Have you ever tried to give up something that you are addicted to like smoking or alcohol, or even something less odious like chocolate? It is hard work, isn’t it? It takes tremendous determination. I’ve heard people label drug addicts ‘weak’, but when you think about it, it takes a great deal of will power to maintain an addiction. You have to hide the addiction from friends, family and colleagues, you have to come up with creative ways of finding the cash to pay for your addiction, and you also have to find a dealer who is prepared to sell you the illicit substance. I’m by no means praising drug addicts, but I am pointing out how hard it is to maintain an addiction. And yet there is still one thing that is much harder. Giving up the addiction!
It is too easy to judge someone who can’t get their use of drugs, alcohol or cigarettes under control, but is there something in your life that you are addicted to? TV soap operas, gossip, sugar? I have read studies that show that sugar is as addictive as cocaine or heroin. It stimulates the same pleasure sensors as hard drugs and getting off it is just as difficult. People trying to quit sugar suffer withdrawals and cravings. I have not given up sugar, but I am aware that eating too much sugar leads to weight gain. It can also increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and the risk of developing diabetes, cancer and heart disease. I am very conscious of not eating too many sweet foods.
Many people these days seem to be addicted to fast food. It seems that being overweight is becoming the new normal. Nearly 66 per cent of Americans are overweight or obese, yet a new US study has found that fewer people are trying to lose weight than ever before. Most over-weight people have thrown in the towel and given up trying to shed their excess weight. The study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that society is more accepting of heavier people, and so over-weight individuals see themselves as “normal”.
Around two-thirds of Australians are over-weight. Have we also lost the will to improve ourselves? My belief is that unless you have aspirations, dreams and ambitions you won’t achieve success in this life. Success doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to go out into the world and chase it down. If you give up the will to improve yourself, you give up on life. So my advice, of course, is not to let yourself off the hook when it comes to addictions. Do not accept anything about yourself that deep down make you unhappy. However I am not proposing that you lose weight, stop smoking or cut down on your drinking today. They are decisions you need to make for you. What I am suggesting is that you be honest with yourself and truthfully answer the question: What is my addiction? What is it that you would like to leave behind? Is it drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, fast food, sugar, chocolate or indulging in gossip? Once you’ve answered that question then ask yourself if you are prepared to commit to the struggle of quitting that addition, because it will be a major personal challenge.
Addictions prevent you from being your best. The longer you are addicted to something, the harder it is to quit. Your addictions can hurt your friends and family. Have you known a smoker who has died too young, leaving behind children? Addictions also waste your time. There are times in your life when you are more open to quitting an addiction. Sometimes it’s when the substance has caused you to blow an opportunity, for example an alcoholic has lost a partner due to excessive drinking. At this stage it is impossible to deny that the addiction is causing problems, so the alcoholic will consider giving up drinking. But getting to this point is no guarantee of successfully quitting. You need to take concrete steps.
Step 1: Planning
The first step in quitting an addiction is planning. Plan for how to respond to cravings and challenges. If you want to lose weight, cook some delicious low-fat food so that when you feel hungry there will be nutritious food in the house, and you won’t be tempted to buy fast food. Carry low-fat options with you, so if you are held up at work you won’t be tempted to eat something unhealthy.
Step 2: Identify your triggers
You also need to identify what triggers cravings for your addictions. If you are giving up chocolate, ask yourself when you crave it. Do you resort to chocolate when feeling tired or sad? What are you going to reach for instead? A fun magazine, fruit, chewing gum? You might even want to keep a cravings journal, write down how you felt, when you felt the cravings and how you responded. A journal can be an effective form of venting.
Step 3: Slow down your addiction
You could consider slowing cutting down your consumption. Instead of going cold turkey, slowly reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke a day and use alternative nicotine sources, like patches.
Step 4: Find support
Seek out the support of friends and family when trying to give up an addiction, even if it is for something as innocuous as sugar. Your true friends will support you on the journey if you tell them how important it is to you. Join a support group, this is especially true if trying to give up drugs or alcohol, and of course talk to a doctor. Also, look for resources online. You might want to join an online support group. And search the internet for articles on how to successfully quit your addiction.
Step 5: Forgive yourself
If you relapse, forgive yourself. Addictions help us to manage negative emotions like stress, depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety. Giving up any crutch is a major step. So forgive yourself if you fail, but then you have to get back on the horse and again try to quit your addiction. I’ve said it a thousand times before, don’t stop, never stop! Always persevere with persevering.
All the best with leaving your addition behind!