Addiction wrecks lives. Whether you are addicted to a substance such as drugs or alcohol, or have a psychological addiction to gambling, pornography or something else, addiction only ever follows a downward spiral. It can cost you relationships with partners, family members and friends. It can have an impact at work and, destroy your health and finances and generally invade every aspect of your life.
If you are struggling with an addiction, you might not have much of an idea where to start in overcoming it. Battling an addiction is never easy but you are only alone in the fight if you choose to be. There are people and resources that can help and, while it is always tough, you can take steps to overcome addiction and start to reclaim your life.
Step 1: Admit you have a problem
This is almost always the first step to overcoming addiction. Addiction is very much associated with self-deception and it can be very difficult to admit you have a problem – both to yourself and to others. Many people see addiction as something to be ashamed of but the modern view of addiction is to characterise it as a disorder or disease of the brain. It is characterised by a very strong compulsion to keep on using, drinking or indulging in the behaviour, even when you know there could be extreme negative consequences. Addiction essentially rewires your brain over time, making it incredibly difficult to resist that compulsion without help. Thankfully though, like other diseases, addiction can be treated.
Addiction is also very common and, while it may be more prevalent in certain demographics, alcoholism, drug addiction and other forms of addiction can affect people of any age and background. An EU report from 2019 estimated that the UK had more than 341,000 high-risk opioid users for example. There are far more people struggling with alcoholism, partly due to the fact that alcohol is legal, easily accessible and generally more socially acceptable. While alcohol and drugs tend to be seen as the most serious types of addiction, partly because of the physical harm they can do, you can also take similar steps to overcome shopping addiction, food addiction and any other kind of addiction.
Admitting you have a problem is one of the most important steps to overcome alcohol addiction or drug addiction, but how do you know if you have a problem in the first place?
Some common signs of an addiction to drugs or alcohol can include:
- Craving drugs or alcohol
- Choosing drinking or drug use over other activities or spending time with family and friends
- Drinking or using alone or in secrecy
- Feeling bad when you don’t have a drink or drugs
- Making excuses for drinking or drug use such as needing it to relax
- Not enjoying activities or events without drink or drugs
- Depression, anxiety, mood swings and other issues
- Drinking or taking drugs even when it leads to negative consequences
Step 2: Talk it out
Another of the most important first steps to overcoming addiction is in talking about your problems. Most rehab programmes incorporate talking as part of the treatment, whether this takes the form of talking therapy, group therapy, counselling or some other kind of communication. This can help you to get to grips with the root causes of your addiction, but before you get to that point it can be useful to share with someone else.
This might be a friend, partner or family member but many addicts struggle to open up to their loved ones – initially at least. There are plenty of other places to turn to though, where you can talk about your problems with no judgement and in complete confidence. These could include your GP or charities such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the Samaritans and various specialist drug and addiction charities.
Step 3: Change your habits
It is not easy to beat an addiction all in one go but if you’re wondering how to overcome drug addictions step by step, it may be possible to change your habits and cut down your usage. Most addictions have certain triggers and it may be possible to avoid many of these. This might mean changing your social circle or just staying away from certain people who enable or encourage your addictions and associated behaviour.
If you have a problem with alcohol you might want to avoid going to pubs, clubs or other places where alcohol is consumed. If you are looking for steps to overcoming gambling addiction, this might mean avoiding betting shops, sporting events or other events and places that trigger your gambling.
Step 4: Seek help for your addiction
It is incredibly difficult to beat an addiction of any kind without getting some kind of professional or expert advice. You might have heard of 12-step programmes that consist of 12 steps to overcome drug addiction or alcohol addiction. These sorts of programmes are typically endorsed by Alcoholics Anonymous and others, but they are not the only kinds of treatment or programme available.
The NHS can offer advice and treatments through its drug and alcohol services. These usually take the form of outpatient or community-based programmes. These can certainly be useful but unfortunately NHS resources can be stretched and there are often long waiting lists.
Another option is looking into professional rehabilitation or rehab clinics. These offer inpatient or residential treatment programmes that typically start with a supervised detox. Detox, or detoxification, involves processing the toxic substances – the drugs or alcohol – that are currently in your system. This is the point at which you actually get clean or sober and it is a very important step but it is just that – one big part of numerous steps to overcome addiction. It’s also important that you are equipped with all the tools and knowledge you need to stay clean or sober after leaving rehab. That could involve talking therapies as mentioned above, as well as educational workshops helping you to understand addiction and how it affects you.