Although addictions can often be debilitating and prevent from leading a functional life, so many worm their way into our daily routine. We grant them permission, and build our lives around them, ignoring the detrimental effects they have on our health and social life. Rarely do we stop to question our habits.
It’s entirely normal to want to indulge a little from time to time. Returning to the things we enjoy doing is what marks us out as who we are. The problem arises when these wants turn into needs and compulsion takes over. If the thought of going without your ‘vices’ sees you making every justification as to why you shouldn’t go without, it’s not you speaking, but the nagging voice of addiction.
To rid yourself of the negative patterns dictating your life, there first needs to be an admittance there is, in fact, a problem. There has to be some point of intervention, whether internal or external where the justifications for your habits are seen as the extension of your cravings masquerading as rational thought.
However, the most important step is finding the resolve to make the change stick. Why do you really want to kick your habits? The reason so many people try and fail is due to a lack of conviction. They make the effort because they feel it’s what they should do. They act out of obligation – almost sufferance. The willpower to succeed isn’t there, so when the going gets tough, it inevitably leads to relapse.
It’s only when you have a compelling reason to change that you’re likely to see things through to the end. There needs to be an incentive. Or, in more direct terms, you have to get clear on what your habits are costing you in real terms. Take Jerry, a smoker of 15 years. He’s always found comfort in cigarettes; the morning smoke with his coffee, after dinner and before bed. But he’s single and has been for quite some time, now. He’s lonely. The women he asks out are put off by the smell; his smoking is costing him a potential relationship. His drive to quit is fuelled by his wish to be more desirable to women. When there is something valuable at stake, we are much more likely to achieve a positive outcome than we are with a passive and non-committal attitude.
Getting your environment right plays a significant role in how successful you are in beating your demons. If you’re someone who’s struggling to give up hard drugs, for example, removing those people who’re a toxic influence is a must. There needs to be a hard cut-off from temptation. And that goes for all addictions, not just those we think of as being physically addictive. If you continue to place yourself in challenging situations, especially in the beginning stages of withdrawal and recovery, you’re only making things more difficult than they need to be. Having a positive support network you can rely on when things are tough is what separates the success stories from those who repeatedly try and fail. The worst thing you can do when in recovery is to adopt an island mindset. Boundaries are a necessity without question, but not at the expense of shutting yourself off from those who wish to help you.
The cultivation of healthier habits to replace the negative is always preferable to simply going cold turkey. It fosters a sense of integration, helping make the change more concrete, while avoiding the risk of dropping one negative trait in favour of another.
If you’re a serial binger of Netflix, reading might be a more productive use of your time.
If you’re into fast food, you could probably benefit from learning to cook.
If you’re fixated by your Instagram feed, art or photography might suit you.
Start getting inspired about what you can do if you reorder your life. Keep a tab on how long you spend engaged in your habits per day, per week, per month and per year. You might be surprised by how much free time you actually have at your disposal. It takes roughly 10,000 hours to master a skill. If you saved 3 hours a day that’s over 1,000 hours a year you could divert to learning something that could add real value to your life.
And in the case of dependency on substances where you might not think you’re losing out on much, such as coffee or cigarettes, you’d be surprised by just how much focus you gain by ridding yourself of the nagging thoughts of your ‘next fix.’ You might not gain as many hours ‘real hours.’ But the quality of time you do have at your disposal would almost certainly increase.