Managing addictions

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An addiction is a condition characterized by the inability of a person to give up an activity or an act that is unhealthy to the person, that is having an adverse effect on the family, or that is deterring such person from carrying on with important activities. There are different types of addiction, but they all have the same or almost the same adverse effects. Addiction may damage the bodily organs, and lead to mental illnesses. It may have an adverse effect on work-related matters, academic matters, family care, and proper social functions. In some cases, it may contribute to domestic violence (as is common with substance abuse), unsafe driving (driving under the influence of alcohol), family neglect, and mismanagement of finances. 

Gambling addiction is understood to lead to imprudent management of one’s income, and sometimes results in stealing from others. Smoking marijuana does not only precipitate lung cancer, but also alters the normal behavior of the brain, thus increasing the chances of incurring psychosis. Alcoholism also contributes to some bio-organic failures, such as lever failure. And while some addicts may be aware of some of these adverse effects, they find it very difficult to overcome their addictions. The reason is that choosing not to yield to the cravings of addiction may result in experiencing highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Great discomfort is often felt by addicts who are making an effort to not yield to their addictions. Some addicts experience highly disturbing hallucinations and agony as they try keeping themselves away from engaging in addictive behaviors. The reward of yielding to addiction is also very intoxicating, and almost difficult to ignore. As a result of these, the tendency of losing the battle against addiction can be high. This, however, does not mean that it is impossible to manage addictions. However, it could mean that managing addictions isn’t as easy as many of us think. 

Addictions are not curable; they cannot be erased or eliminated. However, they can be effectively managed. The truth is, when you develop an addiction, your brain chemistry changes. Your brain now recognizes what is pleasurable and what isn’t. You may not be indulging in your object of addiction at the moment, probably because you have learnt to manage your addictions, but it does not mean that you are free of the addiction or that the addiction is cured; it does not mean that you cannot relapse and re-experience the addiction all over again. Managing addictions include distancing yourself from the ‘trigger’. 

A trigger is anything that can remind you of a former pleasure, or a former psychological reward. Just as there are triggers that remind us of what we are afraid of, there are also triggers that remind us of what we find much pleasure in. A trigger could be a person, a place, a memory, a video, a music, a sensory experience, or a smell. When you are exposed to the trigger, you may then be reminded of that former pleasure. And now that the former pleasure is in your active subconscious mind, you may struggle with forgetting about it; on the contrary, you don’t want to forget about it because you actually like it. Addictions are after all, acts or activities we strongly want to do away with, and at the same time, we strongly want to keep engaging in. 

When you indulge in an addictive act, you reinforce the addiction (make it stronger) and it becomes more difficult to manage. Addictions may be enjoyable, but they are bad for you. Therefore, what must you do to manage your addictions effectively? 

Avoid the triggers

Your addiction is real, and it cannot be erased. But you can avoid letting it have an adverse effect on your life. You can avoid letting it destroy your organs, your family’s happiness, your friendships, your official duties, your academic goals, and so on. The way to go about this is to ensure you avoid the triggers that are responsible for your remembering them. 

Addictions are highly enjoyable, even intoxicating, because they are highly psychologically rewarding. But they can also precipitate your disaster and ruin. If you care a lot about the important activities and responsibilities in your life, you should be willing to sacrifice the pleasure you derive from your addictive activities. If the triggers are your friends, you may want to do away with these friends. As long as you are exposed to the triggers of your forgotten pleasure, you cannot successfully manage your addictions. 

Practice self-control

I know this sounds like a joke, but some people have done it and it worked for them. Remember that yielding to your unhealthy desires leads to reinforcement of those unhealthy desires. Therefore, it is logical that when you don’t yield to them, you prevent yourself from having to become more addicted to them. Practicing self-control is not easy for an addict, because the addiction usually gets the better of them. A common misconception is that most addicts lack self-control and are therefore to blame. But the reality is that addiction is a disease of the brain (although, initially induced by the addict) that cannot be cured but only managed. Even if you relapse, do not stop practicing self-control; it really helps. 

Spend time with supportive friends and family

Spending time with people who understand your addiction, who accept you regardless, and are willing to support you throughout your recovery process will help enhance the management of your addiction. Studies have found that depression and low self-esteem promote addictive behaviors, while feeling more secure and loved mitigate them. 

Addiction is sometimes a coping mechanism against (or an escape from) the unpleasant realities in one’s life, which may be caused by emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, insecurity, parental neglect, destructive criticisms, stigma, family violence, unemployment, among other things. Addicts who feel safer and loved are more likely to become better managers of their addictions than addicts who feel insecure and unwanted. 

Find a distraction

One effective way of minimizing an addiction is by developing another addiction. For example, if you are addicted to alcohol, you may develop an addiction for video-games or movies. While these other addictions may have some adverse effects, they certainly will not destroy your bodily organs and brain. And guess what- you can always watch series of movies with families, as it is good for enriching family time! 

More so, spending positive time with positive friends will help take away your mind from your addiction. While you are with your friends engaging in positive activities, this can be a very good distraction from your addiction. Studies found that being idle and on your own can contribute to seeking excitement and indulging in addictive activities. Therefore, find a distraction, such as spending time with friends or trying your best to achieve a positive goal to take your mind off the object of your addiction.