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 Overcoming Addictions
More than 20 practical steps to recovery, better relationships and success in life

Please note: These steps are only suggestions. Some different or additional steps may be necessary. For addictions or psychological problems, it is strongly recommended that you see a highly-trained professional therapist who is familiar with your personal issues to help you decide what treatments are best for you.

Overcoming an addiction can be difficult, yet tens of thousands of have succeeded. You can, too.

Most people try and fail a number of times before they succeed. You do not want to use this as an excuse, but do not lose heart.

Admitting that there is a problem is a good first step (and a very difficult one for many people).

Even if you are "sober" now, realizing the potential problem is important. Your battle is often largely fought and won before your moments of weakness. There are many ways to strengthen yourself and make life more fulfilling, reducing addiction's attractiveness.

You are invited to print out this article as a "to do" list. I suggest re-reading it on a regular basis, to help you think of new, constructive things to do.

The more positive steps you take, the easier your success can be. Here are examples (some of which you may already be doing):

  • Attend support group meetings. Do not struggle alone. Group members provide encouragement, insight, accountability, and friendship. All this can be a powerful help. You can meet people who offer emotional support during times of temptation and weakness. 

Don't struggle aloneWhen you first quit your addiction, you will at times feel weak. It may be good to go to a support group daily - or even more often.

Let others help

There are many groups for specific addictions. See our Self-Help and Support Group Links. These organizations can   probably suggest a whole series of meetings in your local area. Set aside regular times for meetings. Keep a schedule of meetings handy for when you need extra  support.

  • Develop and strengthen your supportive relationships. This can include people you'll meet in support group meetings as well as others you already know. Take the initiative to stay in touch with loved ones but learn to avoid and defuse dysfunctional, addiction encouraging situations.

Let friends know you are quitting so you can develop a support network.
Stay in touch with people who matter to you. Work to improve your relationships. Many addicts tend to isolate themselves, but addictions are often fed by feelings of loneliness. (Additional suggestions on relationships are below.)

  • Increase your social interaction. Many addicts have imperfect social skills. Conversationally Speaking* by Alan Garner (McGraw Hill) suggests specific ways to improve your social interactions.
     

  • If you have a serious addiction to alcohol or drugs, it may be best to enroll in a de-tox or recovery program. Also consider moving temporarily into a treatment facility.
     

  • Check into other sources of help. When you have a difficult challenge, it's best to find many sources of advice.
     

  • Seek encouragement from Inspiring Quotes and Ideas and other sources.
     

  • Read books on addiction and psychology. One you will probably find helpful is Willpower's Not Enough* by Arnold M. Washton and Donna Boundy (Harper & Row, Publishers). There's important and interesting information in the first parts of this book, but you can just start with Part III, "Recovery." It's filled with practical steps and insights.

    There is a way outBooks can't deliver all the benefits of psychotherapy - but they can help.
     

  • Learn how thought processes and situations trigger addictive behaviors so you can defuse or avoid them. If you're a substance abuser, remove all traces of the alcohol or drugs from your home.

    A New Guide to Rational Living* by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper (Wilshire Book Company) provides valuable insights on how our thinking affects our moods.
     

  • Therapy and peer counseling can be very helpful for resolving emotional problems that cause self-sabotaging behaviors. It is hard for any of us to evaluate ourselves as well as a highly trained, experienced professional can. (See Do You Need Therapy? - How to Know ).

    When Talk is Not Cheap, by Mandy Aftel and Robin T. Lakoff* (Warner Books), can help you choose from many kinds of therapy and shows how to get more from it.
     

  • Get in touch with your emotions.  Emotions are powerful. They often affect us more than we consciously realize. Long- standing, deep emotional pain often drives addictions. There are ways to resolve this.

    Addicts are often hurt by strong, pent-up emotions such as anger, depression, and feelings of abandonment. (Our emotions are not negative. They’re part of life, but we need to find therapeutic, constructive ways to feel and express them.)
     

  • Learn to overcome depression. Many addicts suffer bouts of serious depression - especially after they stop their addictive activities. But you can overcome depression.

    If you are depressed, you will not be able to appreciate all the good things life has to offer. And it does. As you work through what may be blocking you, you will have many opportunities to share deeper, more fulfilling, supportive relationships with others.

  • Consider doctor-prescribed medication. I believe even pharmaceutical drugs should be used only when necessary, but if you are seriously depressed, you might consider a prescription for anti-depressant medicine. This can help you to think more clearly. Then you can work more effectively to get to the roots of your depression and frustration.

    Some people consider the herb St. John's wort to be a desirable alternative. (However many herbal remedies have not had the rigorous, double-blind testing that supports the safety and effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs. If your situation is serious enough to consider even herbal remedies, it is probably serious enough to seek professional help.)
     

  • Feel good about much good you do. Don't be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes - even serious ones. Learn to relax more and "smell the flowers." Savor the experiences of a clear mind in the "sober" life.
     

  • Make helpful checklists. See Specific suggestions for your checklists. Refer to your lists regularly - particularly when tempted to forget.
     

  • Cultivate hobbies and interests as fulfilling alternatives to your addiction.

  • Join activities you find interesting. It is a good way to meet new people you already share an interest with. You may not meet someone special every time, but at least you can enjoy the activity! Sharing an activity makes it easier to get to know new people.
     

  • Meeting like-minded people can bring new, emotionally supportive friendships.
    A good example of uplifting fellowship is a Bible study/prayer group. "Organized religion" may seem out-of-style, but you can find warm, caring people who will help you grow in spiritual and practical ways. You can find great power in others praying with and for you. Let friends know you are quitting so they can develop a support network.

    You may want to visit several congregations before you find one that feels best for you. Of course, beware of cults and fanatics that offer a quick and easy fix if you surrender blindly to their leaders.

  • Get involved in volunteer activities where your contributions are meaningful and appreciated. Helping others is a good way to help ourselves. It provides meaning, structure and an additional reason to be strong.

    Volunteer work provides plenty of contact with others. (see Volunteering).
    Avoid volunteering where there is close contact with temptations. For example, an ex-alcoholic should avoid volunteering next door to where drinking buddies hang out.
     

  • In fact, be aware of "aids," (apparently irrelevant decisions), like an ex-alcoholic driving by a bar he liked because that's a more scenic route or a sex-addict taking a "short cut" through an area with prostitutes.
     

  • Many addicts find it necessary to end contact with addiction buddies.

  • Take care of yourself. Eat better. Exercise. Have appropriate concern for your appearance.

    Just as fixing up run-down neighborhoods often brings lower crime rates, our own personal surroundings can affect our behavior. You need not spend a lot to make your home more beautiful and comfortable. If it is messy, clean it up.
     

  • If you believe, God can be a powerful source of help. If you don't believe, try asking God for help, anyway. This can help focus you on positive belief in change. And feel free to tell Him about your doubts and frustrations.
    God can do anything, the Bible assures us, but you have to ask - and be open to Him and His solutions for you. Ask God for the wisdom to know what's right to do - and for the ability and opportunity to succeed.
     

  • Meditation can be a source of relaxation.

If you find yourself giving in to your addiction, remember that every moment is an opportunity to resume your recovery. Do not beat yourself up. This only leads to more emotional pain and the temptation to give in again - a vicious cycle.

Congratulations on the steps you have already taken to overcome your addiction. Reading this letter shows you want to change. Each step you take brings you closer to success.

Keep trying. Victory is within your reach!

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This web page and entire website Copyright: 1997 - 2015 by Hearts and Minds Network, Inc. Photos by IMSI painting by Lucy Infante, article 1997 by Bill Blackman.
http://www.heartsandminds.org/self/addictltr.htm - online 1997, latest text changes March 31, 2006.

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