Addiction is not an easy thing to beat. Actually, it can be the most difficult thing you ever have to do. Addiction does not play by the rules like you have to do. Your addiction will lie to you and make you believe that what you are doing is good for you even as it is ruining your life. It does not even matter what it is you are addicted to because no matter what it is, it will be incredibly hard to beat, but it is possible. You can do it. Many people who also thought they could never do it have done it before. You can do it too! Those who have never been addicted to anything think it is easy. Some people may say, “why don’t you just stop?” or “I would never do that” but they have no idea what it is really like unless they have been there.
Addiction or Abuse?
Drug addiction and abuse are two of the most common mental health problems in Americans. In fact, there are over 20 million adults in the United States who suffer with one of these addictions. Everyone has heard of drug addiction and abuse, but are they the same thing? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the difference is the number of diagnostic criteria the person has. For example, you are addicted if you have at least three of the seven signs of drug addiction. However, the DSM uses the term dependence rather than addiction. These criteria include:
- Consuming more of the substance
- Continuing to use the substance even if it causes issues with school, business, personal life
- Giving up other interests such as social life, job, and daily activities
- Spending too much time looking for or trying to get the substance
- Tolerance (needing more and more to get the same effect)
- Trying to quit using without being able to
- Withdrawal (varies depending on the drug)
- Feeling aggravated
- Anxiety and stress
- Nausea and vomiting
What exactly is substance abuse then? If the person has at least one, but less than three, of the above criteria, that would be considered substance abuse. With abuse, it is more of an occasional type of drug or alcohol use. For instance, those who abuse alcohol may only drink once or twice a month, but when it happens, they do not know when to stop. With addiction, the problem is continuous and the person is always looking for their next drink (or drug).
What Addiction Really Means
There have been many experts who believe that addicts have addictive behaviors, so when they try to quit, they will most often just trade one addiction for another. For instance, an alcoholic may quit drinking alcohol but start taking another drug or a smoker may trade nicotine for food. In truth, those with addictive personalities typically will have more than one addiction. For example, some who are addicted to gambling are also addicted to alcohol and those addicted to cigarettes will often drink alcohol as well. This issue is not only applicable to illegal or dangerous substances either. People have become addicted to anything from shopping to video games or even food. Anything that a person does repeatedly and becomes a compulsion can become an addiction. In the same way, addictive behaviors are repeating an activity because it makes the addict feel good. It certainly does not have to be a bad thing, like drugs. In fact, some addictions are good. How do you know the difference? A bad addiction takes away from your life and a good addiction adds to your life.
Some Tips That May Help
Once you realize you have an addiction, it is time to talk to a professional and find out if your addiction is good or bad. Then, if necessary, you can find out how to fix the problem. A therapist or counselor can help you decide what you need to work on. You can also use some of these tips to help you figure out the issue:
- Accept That There Is No Cure: That’s right, there is no magic pill that can cure your addiction. There is no magic addiction fairy who can wave a magic wand and stop those cravings and urges you may be feeling. Addiction is a disease you will have to deal with your entire life. You cannot just say, “I used to be an addict” because you still are and will always be an addict. You are a recovering addict because you still have that little voice inside you telling you that it is okay to drink that beer or use that drug. Addiction is like a dormant cancer cell inside your body that will stay dormant until you feed it.
- Get it Out of the House: No matter what it is you are addicted to, get it out of your house. Of course, if it is food that you are addicted to, you cannot get rid of all the food. However, you can get rid of those foods that are most tempting for you such as chocolate, pizza, ravioli, and donuts.
- Have a Support System: It could be your family, friends, co-workers, or even the members of your AA or NA meetings. You need to have someone to call if you are feeling stressed or if you feel like you want to drink/smoke/gamble/etc. Without a support system, it is harder to stay on track. You can do it, but you will be much more successful if you have someone to back you up when you need it.
- Talk to Your Doctor: Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what you are doing and ask for some help. Antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are two that help curb the cravings and take the edge off the anxiety.
- Write Down the Pros and Cons: Take a few minutes to write down the pros and cons of beating your addiction. For example, you may put your family and your health in the pros column and job loss and relationship troubles in the cons column.
Whatever you decide to do, be sure to let your psychologist know about it because he or she will surely have some tips for you. Your doctor can help you as well, but, the best thing to do is speak to a mental health professional right away. They will help you begin to understand your addiction. The more you understand, the easier it will be to fight and win.
Could You Be Addicted?
Although you need a professional to answer that question, there are a few things you can ask yourself if you think you may have a problem:
- Are you missing days or showing up late at work due to using the substance?
- Are you using the substance while doing things you used to do sober such as hanging out with friends or watching television?
- Do you find yourself thinking about the substance during the day?
- Do you go out of your way to find or use the substance?
- Has using the substance caused any problems with friends or family?
- Has using the substance caused you to make mistakes at work or school?
- Have you had any legal problems due to your substance use?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you definitely should talk to a counselor or your physician. No matter what, you need to get treatment before it becomes a bigger problem than you can handle. Sites like BetterHelp can help you find the right person and you do not even have to leave the house. Don’t wait until it causes you serious trouble. You can talk to someone today and start to feel better.
About The Author
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.