This article is medically reviewed by Dr Robert Lefever, a world-leading addictions specialist.
Is there a behaviour or substance you’re addicted to? Have you tried several times to break away from it without success? Have you come to accept that this is your life and there’s nothing you can do about it? We beg to differ. You’re capable of living an addiction-free life. But, perhaps if you understood how addiction worked, you’d have fared better. This article should help you know what is going on.
What Is An Addiction?
The UK has millions of its population suffering from addictions. These addictions have left many in a vicious cycle they cannot break, which makes them feel quite helpless. When the addiction has to do with more harmful substances like drugs, it continues until the person dies. In 2008, 9,031 deaths were recorded for alcohol alone. If these deaths were recorded for potentially alcohol addiction cases, what happens when other forms of addiction are added? This should make a strong statement that addiction cases ought to be given the necessary care and attention.
Addiction refers to a chronic, complex disorder mandated by the compulsive abuse of a substance despite having harmful consequences. It typically involves a solid and intense focus on a particular significance so that the individual cannot function properly without it. The American Psychiatric Association states that an individual addicted to a substance will continue using it despite knowing that it’s harming them and potentially ruining their lives.
If you’ve got an addiction, it can feel like a constant cycle, and that can make you feel hopeless. It’s not, however, all gloom and doom; it can be addressed. If you think you are hopelessly trapped in addiction and have tried several times to get out of it without any progress, kindly contact us on 0203 955 7700. We have experts standing by to help.
Addiction after long-term usage.
When it comes to dealing with addiction, time is no guarantee that it’ll end. On the contrary, it might get stronger and harder to break with time in more cases than not. But why is this so? There are a variety of factors that account for this.
The first of these factors is that the underlying cause or reason for the addiction still exists. As long as the underlying cause or stimuli (situation) similar to it exists, it’ll trigger the addiction. So, for example, if the underlying cause is an emotion, anytime that feeling is experienced, you’re likely to fall back into the addictive behaviour.
Another reason an addiction may still be persisting is that it stimulates the pleasure centres of the brain. This creates urges and cravings, which could lead to a compulsion to satisfy those urges regularly. Anytime the individual is hit with those urges, they will succumb to it if there’s not the appropriate training or help.
If you’re going through an addiction that has persisted for a long time, this could be one of the reasons for it. There is also the common problem and challenge: most people who are addicted do not understand the whole addiction phase and cycle, nor do they know how to get out of it. Because of this lack of understanding, they conclude that it is not something they can overcome and then succumb to it.
What is the Cycle of Addiction?
Nobody simply wakes up with a behaviour or habit they are unable to end. In the same vein, no one wakes up an addict, and it is developed over time. Irrespective of what an individual is addicted to, however, there is a cycle, and a phase that each one goes through that has been identified as the addiction cycle. We will examine it below.
- Initial Use
This is the first phase of the addiction cycle which starts when the user comes into contact with whatever they cannot break away from. The substance the individual abuses may initially have served as a means to help the individual deal with a physical problem. For example, if someone is abusing drugs, there is a high possibility that it might have initially been taken to manage pain. If it is alcohol, it might have been an innocent first trial that led the person down the cycle. If it is intangible stuff like pornography or sexual addiction, it still would have required first exposure to the substance. This is the first phase of the addiction cycle; there possibly couldn’t be an addiction without the exposure.
The abuse of the substance comes next after the initial use. This is where the individual might use the substance more times than is considered safe. The regular consumption or utilisation of the product may respond to stress, anxiety or pain. If it is drugs, the person might attempt to take more than is considered necessary or safe in bidding to end the pain. For Alcohol and other addictions like sexual addiction, the individual might do so to deal with stress or for a euphoric response or high feeling; this can be the case with individuals who abuse hard drugs as well.
After the substance has been abused over a long period, brain changes start to occur. The individual suddenly does not get the expected effect even after using the exact dosage they usually did. This is because chemical changes would have happened in the brain due to the frequency of the use of the substance. This is referred to as tolerance. The individual might increase the dosage to try and achieve the high they are used to. It might work for a while after the increase, but then again, the body gets used to it, and it declines. Eventually, the individual will have to keep increasing the dosage to have the same feelings they are used to.
After abusing the substance for a while, the body gets used to having the substance in it and eventually becomes dependent on it. The body would have altered its functioning to accommodate the recurrent influx of the substance or the way the substance makes the individual feel or act. After a while, the brain will rely on the substance to function properly; its absence will affect everyday functioning. Sometimes, the individual might also require it to feel normal. The lack of substance will make them feel something is not right. This phase is typically characterised by:
o Strong cravings for the substance
o Inability to maintain daily responsibilities
o Inability to maintain relationships
o Regular use of the substance at inappropriate times and in inappropriate settings.
This eventually lands the individual in an addiction phase where it completely takes over the individual’s life. At this point, the individual will have the compulsion to use the substance irrespective of the effects it might be having on them physically and mentally. Although it might even affect other areas such as finances, relationships, and even the person’s job, the compulsion to satisfy the cravings for the substance will come first.
At some point, the individual might come to the realisation and try to quit. Most often than not, they are unsuccessful due to factors like withdrawal symptoms that they might experience due to the unanticipated withdrawal symptoms or perhaps emotional triggers, among other factors that might push them back into the act. The relapse is associated with shame and guilt, leading to the individual indulging in the addiction much more than before he attempted to quit.
Once individuals get through to the end of the addiction cycle, it feels as though they have hit rock bottom, and if no help is given to them, they break down. Some get into risk behaviours, some become suicidal, and some give up. They then repeat the cycle, and it never feels like it will end.
How to Break The Addiction Cycle
It is one thing to know the cycle, and it is another to break the cycle. Once you have understood how the cycle works, it is crucial to take steps to break them. Breaking the addiction cycle requires a combination of self-help and effort and seeking and receiving professional help.
This refers to what the individual undergoing the addiction can do. If you are going through addiction, these are steps you can take personally to try and break the addiction cycle.
- Identify The Problem Behaviours: Sit down, reflect and sincerely state all the problem behaviours you currently have. Identify what addictive behaviours you have started that need to end. For example, if you sit down and admit that you have an alcohol addiction, then go ahead to find all the behaviours that feed this addiction
- Identify Alternative Habits to Replace Them: Once you have found the various behaviours helping the addiction, you do well to try and replace them. If perhaps going out with your friends at night is what’s feeding the habit, you try and replace that with spending time with your family, which is healthy
- Seek Therapy to Identify The Root of The Habits: Once you have identified the behaviours and admitted you have an addiction, it’s best to visit the therapist to get to the root of the addiction. Sometimes, the root cause for alcoholism might not necessarily be the love of alcohol but to get rid of some form of trauma. Therapy will help identify the root and deal with them. Perhaps you can locate the root yourself, but you won’t be equipped to get rid of it. A therapist will be your safest bet.
- Practice Healthy Habits: Whilst in therapy, still practice your healthy habits and find more.
- Put Together A Routine for Practicing Those Habits: A routine for the adopted habits will help keep you consistent with it.
External help, which is mostly therapy, is essential if an individual is going to break away from an addiction. Seeking therapy is a sure way to get over an addiction, especially if the addiction comes with withdrawal symptoms. Try to visit a health or rehab facility near you for assistance. If you are unsure of where to get help or how to go about it, contact us on 0203 955 7700, and we will gladly help you.
Going through addiction can drain an individual psychologically and emotionally. It can almost always feel like a trap, but the addiction cycle can be broken. Decide to break it today, decide to get help. And always remember, you are not alone, and neither are you defined by your addiction. You may be struggling now, but you won’t be forever. You will pull through!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I break away from an Addiction?
I think my addiction is due to childhood trauma. Can I still break free?
I do not want to admit I am addicted. What do I do?
Addiction typically involves a strong and intense focus on a particular substance. Individuals addicted to a substance could be aware that it harms them and potentially ruins their lives, yet they continue with it. They tend to feel trapped and powerless against it, which leaves them in a vicious cycle. It is crucial that the individual fully understands what they are dealing with and is well equipped to handle the task to break the cycle.