Breaking Free From an Addiction
Addictions are something we are starting to talk about much more commonly today, which is good as almost everyone engages in some form of addictive behaviour - as the majority of addictions are merely coping mechanisms.
We all know someone that’s looking to give up smoking or stop comfort eating in an attempt to lose weight, and similarly, many of us will know people that have sought help in terms of recovery from alcohol and drug abuse. Today, addictions are much less of a taboo than they once were as many people we look up to, in the world of celebrities, are known for battling addictions with sporadic stints in rehab.
That said, not everyone is able to afford rehab, so in this article we’re going to look at an underlying fundamental principle when it comes to breaking free from an addiction.
The core aspect of any addictive behaviour, and perhaps that’s the first thing to realise - an addiction is a habitual pattern of behaviour that starts to have power over us due to the meaning we attach to it.
It’s a universal truth that nothing in life has meaning, other than the meaning to which we attach to it, thus everything is fundamentally subjective. Now, for someone that associates smoking with stress relief, for instance, it’s going to be hard to break the pattern of behavior because they associate smoking with something positive - stress relief - so in their mind, the way they are wired to think about smoking is not something that is causing harm, but, something that’s causing pleasure… even though, intellectually they may know it’s bad for them, we are emotional creatures and somewhat subservient to our emotional drives.
In that sense, if you want to stop smoking, you simply need to change the association - stop associating a positive meaning to the activity of putting a cigarette in your mouth, and start associating pain.
If you’ve ever noticed, this is at the core of all positive change, as many times, it’s only when a doctor says the three most dreaded words in our language “you have cancer” that people start to make some lifestyle shifts… and even then, some people will continue to smoke, because they are so attached to the meaning of “smoking equals pleasure or comfort” they choose not to give it up.
That’s the other aspect to this, addictions, whilst they might not feel like it - are a choice - agreed, sometimes addictions can truly play havoc with people’s lives and they don’t feel they are in control, as the addiction takes over, but fundamentally, what a person chooses to do, is a choice.
Therefore, to get someone to make a different choice, you simply need to help them associate pleasure with a more positive habit and pain with the addictive behaviour. The more pain they associate with the thing they are wanting to change, then the more able they will be to shift the meaning and ultimately break free from the addiction.