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Action Steps to Overcome Your Addiction

by Scot Chadwick

Overcoming addictions can lead to a transformation in your life—and the lives of your family and friends. It starts with personal responsibility and a commitment to change.

As we said in a previous article, anything can become addictive if it offers predictable pleasure. Enjoyment and the pursuit of happiness is part of healthy living. But sometimes the desire for pleasure promotes disturbing and harmful behavior.

Addiction recovery should focus on finding fulfillment in healthy ways. Your goal should reach higher than a mere return to normal. Go beyond day-to-day survival and begin to thrive in new patterns of thinking and doing.

Consider how the following actions could help you as you begin your ascent out of addictive behavior.

1. Affirm Your Responsibility

You are responsible for your choices and actions. It is up to you to manage your life to the best of your ability. While your addictive behavior might feel automatic and comfortable, it is not irresistible, and it is harming you and those you love.

What lies are you believing? Have you ever heard yourself saying any of these toxic thoughts?

  • “I deserve this!”
  • “What I do in private only affects me.”
  • “This is the only way.”
  • “But I need it!”
  • “I didn’t ask for this.”
  • “I’m not as bad off as others.”
  • “Well, what about you? You’re not doing so well yourself.”
  • “My life has no meaning.”
  • “Nobody cares about me.”

These thoughts and others like them do not serve you well and only leave you feeling trapped. Now is the time to change for the better! Take control of your life starting today.

Now is the time to change for the better! Take control of your life starting today.

Do not define yourself by the negative things you have endured. You are not a hopeless victim of your past, of people’s evil against you, or anything else outside of you. These factors might have impacted and influenced you in specific ways. But they do not have the power to determine what matters about your present or your future.

More than controlling things external to you, you need to control yourself. After all, the problem of cell phone addiction is not your device, and the root of your excessive spending is not the shopping center, it is you! Control your appetites and feed on the right things to nourish your body, your thoughts, and your feelings.

2. Nurture Your Body

Improve your health in three fundamental ways: nutrition, sleep, and exercise. Revise your food plan to be more consistent and nutritious. Get an adequate amount of sleep each day—seven to nine hours for most people. Move and be more active throughout the day. Even small upgrades in these areas can provide tremendous effects and carry you forward to significant results.

Even small upgrades [in health] can provide tremendous effects.

Some addictions develop as part of an otherwise sound pain management program. Get to the bottom of your physical pain and deal with the source of the issue. Realize that physical pain, discomfort, and sadness typically indicate that some problem exists. Attempting to cover the pain can be detrimental to your overall health.

Obtain a full medical evaluation to help you identify any physical issues you might have. Cooperate with trained health-care professionals to develop and implement an appropriate treatment plan. You might also need medical help while you deal with any withdrawal symptoms such as joint or muscle pain, headaches, or insomnia.

3. Acknowledge the Problem

Take some time to identify the precise nature of your addictive behavior:

  • What is your addiction? Describe the addictive behavior.
  • When and how did your behavior start? How has your addiction increased over time?
  • When and where do you perform your habit? Do you do it at a set time of day, in a specific social group, while you have a particular state of mind, or at a regular location?
  • What benefits does your addiction provide? (e.g., stress relief, pain management, escape)
  • What need does your action attempt to meet? How are you seeking to gain pleasure or avoid pain?
  • What other areas of your life might have contributed to your addiction? (e.g., choices, actions, injuries, illnesses, trauma)

What do you hate about your addiction?

Define the costs associated with your behavior:

  • What do you hate about your addiction?
  • How much time and money have you spent on your addiction recently?
  • What is undesirable about your behavior? What do you or others find offensive?
  • How has your addictive behavior affected the rest of your life? What does your routine hinder you from getting?
  • How does your behavior harm you and those near you?
  • What could happen if you do not begin to change your life? What consequences are you already experiencing?

Once you have recorded answers to these questions, review your thoughts with the people who are closest to you. Where do they agree, and where do they disagree? What else should you recognize about your problem? If you are having difficulty getting to the root of your behavior, consider getting the help of a trained counselor.

4. Transform What You Want and How You Get It

Beyond merely removing or replacing the addictive behavior, you must also identify and deal with the factors that brought you into it. Your actions came from a desire for pleasure, so you must get to the root of that desire. Is the feeling healthy, or is it unhealthy?

You might determine that your desire is healthy, but the way you are seeking to fulfill it is harmful. How could you satisfy your needs and desires differently? For example, maybe you watch TV for hours after work to relieve stress. Instead, you could go for a walk in your neighborhood and consider ways to lower stressful circumstances while you are at work and during your commute. What other stress relievers could you implement?

One way to curtail addictive desires is to be thankful for what you already have.

Or maybe your motivation for the addictive behavior is harmful. How could you modify or replace your unhealthy desire? For example, perhaps you are starving yourself because you are worried about your physical appearance. Besides dealing with your diet, you should evaluate why being considered attractive is so essential to you. What do you hope to gain by others’ positive perception of you? What could you focus on instead?

One way to curtail addictive desires is to be thankful for what you already have. Do not focus on what you have lost or what you think you deserve. Be content and grateful for the circumstances you currently enjoy.

5. Commit to Change

You need to come to a place where you will commit to improving your life. Are you willing to change? Sometimes the desire for change comes from within you, and other times it is stimulated by others (e.g., your spouse demands a divorce, or your boss threatens to fire you). Regardless of the prompt, commit to changing your life for good.

Now, why do you want to change? Do you want to save your marriage, protect your family and friends, keep your job, save money, spend your time differently, improve your health? Identifying what pulls you forward will help you persevere in your recovery.

6. Remove Cues

Start by avoiding items, places, and people that have regularly led you into the addictive behavior. These could be tangible things like cigarettes, credit cards, or tabloid magazines in the grocery store check-out lane.

Now is the time for drastic measures to move you forward in wellbeing.

Perhaps there is a specific time of day or place where you tend to engage in your unhealthy actions. Fill your time differently at those times of weakness, and plan to avoid the locations associated with your addiction. Stay away from the people (whether temporarily or permanently) that negatively influence your thinking and behavior. Now is the time for drastic measures to move you forward in wellbeing.

Recognize that overcoming your addiction might not happen immediately, and you might have setbacks along the way. Be patient and persevere.

When you have a relapse, try to discover what influenced you. What were you thinking? Who were you with at the time? Where were you? What did you see, hear, touch, taste, or smell? Use setbacks to fine-tune your recovery plan.

7. Cultivate Healthy Relationships

Focus on building positive relationships and regularly connect with your family and friends. You need the help of others, and loneliness and isolation only bring more hurt. Humble yourself and maintain a teachable attitude.

Get your focus off yourself, your needs and wants, and your problems.

Identify trusted partners you can call when you are about to engage in negative behavior. Empower them to enforce your chosen consequences for any setbacks. Having accountability can help you progress out of your undesirable thinking and behavior and into more healthy living.

Get your focus off yourself, your needs and wants, and your problems. Think of other people’s needs before your own and see how you can serve them.

8. Seek Reconciliation

Deal with the wrongs you have done to others as well the harmful things others have done to you. Through the course of your addiction, you likely have offended your family and friends. Speak with them and confess that you have made unhealthy choices and engaged in harmful behavior. Tell the whole truth—do not justify, minimize, deny, or make excuses.

Deal with your guilt by asking for forgiveness from those you have wronged. Seek to reconcile with others to the best of your ability, accepting appropriate consequences for your actions. Resolve any conflicts between you and others and seek to make peace with one another.

Perhaps your addiction relates somehow to what other people have done against you in the past. As far as it depends upon you, seek peace with them. Be ready to forgive them if they come to ask you for forgiveness. If they never speak to you about this, you can still have an attitude of grace, pity, and compassion toward them. But remaining bitter over the wrongs you have suffered can devastate your life. Move on!


Have hope—you can change for the better! You can overcome addiction and move forward to enjoy your life in healthy ways. Adjusting your thinking and desires in the ways outlined here will produce a change in your behavior. Dealing purposefully with addictions can be a matter of life and death for you and those you love. Keep moving forward into healthy living!

Note: This article contains health care information and advice and is meant to supplement but not replace the diagnosis or treatment suggested by your trained health-care professional.

Originally published on October 14, 2019

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