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How to Break the Addiction Cycle? [Definitive Guide]

How to Break the Addiction Cycle

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 our way of thinking.

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.

Related: Inner Teenager Healing: 14 Proven Exercises to Heal Your Inner Teenager

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.

Related: How To Stop Love Addiction? Top 5 Proven Steps to Overcome Love Addiction

What Addiction Looks Like? 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.

Related: How To Step Out Of Denial? Top 10 Steps To Overcome Denial When The Truth Is Heartbreaking

Do You Have an Addiction?

When we think of the words addiction, we we think of heroin, cocaine, alcohol, and other addictive substances.

We don’t usually think about addiction to sugar, for example, even though sugar is the most prevalent addictive substance in the world with approximately 75% of Americans eat excessive amounts of sugar, many of whom could be classified as having a sugar addiction.

The first step to free yourself from addictions is to first acknowledge these.

The following are some signs you might be having an addiction:

  • You feel that you don’t want to stop indulging in a particular substance (sugar, caffeine, alcohol, etc) or behavior (watching TV, Exercising, Working, shopping, gambling, etc).
  • Other people are expressing concerns about your substance use or behavior
  • You use your substance/behavior of choice when you are depressed, stressed out, or going through a difficult time.
  • You have tried to stop for a week but have been unable to do so
  • You have tried to use that substance or behavior less by switching to other alternatives. For instance, you might have started chewing gums to give up smoking.
  • Your substance use or behavior has created problems with friends and family.
  • You tend to plan your day around your substance use or behavior.
  • Your substance use or behavior has stopped being fun to use or do.
  • You usually end up consuming/doing more of your substance/behavior of choice than you intend to.
  • You are experiencing financial difficulty due to substance use.

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).

Related: Best 6 Tips On How To Get Free From Porn Addiction?

How Addiction Works?

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.

Related: Negative Core Beliefs List (& 8 Tips On How To Challenge Them)

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.

Related: Best 99 Coping Skills (+FREE Coping Worksheets)

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
Addiction Recovery Worksheets (1)

How to Break the Addiction Cycle?

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 for Good? Top 15 Proven Ways to Get Rid of Addiction (+Addiction Recovery Resources)


#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.

Come out of denial Worksheets (2)

#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.

How To Stop An Addiction for Good? Top 15 Proven Ways to Get Rid of Addiction (+Addiction Recovery Resources)

#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.

Coping Thoughts Worksheets

#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

How to Make It through the Withdrawal Period?

Quitting an addiction is usually followed by a withdrawal period. Some people experience few or no withdrawal symptoms, while others struggle through this period.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawal symptoms involve more than enduring cravings for a particular substance or activity. It can also manifest in irritable, or depressed mood.

Physical symptoms may include headaches, sweating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, heart palpitations, difficulty in breathing, tremors.

Symptoms of withdrawal can be a real awakening, showing you how dependent your body has become on that chemical substance.

Gradually stopping your addiction can be safer and easier when it comes to managing withdrawal symptoms.

How Long Does Withdrawal Period Last?

Symptoms of withdrawal usually begin twenty-four to seventy-two hours after the last dose of a substance.

The most dramatic symptoms would usually lessen after five to seven days, but withdrawal period can last anywhere from a few days to a few months.

Here are a few ways to help you make it through withdrawal period:

1. Detoxify Both Body And Mind

Start drinking teas and plenty of pure water, and eating food that will help detoxify your body, such as asparagus, broccoli, grapefruit, avocado, kale, artichokes, apples, cabbage.

2. Seek Emotional Support

Be open with people you care about. Let them know that you’re going through a withdrawal period and that any irritability and changeable mood will be temporary.

Ask for their help through this tough time.

When to Seek Professional Help?

If you have a history of heart problems, grand mal seizures, psychiatric problems, or if you have a serious addiction to alcohol, or opioids, you should undertake the detoxification process in controlled medical environment.

Related: State-Funded Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers Near Me

3. Journaling

Journaling can be very helpful when dealing with cravings. Describe your emotions and physical sensations.

If you’re experiencing anxiety, write down your anxious thoughts and try challenging them.

Related: Top 21 Healing Journal Prompts To Support Your Healing Journey

4. Exercise

Exercise enhances endorphin release and boosts your mood.

During the initial withdrawal period it is recommended to try light, relaxing exercises, such as stretching, yoga, along with deep-breathing exercises.

5. Skin Brushing

Dry-brushing the skin helps detoxify the body by boosting circulation and improving lymphatic flow. You’ll also end up with soft, healthy skin as a side benefit.

Use a soft vegetable-fiber brush before you bathe and gently brush the skin in a circular motion, starting with your feet and working your way up.

6. Hydrotherapy

Soaking in a warm bath to which three Epsom salts have been added also helps detoxify your system (The Mayo Clinic recommends adults use 2 cups of Epsom salt per gallon of warm water).

Sauna baths and steam baths also help speed the release of toxic substances through sweating.

#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.

Pro Tip: Fall asleep faster with Amber light. SOMNILIGHT offers a wide range of products that blocks blue light and help you fall asleep up to an hour faster. Use this link to receive a coupon code for 10% off any purchase. (Free U.S. shipping and 60-day money back guarantee.)

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

Self-Care Worksheets

12 Natural Therapies to Support Addiction Recovery

Overcoming an addiction involve more than the decision to quit.

To cope with the withdrawal period, you need to nourish your body, manage your anxiety, soothe your nerves, and find healthier ways to cope with life stressors.

This could be done through:

  • Therapy and counseling
  • Support groups
  • Meditation
  • Positive affirmations
  • Visualization
  • Journaling
  • Exercise
  • Breathwork
  • Vitamins and other supplements
  • Aromatherapy
  • Light therapy
  • Color therapy

1. Therapy and Counseling

Overcoming an addiction requires understanding why you’ve come to develop an addiction in the first place.

Through therapy or counseling, you can address the underlying issues and make sure you don’t relapse.

Therapy or counseling will also help you learn alternative, healthy coping strategies to face life stressors.

A good therapist or counselor can give you emotional support while overcoming your addiction.

2. Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded by two alcoholics who helped each other get sober and who brought their message to help others overcome alcoholism and stay sober.

Since then AA has become a tremendously powerful support group that has helped millions of people around the world.

Support groups offer a safe, empathetic space for people to open up about their struggles with others who are in the same situation, face the same challenges, and suffer from the same pain.

Related: The Art of Validation: How to Comfort and Support Someone Without Giving Advice?

3. Meditation

Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of the brain, which promotes plasticity in areas important for cognitive and emotional processing and well-being (Cromie, “Meditation Found to Increase Brain Size”).

Related: Listen to Your Inner Guidance: A Beginner’s Guide To Meditation

4. Positive Affirmations

Addictions can negatively affect your self-esteem, and restoring your sense of self-esteem is vital to recovery.

When you begin to see yourself as love-worthy and strong enough to face life stressors, you will have no need for addictions.

One great way to ensure that is through positive affirmations. Many studies have shown the efficacy of positive affirmations.

Repeating positive thoughts to yourself, over and over again, will reprogram your thought patterns in a positive way.

Choose a list of affirmations and read it to yourself every morning and before drifting off to sleep at night. You can say them in front of a mirror, making eye contact with yourself. You can also imagine yourself saying them to a close friend, trying to convince him that they’re true.

The following are some examples:

  • I release the need to indulge in (addiction).
  • I choose to love and approve of myself.
  • I choose to see my self-worth.
  • I choose to enjoy each moment.
  • I am getting better. I am strong.

5. Visualization

Visualization is another way to reprogram your thought patterns in a positive way.

Visualization Practice – Releasing Your Addiction

1. Get into a comfortable position

2. Start breathing deeply and slowly and feel your body as you release any tension in your muscles.

3. Once you feel relaxed, start imagining yourself releasing your addiction using symbolic methods. For example, visualize yourself holding a basket attached to a balloon. Imagine yourself putting your addiction and every negative thing associated with it in that balloon (guilt, sense of unworthiness, etc). Imagine yourself lifting the basket and letting it go. Watch it as it rises in the air.

Practicing visualization can also help you relax. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get at soothing yourself, whenever you start to feel stressed or anxious.

Visualization Practice – Soothing Yourself

1. Take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on your breath.

2. Imagine yourself in the most beautiful place possible —a beach, forest, a river, or whatever calms you and soothes you. Imagine as much detail as possible and engage each one of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell).

You can also one of the guided visualization that are available online.

6. Journaling

Journaling is a great way to manage difficult emotions and clear your mind. It can also be a safe place for you to bare your soul in and explore your feelings without judgment.

You can also use your journal as a tracking system for your addiction, by writing down the emotions and situations that trigger it so you can avoid or overcome these.

Writing Exercise

Learn more about your addiction by writing to it.

Using your right hand, write down how this addiction is affecting you. Then, using your left hand, have your addiction “write back to you.” You can use the following questions to understand more about your addiction:

  • Why is it with you?
  • What function does it serve in your life? Is it keeping you from having to deal with difficult emotions?
  • What was going on in the period prior to the addiction?
  • If you persist in this addiction, what are the top three worst consequences?
  • If you give up this addiction, what can you gain?
  • What do you want my life to look like a year from now? What do you need to do to get there?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

Related: Top +100 Journal Prompts For Self-Discovery (+Free PDF Download)

7. Breathwork

How we breathe can have a great impact on our emotional and physical health.

Taking a few deep, slow breaths, has been shown to calm our intense emotions and reverse hyperventilation, which makes it a great tool to manage difficult emotions.

 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” helps reduce anxiety. Some even claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.

1. Lie on the floor and place a pillow under your knees.

2. Place your hands on your stomach, with your fingers gently laced just above your navel.

3. Breathe in through your nose to a count of four and feel your abdomen as it raises.

4. Hold your breath to a count of seven

5. Exhale through your mouth to a count of eight

8. Exercise and Yoga

Exercise boosts circulation, improves digestion, and reduces depression and anxiety.

Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, which can relieve pain and boost mood.

Try activities, such as dancing, hiking, biking, or simply going for a walk around the neighborhood for thirty minutes every day.

Studies show that yoga can be an effective exercise to help overcome addictions like smoking.

Specific yoga poses for overcoming addiction include those that help detoxify the liver, like the Locust, the Plow, the Shoulder Stand, and the Fish Pose.

9. Nutrition

The right nutrition can help correct nutritional deficiencies, and cleanse your body.

Start eating a high-fiber diet, and drinking plenty of fluids to promote good elimination.

Make sure your food is unprocessed and chemical-free.

Protein is proven to minimize addiction cravings. Good protein sources include organic, free-range poultry, eggs, and fish, yogurt, and other dairy products, nuts, seeds (like chia, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower), legumes, tofu, and even kale.

Nuts and seeds also contain essential fatty acids, which help reduce withdrawal symptoms.

10. Aromatherapy

Because of the close proximity of our nasal cavities to our brain, various smells can open neural pathways and boost our mood.

This makes aromatherapy a great way to help you overcome addictions.

Aromatherapy employs essential oils – the powerful essences of plants.

These essential oils can also have many healing properties.

You can use essential oils by adding 5 to 10 drops to a warm bath, or diluting a few drops in vegetable oil for massage, or even opening a bottle and inhaling the aroma throughout the day.

Caution: Essential oils should not be applied undiluted to the skin, or put near the eyes.

Related: 10 Essential Oils to Aid in Alcohol Detox

11. Light Therapy

Natural light can aid in detoxification.

For neurological benefits, the light must indirectly enter your eyes by spending an hour a day outdoors before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m.

Unless the weather is extremely sunny, it’s best not to wear sunglasses, prescription glasses, or contact lenses to obtain a healthy dose of full-spectrum light.

If you can’t spend time outdoors, open a door or window so that you’ll have some natural light.

12. Color Therapy

Colors can have a great impact on our mood.

The color blue, for example, can help you relax. Green has a balancing and calming effect. These two colors can be helpful in overcoming addictions.

To benefit from the healing properties of colors, surround yourself with them:

  • Wear clothing in blue and green.
  • Visualize yourself breathing in healing blue and green lights.
  • Spend time in green spaces and under blue skies, or get some houseplants.

Related: Overcoming Addiction: How to Get Any Kind of Addiction Under Control for Good?

How to Overcome Bad Habits and Addictions Using CBT?

What Is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy CBT?

In a nutshell, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy proposes that dysfunctional thinking, which in turns influences a person’s emotions and behavior, is at the root of all psychological problems.

When individuals change their thinking into a more realistic and positive way, they experience a decrease in negative emotions and maladaptive behavior.

For example, if you fail a test, you might have an “automatic thought”, an idea that seems to pop up in your mind: “I’m stupid, I can’t do anything right.” This thought leads to a particular reaction – feeling sad (emotion) and retreating or giving up (behavior).

CBT help you become aware of your dysfunctional thinking by examining the validity of your thoughts. In the example above, you’ll conclude that you’re overgeneralizing and that, in fact, you still do many things well.

Looking at your experience from a new perspective can help you think more positively.

CBT can help you break bad habits and addictions, and regain control over yourself and your life.

Below are some common addictions and bad habits and how to use CBT techniques to break them:

#1. Sugar Addiction

Sugar is one of the least recognized addictions but also one of the hardest to overcome.

Sugar works just like an addictive drug—it stimulates the production of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters, and when the effect wears off, you’re left wanting more.

CBT and Sugar Addiction

1. Start keeping a food journal where you write down everything you eat and drink throughout the day. This can help you become more aware of just how much sugar you’re consuming.

2. When shopping, read labels. Look for words ending in “ose,” like fructose, dextrose, glucose, lactose, sucrose, and maltose, and look for syrups and juices.

Related: Secret Sugars: The 56 Different Names for Sugar

3. Cut back on your sugar intake gradually to avoid shocking your system.

  • Start eating less pasta and bread made from white flour and start eating more whole grains.
  • Replace high-sugar snacks with fruits or nuts.

Reducing your sugar intake may be accompanied by mood swings and low energy, but as you get used to less sugar intake, you’ll again feel energized, alert, and healthier.

#2. Stress Eating

Stress is a part of our daily life.

Most common ways to help you de-stress include exercising, journaling, meditating, doing something you love like gardening, baking, painting, etc.

Some people fall into a bad habit to relieve their stress by eating, often unhealthy food. This is called “stress eating”, which refers to the compulsive desire to eat large amounts of unhealthy food (think of chocolate and junk food) whenever an individual feels anxious or stressed.

However, the relief is momentary and almost always leaves the individual feeling guilty or hating themselves in the aftermath.

CBT can help you break this habit by changing your response to triggers.

CBT and Stress Eating


This one of the most common CBT technique in treating “stress eating”:

1. Identify what triggers your stress eating.

2. Avoid these triggers at all cost.

3. Keep a food journal where you keep track of your diet and record everything you eat and what triggered it.

4. Regularly read this journal and identify your patterns of problematic eating and figure out how to overcome them.

For example, if you tend to stress eat when you are bored, keep yourself busy by finding a new interest (painting, writing, exercising, etc).

If you stress eat after a long day at work, find other ways to decompress (drink some tea, do yoga, take a walk, etc).

If you stress eat when you’re feeling down, look for better outlets to deal with your sadness (talk to a friend, spend time with your pet, journal how you feel, cry it out, etc).

5. Find alternative ways to comfort and soothe yourself, such as taking a warm bubble bath, reading a great novel, or walking in a beautiful environment.

6. Start using Mindfulness meditation and guided visualization to reduce stress.

7. Exercise is essential to giving up stress eating. Exercise stimulates endorphin production but also , improves digestion and elimination and boosts energy levels.

#3. Smoking

The nicotine in cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other vaping products, and chewing tobacco is highly addictive, which makes smoking one of the hardest addictions to overcome.

CBT and Smoking

1. Think about situations in which you smoke. Do you tend to smoke when you’re bored or stressed, after a meal, with certain beverages, or in certain social situations?

2. Avoid these triggers as much as possible.

3. Substitute smoking for a better habit, like going for a walk after a meal, chewing sugar-free gum, drinking a glass of water, etc.

4. Set a smoke-free target date, and as you approach the target date, start cutting back on the number of cigarettes to smoke each day.

5. When you feel a craving for a cigarette, wait five extra minutes before smoking one. As you approach your smoke-free target date, increase your waiting time more and more.

6. Set certain hours of the day when you won’t smoke; for example, from 5 P.M. to 10 P.M.

7. Smoke only half of each cigarette.

8. Switch brands and make sure you don’t buy your favorite brand.

9. Find healthier ways to reduce stress, like exercise, meditation, deep breathing, etc.

#4. Watching Too Much TV

Watching TV might seem relaxing and enjoyable activity, but when it becomes an addiction, it can turn into an incredible waste of your time.

It’s okay to decompress after a long day and watch a few episodes of your favorite show, but if you find yourself mindlessly channel surfing and spending the day on your couch, then you might have a bad habit.

In one study, watching TV three hours a day has been proven to double their risk of premature death compared to those who watch less, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

If you’re struggling to give up your bad habit of watching too much TV, CBT can help you quit that habit.

CBT and Watching Too Much TV

1. Set a reasonable amount of time for TV and stick to it.

2. Schedule activities for yourself to do instead of watching TV.

3. With time, reduce your time in front of the TV and do more and more of the other healthy activities.

4. Every time you complete any of the other activities, reward yourself with something other than watching TV. This will help you associate the positive feelings you get from your rewards with not watching TV.

#5. Procrastinating

Everyone struggled with procrastination at some point in their life, leaving things at the very last minute.

Even though people who procrastinate are trying to distract themselves, deep down, they’re feeling bad and guilty.

When procrastination becomes a habit, it negatively affects your performance and productivity, and increases your stress levels and sense of guilt over time.

Procrastination is a self-defeating behavior that might give you short-term benefits, but at a pricier long-term cost.

So why do so many of us procrastinate?

Some people procrastinate is because they wrongly believe it to be a form of “self-care”. Others do it because of a deep-seated fear of failing to do the task that we’re supposed to do.

CBT and Procrastination

Because there are different reasons why people procrastinate, there are also different ways to help you stop procrastinating. These ways include the following:

Practice positive self-talk – Acknowledge that the task is hard, but tell yourself that you still can do it. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to worry whether you’re going to finish it on time, just begin.

Develop your skills – If you think you won’t be able to do it, try working on your skills. This will boost your self-confidence and motivate you to get things done.

#6. Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

A bad relationship is the kind of relationship where you don’t feel heard or valued and respected. You end up feeling heartbroken and blaming yourself for being so stupid.

Author Stephen Chbosky once wrote, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Oftentimes choosing the wrong partner stems from your self-defeating ways and deep-held negative beliefs.

CBT can help you change your negative beliefs by building self-esteem and developing a more positive relationship with yourself first through journaling, positive self-talk, and mindfulness training.

CBT and Choosing Bad Partners/Relationships

1. Write down at least five things you love about yourself whether – personality traits or physical features.

2. Start using positive affirmations especially when you’re feeling down, such as “I’m strong, I can get through this,” or, “I’m worthy, I love myself.”

3. Start practicing self-care by spending some time with yourself doing things you enjoy. Learn to enjoy your own company.

4. Meditate while recalling your day. Try to identify the emotions you felt and evaluate how reasonable or justified they are.

5. If you make a mistake or embarrass yourself, forgive yourself.

By practicing self-love, you’ll realize that you deserve love and you’ll only attract healthy, loving relationships. You won’t settle for less.

How Long Does It Take To Overcome An Addiction?

The exact time to break an addiction varies from person to person and from addiction to addiction.

However, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends that people spend at least 90 days in an addiction recovery program.

21 Days Is Not Enough

Many psychologists agree that it takes approximately 21 days to create a new habit.

The assumption comes from a book called Psycho-Cybernetics.

The author and plastic surgeon Dr. Maxwell Maltz noticed that his patients need about 21 days to get used to their “new” faces.

However, research shows that 3 weeks isn’t enough time to see any substantial change and break an existing habit, let alone an addiction.

For instance, eliminating drugs and alcohol from the body may not take long, but detoxification is not enough to break drug and alcohol addiction.

What Could Influence Time Needed To Break An Addiction?

A variety of factors:

  • How long the person have used addictive substances
  • The behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that encourage addiction
  • The person’s immediate environment, including peer pressure, negative influences
  • If they have another mental or physical health problems
  • The person’s motivation and willingness to change

It Takes 2 Months to Change Repetitive Behavior Patterns

According to a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University College London and published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to change their behavior patterns and form a new habit.

The study also concluded that, for most people, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.

Research Suggests At Least 90 Days of Treatment

According to a study published in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry better outcomes were reported by those treated in drug programs for 90 days or longer. 

This is because 3 months treatments allow you time to:

  • Let your brain heal from the effects of substance use
  • Let new behavior patterns become habits
  • Maintain sobriety 

The Truth: Addiction Recovery Lasts For A Lifetime

90-day recovery is considered the ideal timeline for addiction recovery.

However, the reality is, maintaining emotional sobriety takes more than abstinence or detoxification.

Without addressing psychological issues that got you to use addiction in the first place, you’ll find yourself replacing one addiction with another.

Related: How To Stop Replacing One Addiction With Another? Powerful 8-Step Guide To Emotional Sobriety

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.


Why Addiction Happens?

Some people find themselves frequently indulging in things they know are harmful, while other people are able to exercise self-control without struggling.

Although the odds of addiction are elevated in those who are compulsive, there is no singular “addictive personality.”

Factors, such as genetics, temperament, mental illnesses, environment and people’s own reactions to it, also contribute to the odds of developing addictions.

But the main factor in developing an addiction is the inability to self-regulate—that is, to manage emotions and control impulses.

How Addictive Substances Influence Your Mood?

Some addictive substances mimic the effect of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters, crossing the blood-brain barrier into the brain, while other addictive substances stimulate the production and transmission of neurotransmitters to influence mood.

How Can Parents Protect Their Children From Developing Drug Addiction?

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) research shows that parents can protect their children from developing drug addiction later on in their life by developing a strong bond with their children, setting clear limits, and being involved in their children’s lives.

It is also important to ensure that children are adequately loved and able to express and self-regulate their emotions.

Relapse Prevention Plan


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

By Hadiah

Hadiah is a counselor who is passionate about supporting individuals on their journey towards mental well-being. Hadiah not only writes insightful articles on various mental health topics but also creates engaging and practical mental health worksheets.

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