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Dealing with Addiction

Instructor: Elisha Madison

Elisha is a writer, editor, and aspiring novelist. She has a Master's degree in Ancient Celtic History & Mythology and another Masters in Museum Studies.

Addiction is a daily struggle for the people addicted and for their loved ones. This lesson introduces a few tips and ideas on how to deal with addiction for those living with addiction and for those loving someone living with addition.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic disease that affects the brain. People who experience addiction have a physical or psychological dependence on an object, activity, substance or behavior. For example, some people are addicted to substances, like alcohol or heroin, while others are addicted to specific activities, such as gambling.

Addicts are dependent on a substance, activity or behavior.
Addiction

Characteristics of Addiction

Understanding the characteristics that are present in most addictions can help you cope with the cycles of relapse and remission that commonly occur with chronic diseases like addiction. You can remember characteristics of addiction by thinking of the letters A, B, C, D, and E:

  • Inability to consistently Abstain from a substance or activity
  • Problems with Behavioral control
  • Cravings for substances or activities
  • Diminished recognition of problems with interpersonal relationships and/or behavior
  • Dysfunctional Emotional response

Cravings and inability to abstain from smoking are characteristics of tobacco addiction.
Cigarettes

How to Deal With Your Addiction

Dealing with addiction is important because this disease is progressive and can result in emotional and physical problems, or even premature death, if left untreated.

  • Choose change - The first step to recovery is making the choice to change. For many, this is the hardest part of the process, mostly because you have to admit you are an addict, take responsibility for your actions, and know you will be facing whatever it is that drove you to your addiction. While this can be scary, this opens the door to really start doing the work in removing the catalyst for your addiction.
  • Determine your stressor- Stressors are events or issues in your life that make you feel like you need an escape. Examples include family issues, stress in school, loneliness, and other painful issues. Once you can determine what your stressor is, then you can work to fix the issue and eliminate what causes your addictive behavior. Addressing your stressor early will assure that any additional changes made in the future are not sabotaged by the same issues.
  • Change your environment - Individuals dealing with addiction need a clean, safe environment that reinforces positive behaviors and makes it easier to abstain from certain substances or activities. This may mean avoiding places or people that contribute to your addiction.
  • Cope with cravings - Cravings are a characteristic of most addictions. You need to acknowledge the cravings for what they are, a part of recovery, and push past. Find activities to do that make you happy and distract you from your cravings. Exercise is always a positive because it releases endorphins which help with stress, but you can also read a book, hang out with family, go bowling or engage in other positive behavior.
  • Seek medical help - Some addictions are difficult to recover from on your own. You are not a failure because you need to seek help. You are showing great strength by making the choice to get clean. Everyone has moments in our lives where we need help. If you need help, ask for it.
  • Use support systems - Fighting addiction is challenging; fighting addiction alone is even more challenging. Finding a solid and clean support system is very important. Even if you do not have family or friends, you can find help in support groups or organizations in your community. There are many groups that are happy to help you. Seek them out and find people that understand you and your struggles.
  • Avoid replacing one addictive behavior for another - Now that you are conditioned to having addictive behaviors, it is very easy to replace one addition with another, like replacing drugs with eating excessively. The goal of ending an addiction is to make sure you do not have an addiction to anything, even if it may appear healthier than your current addiction.

How to Deal With People Who Are Addicts

For those of you who are struggling with loved ones who are addicts, there are ways you can help, too.

  • Take care of yourself - If you are not healthy, you cannot help.
  • Make rules and guidelines and keep them - It may hurt to tell a loved one no, but make rules and keep them. Doing so will create a safe foundation for everyone.
  • Understand you are not responsible - You did not cause them to have an addiction, so do not blame yourself. Blaming yourself for someone else's behavior does not help anyone.
  • Realize you cannot change a person just because you love them - Unfortunately, love does not conquer all. Absolutely love and support people with addictions, but don't expect that love alone is going to change them. Only the addict can make that choice to change.

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