Powerful techniques to optimize your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors

Overcoming Addiction

Addiction is a state of being physically or psychologically dependent on activities, people, or substances. Dependency may encompass alcohol, drugs, exercise, gambling, people, overeating, overspending, and work. Addiction to alcohol and drugs implies an increased tolerance to a substance: physical and psychological dependence; and withdrawal cues when we no longer abuse the substance.

Even though large numbers of people overcome their addictions with minimal support or by themselves, it is easier for many folks to handle this difficult challenge with counseling and support groups. Folks strongly compelled to use alcohol and drugs face stiff emotional and behavioral hurdles along with the dependency itself. Very frequently people with an addiction will meet the common problem of denial or the belief they really do not have an addiction. Because of the very human tendency to down ourselves for unpopular behavior, addicted folks will often lack awareness of their behavior and its effects on the people around them.

Addiction to alcohol and drugs frequently requires detoxification under medical supervision to avoid health problems and seizures.

The two major reasons why people abuse alcohol and drugs are to block feelings or to just plain feel good. When handling addictive behavior, it is wise to look for new behaviors that will lead to a complete emotional life or more good feelings in the long term. People often develop new interests to replace addictive behaviors.

People with a strong attraction to alcohol and drugs often hold some of these common self-defeating beliefs:

(1) I need substances to feel good or to block emotional pain.

(2) I can't stand frustration, pain, or my negative emotions.

(3) I deserve to feel good, get high, or block pain.

(4)I can't help my behavior.

(5) Other people or events cause my feelings, hence my addiction.

(6) I'm no good, a reject, or a failure.

(7) I'm not addicted--I can control my substance use and handle any problem.


It is important to understand that no biological or genetic mechanisms have been identified that account for ALL addictive behaviors. Addiction is a compulsive behavior. Studies clearly demonstrate most folks quit addictions on their own or trade them for more rewarding and less compulsive behaviors. Addiction is an unconscious way of coping with emotions. To overcome this challenge requires commitment, self-awareness, emotional retraining, creativity, new perspectives, coping and mastery skills, and often environmental changes. There are degrees of addictive behavior. Just because a person had an alcoholic parent does not mean he or she will be an alcoholic. Because alcoholism runs in families does not mean it's genetic. Alcoholism and drug addiction can be learned from family members. Often it is passed along in families via emotional modeling. Many folks suffering from addictions are emotionally avoidant.

People who overcome addictions generally:

(1) Learn to accept and feel their feelings so they can be naturally processed.

(2) Develop alternative rewards that are more meaningful than addiction.

(3) Get support from family, friends, or mutual-support groups.

(4) Avoid situations that provoke relapse.

(5) Develop frustration tolerance.

(6) Develop self-acceptance.

(7) See addiction's negative consequences.

(8) Develop a lifestyle more rewarding than an addictive lifestyle.

(9) Become more connected with their core values.

Some of the chief signs of overcoming addictions are:


(1) You don't use the beverage or substance.

(2) You accept your feelings and allow them to process.

(3) Your thoughts and conversation are not compulsively focused on your challenge.

(4) You let go of addictive activities that used to make you feel special.

(5) You don't crave the substance.

(6) Your social life has nothing to do with addictions.

(7) You don't blame the past for your current challenges or let downs.

(8) Your emotions are no longer a big deal.

(9) You don't view life one day at a time.

(10) You feel like you're growing comfortable with life and others.

(11) You haven't traded your addiction for another negative addiction.

(12) Your relationships with others have improved.

(13)You have hobbies and find your work more satisfying.

(14) You have new friends.

(15) You feel better about yourself.

(16) Your health has likely improved.

We are responsible for our addictions. We make choices in action. We move our hands and choose where our feet take us. We are the ones who choose to be in a place where substances are abused. We choose what we put in our bodies. And we are the persons who can choose to do something else.

Largely addiction is a compulsive and unconsciously run defense mechanism to keep us from feeling painful emotions we might find overwhelming because of our lack of acceptance. Compulsions can be deflated by learning to accept and feel the underlying feelings that run them. I support the notion that compulsions can be overcome through various methods and emotional skills training. However addiction is generally not a one-dimensional challenge. More than a compulsion or dire need for something must be handled.

* Most alcohol and drug addictions require a medical detox.

* Addiction has bodily cues. These cues often serve as triggers for the compulsive urges you get. Become aware of them and know what they tell you. Scan your body and find them. These cues may be like the sudden cues someone gets when they feel a cigarette in their hand and then suddenly get the urge to drink. These cues are good targets for integration.

*Learn everything you can about accepting your feelings and fully feeling. Learn to use integrators and Emotional Writing. Get in the habit of accepting and feeling your feelings with no thought of getting rid of them or keeping them. Let your body naturally process or integrate these feelings.

*You will need to fully commit yourself to staying clean and sober. Start problem solving how you will pull this off. It's best to practice complete abstinence until your compulsion is gone. This takes as long as it takes. Drinking and substance use better be a no-no for quite some time in the future.

*Often people will have an allergy to their beverage and substance of choice. Seek out someone who can eliminate this allergy because this elimination will help undercut some of the physical craving.

* Anxiety and depression are the two most common fuels for addictive compulsions. Find out everything you can about integrating these emotions. Make them primary to be fully felt and experienced. When anxiety and depression is accepted and naturally processed, a huge charge comes off your addiction.

*Stay away from any place where you will abuse. Find alternative places to go to meet non abusing comrades. This won't be easy at first, but you will need to do this.

*How do you rate your social skills? If you need touch ups here--see if there are any social skills trainings going on at area mental health centers. Gets some books or check around the internet. Learning to relate well with others is highly valuable. Assertiveness training is almost ongoing in any major metropolitan area.

*Challenge and change your addictive thinking. These addictive beliefs can be found by checking our your own thinking. Several addictive thoughts appeared in the opening paragraphs about addiction. Check out the Personality Cluster "Addiction". These are prime targets for integration. Taking the charge off those beliefs can be very helpful.

*Use the Longevity Maneuver to de-stress and relax. We're less likely to abuse when we're stress free.

*Know your environmental cues and integrate them. Environmental cues may be everything from a bar front, a friend's face, certain music. Basically these are cues with strong associations. Take the charge off them. You want the clinking of glasses and the smell of cigarettes to have another meaning. (I know this sounds compulsive, but you want to raise the probability of getting around in life and feeling okay).

*If you have a history of severe trauma you will need to hook up with someone who knows how to process trauma. Processing traumas takes a whole lot weight off your situation and lessons the need for your unconscious to go compulsive on you.

*Camaraderie is a large part of the addictive sphere. You're going to have to make your friendships elsewhere. This will be a challenge at first. Start thinking about your new interests and the type of folks involved with them. Start hanging out with people involved in your new interests. Hey the internet is cool. It's a start.

*When you're quitting, it's wise to start using some supplementation like multi-vitamins, B vitamins, flaxseed or fish oils etc. Do some reading here. B vitamins and antioxidants can be helpful.

*Watch out for the HOLIDAYS! These are times when folks start to feel their compulsions coming on strong. These are lonely and dark times of the year for some, plus there are lots of parties. Problem solve around that.

*Find some trustworthy and supportive people you can talk with about your challenges. If they've had similar challenges in life, that can be helpful. Know that others have made this important passage back into life. They might have some insights and skills for you. They can provide valuable feedback and assist you through the rocky parts. Support is really important. You might find such persons at Smart Recovery groups or even A.A.

*For problem solving, you may want to use the Multi-Solutions Generator on your addictions problems. It can point you to compulsive free times and how you created them.

*If you wish to create a vision of health and the good life you may want to employ the Creator or the Goal Maker. It always helps to have a gut installed positive vision or well formed goal going.

*In even the worst overwhelming situations you have the power to get up and do what you need to do. This is a terrific power. We don't always have to be the victims of our feelings and compulsions. Feelings change after a bit when you are doing something you need to do. In studies of depressed persons, these folks were most likely to turn the corner on their depression when they got up and did what they needed to do. Employ the "Action Maneuver". Get up and do what you need to do. The feelings will change. Feelings need not run us. Feel them and do what you need to do. It will give you a sense of control and forward movement.

*Keep your eye open for your self-sabotage. This often comes in the early stages of change.

* If you have a challenge with shyness, take some skills classes in this area.

*Learn assertiveness and decision making skills.

*Good relationships, good health, and satisfying work can be really helpful when we are in emotional transition. Getting good sleep, eating correctly, and exercise are a real plus.

*Giving up substances is much easier when you have positive activities to replace them. Make a list of new current activities that you can enjoy.

* Think about the long term consequences of your addiction. Does having an addiction block your long-range goals? Hurt your chances at survival and good health? Put you in significant conflict with others? Give you the kinds of emotions you would prefer? Interfere with your perceptions of reality?

* At the outset of overcoming an addiction you can almost expect some relapse. Rome was not built in a day. There's much to learn. That you returned to an addiction does not prove you are a failure or an addict forever. Not does returning to your addiction prove you need to suffer or are getting back at others. More likely you are a fallible person who has learned some unhelpful habits of behaving and emoting. Behavior and emotional processing can be learned.

*By choosing easy and immediate gratification ahead of long-range satisfaction, we produce problems for ourselves. List the pros and cons of easy and immediate gratification. Consider health risks, legal troubles, expense, craving, hanging out with people lacking few interests outside of getting high, a bad self-rating, and broken relationships with family and friends. Keep a list of disadvantages as a reminder.

*Self-downing can help keep us in an addictive groove. Self-downing helps create anxiety, depression, and guilt which can put us back on the addictive treadmill. Accept yourself and notice you have many, many qualities, some good, some outstanding, and some not so hot.

* Discover the places, pressures, and times when you are most likely to use. What goes through your mind at these times? List your high-risk situations. A list might include: (1) When bored, pressured, or stressed. (2) When facing social involvement or about to take a risk. (3) When angry, anxious, depressed, or guilty. (4) When meeting old friends or returning to the neighborhood. (5) At a bar, party, or drug house. (6) Work trouble or getting canned. (7)When alone or breaking off a relationship. (8)In grief. (9)Becoming involved in a relationship. (10) When daydreaming about any of the previous 9 examples.

* Watch out for either/or thinking like: "If I don't have total control over my addiction, I have no control." Think of the times you stopped--they count.

*Know your strengths.

* Recall those times you handled crummy situations without going compulsive. What did you do? Can you replicate that?

*Just because we did not overcome our challenges in the past hardly proves we will repeat the same mistakes in the future. New information, better support systems, new attitudes, new ways of experiencing our emotions and processing them, clear and specific goals, and self-acceptance can make a large difference in overcoming addiction.

*Learn how to handle low frustration tolerance. Test your limits by building I can stand it attitudes.

*A good self-help group has the following qualities: (1) Individual differences in race, religion, culture, and economic background. (2) Supports personal goals. (3) Accepts member input about approaches, goals, and rules. (4) Accepts folks coping individually with their challenges. (5) Encourages independence and functioning outside the group. (6) Accepts that member will leave. (7) Don't claim to have the only way. ( Don't claim you are diseased and are totally out-of-control. (9) Don't strongly knock other views. (10) Don't brand folks and their behavior with pathological labels. (11) Don't insist everyone really needs to read their literature and accept their treatment. (12)Doesn't have a strong fundamentalist zeal for pushing ideas and programs on others. (13) Don't brand others who fail to abide by their approach as either insane, unhealthy, or dishonest.

What universally helps in overcoming addiction are these approaches:

*Addiction is strongly a way to avoid feeling painful emotions.  Addiction covers painful emotions over.  Addiction is weakened and turned down when folks learn to feel their emotions instead of avoid them through addictive behavior.

*Addiction not only blocks painful emotion, in some circumstances addiction provides either a chemical high or it stimulates feel good endorphins.  Folks who take on addictions to feel high or good need to find alternative non addictive activities, activities that are pleasurable, important, and meaningful. The activities need to be a part of everyday life--something that can be reached for during the onslaught of feeling down or wanting to get high or feel good.

*Low Frustration Tolerance goes hand-in-hand with addiction.  We can't stand not having our addictive substances or activities.  Low Frustration Tolerance can be handled with the "I Stood It" Exercise.  Here where learn to stand and stay through rough moments.

*We need to clearly recognize what are true requirements in life as opposed to something we merely want or prefer.  Otherwise we develop a false need.

*It helps to think clearly and undistortedly.  Distorted thinking helps keep addiction in place and make bad choices.

*Folks need to recognize the future consequences of their choices and actions.  If those future consequences are problematic, the choices and actions need to be dropped.

*A lack of will can contribute to self-defeating choices and actions.  See the Will Building Exercises to help with turning off giving in, poor self-discipline, and dealing with cravings.

*Exercise can help us deal with addictive behaviors as long as we don't make exercise into an addiction.

*If challenging emotions like depression or anxiety are feeding the addiction, these will need to be worked through.


 *If alcohol or substances are involved, the person needs to be fully committed to sobriety.  Find out what you can do to increase your commitment

*Have a strong support system that you can go to if you get urges or cravings?  A strong support system can help when you are overwhelmed.

*You need to stay out of places where people are using.

 Photo thanks to Gregor909 at

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