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Why is It So Difficult to Overcome Addiction?

Woman Smoking Marijuana

The definition of addiction according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine is a treatable, chronic medical disease that involves complex interactions among genetics, brain circuits, the environment, and a person’s life experiences.

People continue engaging in harmful behaviours in spite of negative consequences since addiction changes the brain’s reward system which increases the desire for the experiences or substances. The changes in the brain also affect judgment and impulse control, which makes it much more challenging to quit.

Addiction recovery might be challenging, but addiction is definitely treatable. With the right approach to treatment and supportive resources, it is possible to overcome the mental and physical challenges you face on the road to recovery.

Starting the Process

One model of behaviour change that’s known as the transtheoretical model identifies two critical processes involved in making a change of any kind – Pre-contemplation and contemplation. First comes pre-contemplation and then comes contemplation.

During the early stages of the process, you may be in denial about the effects of the addiction. As you grow increasingly aware of the problems that you face, you may even start struggling with feelings of ambivalence as you become increasingly aware of the need to overcome the addiction.

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However, once you make the decision to change, you can start the process of preparing to take action.

Decide to Change

One of the most important steps in overcoming addiction is the decision to change. If you acknowledge that a change is necessary, it means that you realize that there’s a problem and have the desire to address it.

Making the decision to change and determining exactly what that will look like is a process that usually takes time. It is referred to as the contemplation stage since it involves thinking about whether to change and how.

Still, ambitious goals aren’t necessarily the best. It is better to set a goal that you can actually achieve as opposed to quitting “cold turkey” only to end up relapsing, which can be far more dangerous than just continuing without any changes.

Consulting an addiction counsellor, doctor, or psychologist is particularly helpful at this stage because they can help you understand the risks as well as what can be done to alleviate them.

Prepare for Change

You may still have to prepare to change once you are clear on your goal. Preparations may include getting rid of addictive substances from your home and eliminating any triggers in your life that increase your likelihood of using those substances again.

This usually means having to get rid of paraphernalia or other items likely to trigger your desire to either engage in harmful behaviour or use a substance. It might also be necessary for you to change your routine so that you have less contact with settings or people likely to trigger cravings.

Other ways you can prepare include determining what is the most suitable approach you should use to overcome your addiction and get the resources you require to be successful.

For instance, if you are trying to stop smoking, the first step would be to decide whether to stop smoking cold turkey or reduce your use of nicotine gradually. Next, you would get the tools required for successful quitting, such as nicotine replacement therapy products, finding a support group, or getting prescription smoking cessation medications.

Seek Social Support

The hardest preparations to make usually involve social relationships. For those living with addictions, some of the relationships may actually revolve around addictive behaviours.

In such instances, setting boundaries within the said relationships as well as joining a self-help group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can be helpful for providing a group of people that know exactly what they are going through.