Is there something in your life that you feel addicted to, like smoking, drinking, comfort eating or a certain Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) behavior? What would it be like to overcome any addiction and regain a sense of mental, emotional and physical control? In this article, I will show you a 10-step process to overcome any addiction easily and effectively.
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To understand and overcome any addiction, it is good to know the 5 elements common to all addictions. These are:
- The Addiction must meet certain emotional or physical needs. For example, people smoke to relax, or eat to feel secure.
- You build up a tolerance or habituation to it. Over time, you do the behavior more often to achieve the same result. Alcohol is a great example. I remember when I first started having a few beers at university. It didn’t take much to get me quite tipsy or drunk. But over time, I needed more alcoholic drinks to achieve the same result.
- The addiction harms you. The most obvious way is physically. However, it can harm you mentally or emotionally too.
- It’s something you didn’t want to stop initially. When you were young, drinking alcohol was fun. It helped boost your confidence, self-esteem and lose your inhibitions. With so many positive benefits, there was no reason to drink less or stop altogether. Then later in life, you notice the negative consequences of drinking too much and want to stop. But you can’t! Or more accurately, you believe that you can’t.
- You receive little or no pleasure from it now. The pleasure and positive benefits are now tiny. However, you still feel that you can’t live without it. So you keep doing it. You have replaced the positive benefits with a fear that you can’t live without it. That fear keeps you doing it.
One addiction that is often overlooked is an addiction to thinking! Ask yourself, could I be addicted to my own thinking? If your answer is yes, then I encourage you to read this article on excessive and repetitive thinking.
The 10-step Process to Overcome Any Addiction
Now that you know how to recognize addiction, I will show you my 10-step process to help you overcome any addiction.
Step 1 – Identify the needs the addiction is trying to meet
With alcohol, you may drink to relax, or switch off. Maybe getting drunk gives you that feeling of escapism. Or it gives you the confidence to do things that you wouldn’t normally be able to do.
If you are overeating, food may give you a sense of comfort. Or you eat to escape, relax or relieve boredom. Perhaps you just feel you want a treat.
If it’s smoking, maybe that helps you relax. Perhaps it allows you to hide some social insecurity. Or it helps you fit in with younger people who also smoke.
If it’s OCD, the need to always check things probably reduces anxiety. Or overcomes a fear that something bad will happen. So if you keep doing certain rituals, whatever you’re afraid of is less likely to happen.
Step 2 – Find out how it harms you
You may already know the effects of smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating the wrong food. But I encourage you to do some further research and find out exactly how it harms you.
For example, we know that drinking alcohol will affect your health over time. It will also affect your money because it’s expensive. It can affect your sleep and drain your energy. If you get really addicted, it could seriously affect your relationships and you might lose your job.
Being addicted to unhealthy food will also affect your health, sleep, energy, the clothes you can fit into and your level of self-esteem.
If you smoke, the negative effects on your health are obvious. Smoking also affects your fitness and youthfulness. People who smoke tend to look older. Think about the cost of smoking over a year. This is likely to be thousands of dollars! What else could you spend that money on?
If you are suffering with an OCD type of behavior, it wastes your time the most because you’re always checking something. You can’t have real peace of mind, and that can get frustrating. You might also have problems with relationships if you’re constantly doing these little rituals.
Step 3 – Identify any Immediate Pleasure
Identify any immediate pleasure gained from the addictive behavior. This is like step 1, but is more about the sensory experience. For example, it could be the taste of a certain food or drink. For smokers, it can be that relaxing deep breath as you exhale.
Step 4 – Find 3 other ways to meet the addiction needs
In step 1, we identified the needs the addiction is trying to meet. Now come up with 3 other healthy ways that could also meet the same needs as the old addictive behavior. When you find other ways to meet these needs, the addictive behavior can naturally reduce or stop.
If you need alcohol to relax and switch off, think of 3 other ways that could help you relax? Maybe meditation, going to the gym, reading, or listening to music. Perhaps it’s spending more time with friends. There are so many ways, just find those that help you the most.
Step 5 – Ask yourself, is it really an addiction or just a strong habit?
This is a question I always ask people who come to me for help to quit smoking. I phrase it like this: “If you are on a long flight, and you can’t smoke on the plane, what do you do?” They usually say, “I manage to not think about it. I know I can’t smoke, so I will not think about it for the duration of the flight”. If that’s the case, then it is more of a habit.
Imagine a heroin addict on a plane for eight hours. Would they be able to not think about it? Probably not. Could someone with diabetes, who has to take insulin injections regularly, be able to not think about it while on the plane for eight hours? Probably not.
And as an extreme example, if someone had a gun to your head and threatened to shoot you if you did the addictive behavior, would you do it? Of course not! Why? because you now have a very good reason not to do it! So pretty much everything is more of a habit than an addiction. And just thinking about it as a habit, and not an addiction will help you perceive it differently.
Step 6 – Identify and change the triggers
A trigger is a person, place, thing, or a feeling that makes you want to do the addictive behavior. For example, when you’re having a cup of coffee, you feel you need a smoke. Or when you get home from a stressful day at work, that feeling of stress makes you raid the fridge and eat something unhealthy. The trigger can also be a feeling of loneliness or boredom.
After identifying what the triggers are, find ways to change them. Come up with new triggers. If it’s a coffee that makes you want a cigarette, switch to a different drink.
If you feel lonely at home, and you comfort yourself with eating, maybe you could go out more often. It’s really about being creative with how you plan your life. Remove triggers as much as possible, or replace them with other things.
Step 7 – Make a plan to stop
Start by setting a date, ideally within the next month. Then create plans and backup plans, with lots of ideas on what you will do instead of the addictive behavior. For example, you could make a list of people to call, or different activities to do. Whenever you feel the urge, or even before you feel the urge to do that behavior, you will naturally switch to doing something else.
Step 8 – Be kind on yourself
It’s easy to feel guilty and be hard on yourself because of the addiction and possible relapses. That feeling of guilt or fear can spiral into more addictive behaviors. Or maybe you replace the addiction that you’ve just given up with another addiction. Perhaps you give up smoking and start comfort-eating instead.
Remember that the addiction started for a reason, and that reason was to feel good. So you want to go easy on yourself when you’re finding other ways to feel good. Treat your body with love and care, nourish it well with good food, spend time with quality people, and get plenty of sleep. And the most important thing, love yourself and feel good about becoming a new person with new behaviors.
Step 9 – Think about how you will feel AFTER doing the addictive behavior
People think about the feeling they will have when they do the addictive behavior. But once they do it, they feel remorse or guilt. Instead, think about how you will feel after you’ve done it, before you do it. Then you’ll be less likely to do it.
For example, let’s say you often have a cream cake at night. But as soon as you have it, you feel remorse and guilt. If you think about that feeling of remorse and guilt before you have it, then you probably won’t have that cream cake.
Step 10 – Remove the addiction from your core identity
Smokers often say, “I’m a smoker”. A change in identity could be, “I am someone that smokes”. Then think about other things that are also part of your identity. Examples include being a good husband, wife or parent, being great in your career, or having wonderful hobbies. Suddenly that old idea of being a smoker is a much smaller part of your identity.
So whatever the addiction is, think about everything else that is also part of you. And when you do that, the addiction will seem much smaller. You will put it in the right place and not see it as an all-consuming part of your life.
Also, if you create a new sense of identity around being fit and healthy, the old addiction will seem alien. It will conflict with your core identity.
Still Struggling and Need Help?
Overcoming addictions isn’t always easy. Many people do it by themselves. But sometimes, you need the help of a friend, a good support group, or a professional.
If you would like me to help you overcome any addiction, you can find more information right here. I am a clinical hypnotherapist and deliver sessions over Skype or Zoom. It doesn’t matter where you live, as I can run hypnotherapy extremely effectively online and at a time that is most convenient for you.
So this was my 10-step process to help you overcome any addiction. Start putting this into practice today and notice the addiction fade and your life change in a positive direction!
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