At its core, addiction involves a desire to escape. Whether through shopping, sex, alcohol, eating, or many other possibilities, addiction strives to avoid, medicate, numb, or distort one’s reality. In many instances, addiction replaces the alternative of feeling negative emotions or physical pain. Reality becomes too much to witness, thus those who suffer from addiction escape and seek comfort through unhealthy habits and activities that offer some relief, at least temporarily.
Recovering from addiction is possible, and depending on the type and severity, can be treated through a variety of means including inpatient and outpatient programs, individual therapy, 12-step groups, and improved self-care activities and rituals. The first layer of recovering from addiction lies in acknowledging that there is a problem in the first place. Denial is a key component to addiction, as denial often leads to minimizing or rationalizing one’s behavior and a continued reliance on the thoughts and behaviours associated with the addiction. Once the individual can accept and acknowledge that there is a problem, there are several steps one can take to overcome the addiction and lead happier, more present lives.
1) Work on and heal from what led to the addiction in the first place
Addiction is a symptom, not the root cause. Addictions are often used to mask pain from traumatic experiences including abuse, neglect, abandonment, rejection, or loss both as a child and/or as an adult. Working with a therapist on these negative, adverse experiences can help to work through the pain in a healthy, positive way. Therapy can help offer support and awareness of the belief systems, impaired thinking, and unmanageability that led to addiction.
2) Get support and build connection through a 12-step group
Accountability and support with others in similar struggles is a crucial component to overcoming addiction. Those who suffer from addiction often lack accountability and connection, which fuels the addictive cycle and leads to more prolonged addictive behaviour with often more pervasive consequences. 12-step groups are available for every addiction, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and Gamblers Anonymous – to name just a few. Sharing one’s story and getting support from those who understand the addiction better, while being anonymous, can help to break the cycles of shame that often lead to more addictive behaviour. These groups are free and often meet daily to discuss topics that focus on recovery and healthier living.
3) Shift the focus towards healthier coping tools
Addiction normally leads to poor self-care, with the addictive behaviour taking centre stage when life becomes unmanageable, difficult, or stressful. Replacing the addiction with positive self-care activities can be a good step forward in not only overcoming the addiction but also in developing a strategy for taking better care of one’s emotional, physical, and mental health. This focus could include participating in mindful and grounding activities such as journaling, yoga, or fitness or connecting with friends both in and out of recovery. Something as simple as a 5-minute meditation or participating in a new hobby or activity that offers both pleasure and connection can be a great step towards overcoming addiction.
Overcoming addiction is possible when the individual makes a concerted effort to get help, become willing to change, make amends for the past, and get support from those who have walked a similar path. Finding a therapist and building a support system to work through the challenges and issues that led to addiction is just one step to many that can lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Adam Gelinas is our Short-Term Therapist (Intern) and is completing his Masters’s in Counselling Psychology at Yorkville University. One of Adam’s areas of interest includes addiction. Adam uses evidence-based modalities and an integrative approach in order to help his clients receive treatment that is personalized to their unique needs.