking, or hanging out with friends. Joining a new club, sports team, or other kinds of community group will help you make new friends and start a new chapter of your life in which addiction is not a part of. Positive social interactions can stimulate the release of neurochemicals which elicit feelings of happiness and satisfaction without the need for drugs.
8. Get Professional help. Sometimes it is just too difficult to stop alone. This is a helpless state which means you may need external support. You can talk to your spouse, partner, a trusted friend, or someone in a position of authority. These people will provide support, help you stay motivated and help you track your progress.
9. Mark your progress. It’s necessary to mark your progress and know how far you have progressed. Success also makes the brain release dopamine which makes you happy and wants to progress further. This is one of the reasons successful people stay motivated and keep on being successful and vice versa, true for unsuccessful people.
You can get a calendar and mark each day you don’t do a bad habit.
10. Celebrate your success. Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate your success. This is a difficult hurdle and you just overcame it. Do something nice for yourself when you meet the goals you’ve made, no matter how small. Kicking an addiction is incredibly tough work, and you deserve to be rewarded.