Whenever most people hear the word addiction, their first thought is drugs or alcohol. While drugs and alcohol can lead to addiction, they are by no means the only things people can be addicted to.
An addiction is anything in our lives that we cannot stop doing and that we feel compelled to continue doing and if we attempt to stop doing it we suffer negative reactions.
We can be addicted to almost anything. Food, exercise, shopping or spending, gambling, phones or tablets, video games, self-harm such as cutting, soda, hoarding, cleaning, and anything else we are not able to stop doing and that if we try to stop causes us negative reactions.
Addictions are built up over time of repetition and reinforcement. Similar to forming habits, but the difference in addictions is that our brain becomes convinced that we need the thing we are addicted to and that we cannot live without doing it. We are compelled to do it by what becomes a chemical need for it. The addiction releases dopamine into our brains (reward chemicals) that make us want to have that reward or in some cases release more and more.
If we try to stop these addictive behaviors, we suffer withdrawals just the same as we do if we are addicted to drugs and alcohol. In fact, the withdrawals can be exactly the same. Nervousness, shaking, feeling depressed, being irritable can all be present. I have seen many clients who are addicted to electronic devices and/or video games who stop doing them or are prevented from accessing them by parents, who then display these withdrawal symptoms.
Most all addictions have a negative effect on our lives. We may tell ourselves that our addiction doesn’t affect us negatively so that we can continue doing it, but a truthful examination will show that is not true. Addictions cost us money, time, relationship issues, health issues, emotional issues, and much more. What is your addiction costing you, honestly?
Many people with addictions do not want to give them up. Convinced that they are making their lives better or that the addictions make them feel better emotionally (which dopamine can do that) but it is a false sense of feeling better. It is avoidance of dealing with the emotions that are driving the addiction. Many times, I have clients say, I play video games all day because I enjoy it. Only minimally true, it is more likely because they are avoiding a negative emotion or situation. Constant dopamine release can make one feel that way.
So, if you have an addiction, how do you break it? One step at a time. One choice at a time. One moment at a time. And working to gain understanding of what the addiction is helping you to avoid? Emotions, trauma, relationships? It can take quite some time to break an addiction and there will be negative responses by both your body and brain during this time. This is why many people start trying to break an addiction and when the negative responses come they find it too hard and give up or relapse.
Even if that happens, we can always start again and again and again. As long as we are alive, we have the opportunity to begin again. We do not fail because we do not succeed on the first attempt or the 50th, we fail because we do not try again.
One step at a time. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One second at a time. One choice at a time. Repeat as often as necessary. Fail. Try again. And then keep trying.