When you are fighting an addiction, it is difficult to imagine how to fill the time you once spent hanging out at bars, getting high with friends, or sitting alone eating more than you want to admit. Fears continue to surface in regard to how to change life enough to avoid falling back into old, destructive behaviors. Two of the biggest questions you ask yourself are how to manage an addictive personality and if one addiction will simply replace the one being battled.
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a compulsive behavior over which a person has no control. Both substance dependence and behavioral addictions stem from the inability to control action due to mental or physical conditions. The difference between a destructive habit and addiction is the psychological/physical component that prevents a person from simply stopping a certain behavior. For example:
- Habit: Someone may have a routine of driving to work the same way every day despite options. The individual is choosing to take the highway rather than sit at stoplights on back roads, but can easily switch between the two routes, if desired.
- Addiction: A person cannot function (due to psychological implications or physical symptoms) without performing a certain action. The individual experiences shaking or extreme anxiety before leaving the house if he does not have a drink of alcohol.
What Types of Behaviors Commonly Replace a Current Addiction?
Addiction and compulsive behavior comes in many forms. While some statistics are extremely high in regard to relapsing during the first year of recovery (some sources list a 75% relapse rate), studies have shown that the longer a person is exercising healthier thought patterns and behaviors, the less likely it is that a relapse will occur. Data cannot fully describe how many individuals in recovery have switched to other compulsive behaviors because it’s difficult to classify every behavior.
Any of these behaviors may be symptoms of untreated or incomplete addiction recovery:
- Compulsive exercising
- Alcohol abuse
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Compulsive gambling/computer gaming
- Excessive shopping
- Drug use
- Any obsessive behavior that you are unable to manage
How Can I Change My Patterns to Help My Recovery?
Addiction has been called a biopsychosocial disease — there are biological, psychological and social (or environmental) factors contributing to the development of an addiction. During recovery, patterns of behavior need to change in order to maintain more positive actions for the long term. Relapse is more likely for those who do not or are unable to change one or more of the biopsychosocial factors during and after recovery.
It is important to recognize that addiction is due to compulsive behavior. Due to this compulsiveness in a person’s personality, it is not uncommon to experience addictive behavior in other ways. The keys to recovery are awareness and determination. You need to be aware of your patterns and be determined to change them.
Is There Formal Treatment I Can Use In My Recovery?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a proven effective way of managing addiction. During CBT patients are provided help in understanding thoughts and emotions which influence behaviors. Recognition of thought patterns and social triggers that lead to compulsive behavior can help a person successfully remain in recovery. Another part of CBT is learning and practicing new techniques to avoid or deal with triggers. CBT is available as both inpatient and outpatient treatment options.
Inpatient treatment is often the best way for an addict of any kind to face the compulsions head-on. Inpatient therapy allows a person to step away from a life that has become unmanageable in order to focus on and solve any issues from the inside out. Inpatient facilities offer:
- Comprehensive care 24 hours a day – The immersion into recovery allows an individual to focus on all aspects of a healthier lifestyle and receive support whenever needed.
- Safe environment – Facilities provide an engaged environment free of distractions and triggers while providing time for reflection, goal setting and learning new life strategies.
- Support – Living with people who share similar struggles help put concerns into perspective and provide comfort.
Therapy can help you pinpoint certain thought patterns and behaviors that have led to an addiction. Continuing support and awareness is key to long-term success in treating any kind of destructive behavior.
If you or someone you know is battling addiction in any form, please seek help. There are many resources available to help people change their patterns and live a long, healthy life.