Addiction Recovery

How to Stop an Addiction? 15 Actionable Steps To Help You Stop Any Addiction For Good

Many people think that all the addict needs is greater self-control and willpower.

“If he could just try harder, surely he could stop drinking.”

But nothing could be further from the truth – relying on willpower alone is what’s preventing an addict from recovering.

You might be able to get off an addiction for a week or month, but without a plan, you’re very likely to relapse.

Some people believe that if you can show an addict how his addiction is hurting his health or throw out his mood changer, the problem will be solved.

But the truth is, neither the lack of information, not the supply is the problem.

Overcoming an addiction requires a new way of thinking about it.

In other words, the source of addiction isn’t the individual substance or activity so much as his way of thinking.

In this article, you’re going to learn how to stop an addiction by changing your way of thinking.

Ready? Let’s get started!

We Are All Vulnerable

An addict used to be some other guy. A product of an impoverished upbringing or someone mentally disturbed – not someone who functioned, for the most part, “normally.”

However, addiction doesn’t fit that stereotype in today’s society – a society that is generating addictive vulnerability. Addictions are happening to people of all colors and all classes.

The addictive personality exists on a continuum. We are vulnerable to different degrees to addictions based on who we are inside – not our upbringing, or how much money we make, or where we live.

Some addictions, such as to work, shopping, sex, and even exercise might seem harmless enough, but when the activity becomes an end in itself, it becomes problematic.

When Does A Habit Become An Addiction?


Most people share the misconceptions that if you’re doing it every day, you must be addicted, which implies that if you’re not doing it every day, then you can’t possibly be addicted.

The truth is the majority of addicts are not daily users of their drug. Instead, they would alternate periods of daily use with periods of controlled use or abstinence.

However, given the profound biochemical effects on the brain of many substances, such as nicotine, caffeine, sugar, cocaine, and alcohol, the daily use of them often lead to addiction.

The quantity of the substance isn’t a sign of addiction either. A person can be a smoker, for instance, and have only one or two cigarettes a day —if they are exerting tight control over the urge to smoke more.

It is not the frequency nor the quantity that matters so much as how the drug is affecting you.

3 Cardinal Signs of Addiction

1. Obsession

When you’re addicted to something, it consumes a good deal of your time, energy, and attention.

If you’re close to engage in the activity, you may experience feelings of anxiety and excitement that don’t let up until you actually get to do it.

2. Negative Consequences

Another key factor that distinguishes a good habit from an addiction is that an addiction, eventually, turns against you.

Your addictive behavior can produce pleasure, relief, and other payoffs in the short term but eventually lead to pain, shame, isolation, and more problems in the long term.

The negative consequences affect many areas of a person’s life, including relationships, work, finances, mental health, physical health.

3. A Lack of Control

Despite the negative consequences you experience, when you’re addicted, you’re usually unable to stop or control the behavior – despite the promises you made to yourself and others.

In other words,

It’s an addiction if it’s causing problems but you keep doing it anyway.

The other distinguishing factor is the reason why you’re using the drug or activity – if you’re drinking to numb painful emotions, for instance, chances are it’s an addiction.

It’s an addiction if you are using something as a mood-changer because your mood is intolerable.

The Source of Addiction Is Within Us

The problem is rarely in the mood-changer itself as much as it is in the person himself.

Most people believe that addictions, such as drugs, are responsible for the problem. However, even when these addicts get rid of their source of addiction, eventually they pick up another addiction.

Moreover, people are getting addicted to different activities such as work, TV, shopping, which proves the problem can’t just be the chemical impact of a drug on the brain.

In other words, recovering from addiction takes more than just stopping the habitual behavior – it takes changing lifestyle and attitudes (your belief system, how you deal with problems and stressors, and how well you are meeting your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs).

How Do We Become Addicted?

There are four major factors (other than genetic predisposition) that make people vulnerable to picking up an addiction:

1. Addictive Belief System

An addictive belief system holds the following beliefs:

  • It is possible to be perfect,
  • My image is more important than who I really am,
  • I am not enough – externals, such as other people, drugs, alcohol and other things outside of myself, hold the “magic” solutions to my problems.

This belief system makes you overly focused on the immediate gratification (the quick-fix) while depriving you of lasting gratification in the long run.

2. Addictive Personality

Addictive personality traits originate from addictive belief systems and include:

  • Perfectionism,
  • Approval-seeking,
  • Hypersensitivity to criticism and rejection,
  • Feelings of shame,
  • An inability to tolerate frustration and manage anger,
  • Feelings of powerlessness,
  • An excessive need for control,
  • A passive approach to problem-solving,
  • Isolation, etc.

3. Inadequate Coping Skills

Living in an addictive society and growing in addictive families, often lead to developing faulty beliefs around adequate coping and problem-solving skills.

Growing up, most people had few role models for learning how to soothe themselves in a healthy way, tolerate frustration, communicate directly and honestly, and take constructive action.

4. Unmet Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Needs

Unmet emotional, social, and spiritual needs, exacerbated by lack of adequate coping skills and strong belief in the quick-fix, can lead to addictions.

These needs include:

  • Acceptance for who we really are,
  • Intimacy,
  • Sense of belonging to a support network,
  • Security,
  • Meaning and purpose,
  • Autonomy, etc

How to Stop an Addiction?

Recovery involves facing the feelings and beliefs that made you so vulnerable to addiction in the first place.

In order to do that, you need to break the cycle and stop using your mood-changer to anesthetize your feelings.

Recovery starts with total abstinence.

Many psychotherapists used to believe that addicts had to first resolve their underlying psychological problems and acquire enough self-esteem and relief from inner conflicts before they can get off their addiction.

But professionals now realize that abstinence is a prerequisite for recovery, not its goal.

How to Stay Abstinent?

To stay abstinent, you need to make the process predictable and reliable enough to prevent any relapse, by building comfort and relief into your new life so that you won’t need to resort to your old ways.

This includes, among other things, letting a support system of other people (safe people or support groups) become your current mood-changer.

Related: How to Become Emotionally Sober? 3 Steps to Successfully Move on After Addiction

how to stop an addiction: 12 ways to beat addiction


#1. Break Through Denial

Denial can be a major stumbling block to recovery. Most people can’t accept the fact that they are addicted.

The first step is to admit to yourself that you are addicted to whatever your drug is.

Facing your problem can be frightening, but unless you take responsibility for your addiction, you won’t be able to recover.

Taking responsibility means not wasting any more energy on blame and guilt and putting your efforts into starting recovery today.

Remind yourself that you are not your addiction – you are much greater than that.

Talk to a therapist anytime, anywhere

Find a therapist from’s network. Your personal therapist will be by your side – from start to finish. Guiding you to a happier you through the sections, worksheets, messaging at any time and live sessions (available as video, voice only or text chat).

Plans start at $31,96 per week + 20% off your first month.

Related: Higher Self-Awareness and Consciousness: 4 Ways to Connect With Your Inner Self

#2. Decide to Quit

A good way to help you decide to quit is drawing up a list of the pros—the payoffs you get from your drug (e.g. excitement, relief, sense of control) and a list of the cons—what it costs you (how your addiction has affected your relationships, work, physical health, mental health, hobbies, dreams, etc).

Now, look at the pros of your addiction and ask yourself is it really giving you what you think it does or is it just giving you the illusion of it?

For instance, if you think your alcohol addiction is giving you relief, look closer.

Is it really providing relief from stress or just the illusion of it? Chances are, if it’s addictive, you’re actually not doing anything to reduce the stressor and becoming more stressed out—if you look below the surface.

Also, consider your goals and dreams – what you truly want out of life. Is your addiction interfering with reaching your goals? Can you imagine how giving up your addiction can help you get what you want out of life?

Related: 10 Proven Ways to Make Any Change Quick and Permanent

#3. Set a Manageable Goal

Aspiring to a lifetime or even a year of abstinence is unrealistic, especially when you haven’t been able to go a day or even a week without engaging in your addiction.

This is why you need to start with a goal that you think is achievable – a day, a week, two weeks, a month, etc.

The sense of accomplishment you’ll get from reaching your manageable goal will increase your motivation and prevent you from getting overwhelmed and relapsing.

Related: 8 Scientific Proven Ways To Achieve Your Goals

#4. Cultivate a Positive View of Abstinence

Most people equate abstinence with deprivation.

The truth is abstinence can be actually liberating, especially when your addiction has been controlling you and your life for a long time.

If anything, it’s the addiction that deprives you of what you want in life and robs you of personal freedom.

Keep reminding yourself of the personal gains you are getting from becoming abstinent.

Self-love Affirmations positive - how to get rid of addiction

#5. Consider Whether It’s Best To Abstain Gradually Or At Once

Most addictions, including cocaine, should be stopped all at once.

However, chronic heavy use of drugs, such as alcohol, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, etc. can cause dangerous withdrawal syndromes that might lead to convulsions and other life-threatening physiological reactions.

Such substances require gradual abstinence under medical supervision.

#6. Stay Clean

After being abstinent for a while, you might find yourself thinking that your addiction wasn’t such a big deal after all, or that other people seem able to control it, so maybe you can too.

You need to remind yourself that the problem here isn’t the mood-changer itself, but rather what you use it for.

So while others might be able to the same activity without negative consequences, it is not the case for you, at least until you change your belief system and learn healthier ways to cope with your emotional pain.

#7. Abstain from All Other Mood-Changers

Recovering from addiction means learning healthier ways to cope with frustration, anger, and emotional pain.

When you have a problem with addiction, your addiction can be triggered by any mood-changer.

So while you might be able to quit your current addiction, you might pick up another one if you don’t change the belief system that turned you into an addict.

How do you know if you’re picking up another addiction?

If you’re using something to anesthetize your feelings, it falls into the category of a mood-changer.

#8. Identify and Make Use of a Support Network

Your tendency to isolate under stress is one of the main factors that made you vulnerable to addiction. And continuing to isolate yourself when you’re in the process of overcoming addiction might feed feelings of shame, self-pity, and loneliness, which precipitate relapse.

Overcoming addiction is best done within a support network.

1. Make a list of safe people you can call on for encouragement and support throughout the early stages of your recovery.

If you can’t think of a supportive friend who’s willing to listen, try 7cups of tea. It is an online service with thousands of volunteer listeners stepping up to lend a friendly ear.

2. Start attending a self-help program such as AA.

There are more than half-million self-help programs in the USA and the number is growing – a testimony to their value.

These programs provide the recovering person with hope, a non-judgmental support system, a sense of belonging, a new framework for looking at the problem, and a structure.

3. Get professional help. There are therapists who specialize in various addictions, including workaholism and relationships.

#9. Get Rid of Supplies and Reminders

Getting rid of all your addiction supplies and reminders helps you build in as much distance as possible between you and your mood-changer.

The goal here is to eliminate all easy access to your mood-changer to avoid relapse.

This involves not just the drug, but all drug paraphernalia like freebase pipes, syringes, etc.

If you’re a smoker, get rid of your ashtrays as well.

If you’re a compulsive shopper or spender, throw away your credit cards, ask the bank to put a limit or cancel the ATM service, and refuse offers of credits.

#10. Break Off with People Associated With Your Mood-Changer

It’s all but impossible to stop using a mood-changer while keeping contact with people associated with it.

If you drink with a friend, tell him you won’t be doing that anymore and ask him not to do it around you.

#11. Structure Your Time

Nature abhors vacuum. When you give up your mood-changer, unless you consciously fill your free time with positive, recovery-enhancing activity, you risk relapse or picking up another addiction.

1. Schedule at least one positive and enjoyable activity to replace your mood-changer. Sign up for a course in something you’ve always wanted to learn, volunteer your time to a cause, or provide some service for others.

2. Plan each day in advance, especially the weekends and holidays to stop yourself from easily drifting into “isolating.”

3. Whenever possible, spend time and plan to do things with another person.

Related: How To Beat Loneliness And Enjoy Supportive Friendships?

#12. Expect Withdrawal

Some people experience physical and emotional withdrawal when they abstain from their mood-changer, whether it was chemical or not.

These aftereffects include:

  • irritability,
  • mood swings,
  • low energy,
  • short attention span,
  • clouded thinking,
  • an inability to experience pleasure,
  • and extreme sensitivity to stress.

They usually occur within a few days of abstinence and disappear within two weeks.

Being aware of these aftereffects can help you feel less discouraged.

Physical exercise and proper nutrition are proven to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

Vitamins (B complex and C in particular) and amino acids (tyrosine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan) help facilitate the replacement of dopamine and other neurotransmitters that are depleted by certain drugs.

#13. Change Your Attitude About Relapse

Relapse is often viewed as something to be ashamed of. People mistakenly equate relapse with failure, which only contributes more than any other thing to high relapse rates.

You prevent relapse when you identify the warning signs of a relapse, avoid high-risk situations, and cut relapse short if it occurs.

Remind yourself that abstinence is not synonymous with recovery. And so relapse is part of the recovery process and not something that happens after you recover.

The following are relapse signs to avoid:

  • A build-up of stress
  • Emotional overreaction (overwhelming fear of abandonment, fear of inadequacy, anger, loneliness,etc.)
  • Failure to get support
  • Increased isolation
  • Self-sabotage, such as using other mood-changers

Changing Your Attitude, Life-Style, And Behavior

#14. Use Constructive Coping in the Face of Problems

When you stop numbing your feelings and avoiding your problems through the use of your addictions, problems will start to weigh on you again more overwhelming than ever.

Here are constructive coping tools in the face of problems:

1. Resist The Impulse To Run

The best and healthiest way to cope with your problems is by facing them.

Bring your problems out in the open, admit them to yourself and reach out to your support network who can help you sort them out.

Remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect.

Related: Facing Your Fears: 5 Truths About Fear And 5 Ways To Conquer Fear And Get Unstuck

2. Keep Problems In Perspective

Most people who struggle with addictions tend to overreact to problems because they view them as proof of their inadequacy and expect dire consequences.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen from this problem?”

Does this problem confirm your inadequacy —or simply that you’re human?

Identifying the worst-case scenario helps you realize that you can handle just about any problem, with support.

Related: When Your Brain Lies to You: How to Stop Cognitive Distortions and Overcome Depression?

3. Talk About It

Reach out to your support system (people in your recovery group, safe family members, and friends). While they may not have all the answers, their nonjudgmental support can make difference.

4. Accept Responsibility

You might not have created the problem, but if it’s affecting your life, it’s now your responsibility to decide how to respond.

It’s hard to be able to do anything about your problem when you keep blaming others and giving them the responsibility of solving the problem, which you know is unlikely to happen.

Related: Be The Designer Of Your Own Life (How To Calculate Risks And Reduce Your Fear?)

5. Break Problems Down Into Small Steps

You don’t have to fix your problems overnight. Simply identify what small step you can take in the direction of resolution and take it.

Focusing on one little, manageable step helps you avoid becoming overwhelmed.

6. After Taking The Action, Let Go Of The Result

Take appropriate actions, and then let go of what happens. Worrying about the outcomes isn’t doing you any good.

#15. Sit Down With Your Feelings Now That You’re Not Anesthetized

Studies show that you’re far more likely to relapse when you feel bored, depressed, angry, or lonely.

This is why learning to cope effectively with painful feelings is vital to avoiding relapse.

Here are some tools for dealing with feelings in a healthier way:

1. Just Let It Be

Notice your feelings as they come and sit with them. Remind yourself that you’re not going to die from a feeling, and that healing happens when you allow yourself to feel long-denied emotions.

Keep repeating to yourself “I am safe,” and take a few deep, calming breaths every time you feel intense emotions.

Related: 6 Simple Ways to Manage Difficult Emotions and Control Them

2. Remind Yourself That You Don’t Have To Act On It

Just because you feel angry, doesn’t mean that you need to act on it. More importantly, you’re not going to be feeling this way “for the rest of your life.”

Remind yourself that “This too shall pass.”

3. Reach Out For Support

Talking about what your feelings with someone supportive is a great way to coping. It helps you put these feelings in perspective.

4. Notice Negative Self-Talk and Distorted Thoughts

Notice when you label yourself as “stupid,” or, “worthless,” or otherwise verbally abusing yourself.

Imagine a dear friend who’s in the same situation as yours and ask yourself what would you tell them? Say it to yourself!

5. Stay Present

Most of our emotional pain comes from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

That is why bringing yourself back to the present is the best way to cope with your feelings.

Practice mindfulness and give meditation a try.

Related: How To Meditate? A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

6. Use Your Feelings As A Feedback

Think of your painful emotions as the equivalent of physical pain.

Physical pain sends a powerful signal that something is wrong, nudging you to take action of some kind. Without physical pain, your situation would worsen, potentially leading to a premature death

Emotions work the same way. They exist as a signal that something needs attention and possibly some action. Perhaps, you need to let go of some people, or remove a disempowering story that creates suffering in your life.

7. Write

Writing is a powerful tool for discharging overwhelming feelings.

Write down any intense feelings you’re experiencing and the thoughts associated with these feelings. This creates distance from your emotional pain, but also helps you put things in perspective.

8. Practice Self-Care

Restful sleep, enough exercise, and an adequate diet can make a huge difference not just for your physical health, but also your emotional health.

Schedule a time for yourself to do something you love, grab your favorite book, make yourself a delicious meal, take a hot bath, etc.

Related: Take Care of Yourself: (26 Simple Self-Care Practices for a Healthy Mind, Body & Soul)

20 Ways to improve mental health - break an addiction

To Summarize

Addiction is not the result of moral weakness or a lack of willpower.

Addiction is a disease. Its major symptoms are (a) cravings and compulsions for the mood-changer, (b) loss of control over use, (c) and continued use despite negative consequences.

Recovery is possible, with abstinence and a change in attitude, lifestyle, and behavior.


Overcome Technology Addiction Worksheets

overcome technology addiction worksheets

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Talk to a therapist anytime, anywhere

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Plans start at $31,96 per week + 20% off your first month.

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  • Portions of this article were adapted from the book Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief, © 2018 by Claire Bidwell Smith. All rights reserved.
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