The journey from addict to recovery presents many challenges along the way, but perhaps one of the biggest challenges in the initial stages is breaking the addiction cycle that has its hold on you.
If you are addicted to alcohol
you will be familiar with the pattern of behaviour.
- Difficult feelings, pain, low self-esteem or helplessness
- Thinking about drinking as a means of escape from these feelings
- Uncontrollably thinking about how you will feel once you have had a drink
- Drinking – feeling a sense of relief from the difficult feelings
- Loss of control – inability to regulate the amount you drink
- Remorse – the feeling of shame and guilt for having given in
- Promising to quit
But step seven is never followed through and you end up back at step one and so the cycle is complete.
So How Do You Break This Destructive Addiction Cycle?
The addiction cycle is broken when an addict can make changes to their life by substituting self-destructive patterns of thought and behaviour with positive, healthier strategies. They will usually need professional help to achieve this, through counselling and psychotherapy, as part of an overall detox and rehabilitation programme.
- Acceptance: Recognising and accepting that you are caught in an addictive cycle is always a good starting point. If you can accept that you have a problem and that you need to find help, you are taking the first step to recovery. Denying that you have a problem, becomes a self-perpetuating cycle because you will keep beating yourself up about not being able to control your drinking.
- Deciding you are ready to make changes: although it is not always essential for an addict to be ready for change, a certain degree of self-determination to improve their quality of life will go a long way to making the journey easier. However, addiction counsellors are trained to help people re-frame the way they think about their addiction and so it is not always essential that the addict is ready for change.
- Detox: you will need to go through a detox from alcohol, which needs to be managed under medical supervision, as the withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening
- Identifying your own personal triggers: with the help of a counsellor, you will start to identify the triggers that have led you to drink. Addicts usually drink as a means of escape from difficult feelings that they are unable to cope with (see points 1 and 2 in the addiction cycle). An experienced professional will be able to help you identify these feelings and understand how to deal with them in other, more positive ways.
- Developing new coping strategies: By identifying your triggers you will be able to put new strategies in place to deal with these feelings. This might include things like reducing stress in your life, practising mindfulness or yoga, eating more healthily, communicating with friends and family and building new activities into your daily life to make you feel more connected with the world and other people.
- Ongoing support: the journey to lasting recovery is a long one and you will need a good support structure in place – people you can turn to when you might feel challenged by your old patterns of behaviour. A rehabilitation programme will usually include ongoing support from a professional to help you achieve and maintain your sobriety. Friends and family can also be invaluable resources to help you on your road to recovery.