Addiction is a pervasive and progressive illness that can be very difficult to beat. It affects nearly 1 in 9 Americans, can lead to jail, institutions and have profound health implications.
If you find yourself unable to control your substance use, even at the risk of personal and professional harm, it may be time to quit. Quitting will help you gain energy, clarity, and inner peace and heal your relationships with people who matter to you.
Not sure where to start? Consider these tips to end your addiction:
1. Understand addiction
What makes addiction particularly insipid is that it is a disorder of perception—being addicted to anything, whether substances or compulsive behaviors, distorts our thinking and renders us irrational and paranoid. Addicts feel uncontrollable urges to use before indulging and irrepressible shame afterward. This sets up a vicious cycle that can seem impossible to ever break out of.
Learning more about this disease can help you untangle the mess of thoughts in your head and see a clear way forward.
But as you find your way, you have to be strong and persevere through everything. Addiction is attractive, maybe in vogue, but the recovery process is anything but pleasant.
If you are ready to quit the addiction, you should take the first step without delays before something devastating happens and things start spiraling out of control.
There are many online sources, such as the Addiction Guide, which you should browse to get to your addiction’s roots.
Reading the experiences of other addicts can be incredibly transformational. When we are in pain, statistics and psychological theorizing may seem cold and impersonal.
However, hearing the truth about someone who has been in our position and successfully changed for the better may be just what we need.
2. Admit You Have a Problem
Addiction is a cunning disease. It hides behind smoke screens and uses blame to divert your attention from the harm you’re causing to yourself and your loved ones.
So, if you’re going to quit successfully, it has to begin with a precise and total admission.
Simply saying it out loud may not be enough. Get a pen and paper and write out the extent of your addiction. Remember that this is not an excuse to beat yourself up.
Try to be as honest and objective as possible, and list the harm addiction has brought to your life. It will cement your resolve and help you get clarity on why you need to quit.
3. Identify Your Triggers
Because addiction is such a misunderstood illness, you may have internalized some false notions. Contrary to people’s thoughts, addiction is not a moral failing and not a deliberate choice.
Imperfectly, we attempt to cope with past or present pain. Finding ourselves in certain situations can worsen the pull we feel towards our negative impulses.
People, places, and things that increase the urge to use drugs or alcohol are the triggers you need to map out. Maybe you crave a drink with your medium-rare steak? Perhaps going to an EDM rave sober makes you feel left out and pushes you to pop a pill?
An abusive ex, unsympathetic parent, or even toxic friend can also be why you seek relief with a substance.
Once you know what sets you off, you will be better positioned to deal with it.
4. Make A Plan
Ending your addiction to goodwill not be easy, but you can set yourself up for success by laying out the steps you’ll need to take. Writing out realistic, measurable goals with clear timelines is a great way to organize your thoughts.
Start by making a flowchart outlining all the steps you’ll need to take to quit using drugs successfully. This will typically include setting a quit date, throwing away paraphernalia, blocking and deleting other users’ and dealers’ numbers from your phone and social media, and figuring out how to deal with detoxing.
Because quitting is such an exhaustive process, you should think about making short and long-term goals after laying out the steps in front of you.
Short-term goals may include milestones for clean days, activities or hobbies, and setting up doctors or therapist appointments. Long-term goals should focus on changes in your routines, physique, and habits that have brought you shame.
These may include getting to a healthy weight, achieving fitness milestones like running a 5K, or establishing a good meditation routine.
Remember that quitting substances will give you back a lot of time, and you need to responsibly and realistically account for this.
Boredom can lead you right back into the arms of your drug of choice, so ensure that you write in little rewards and acts of self-care for meeting or exceeding your goals.
5. Announce Your Intentions and Ask for Help
Pain shared is pain lessened. Now that you have a clear idea of what you’ll need to do, it is time to make your intentions known and decide how to end your addiction.
Gather the people who matter to you and let them know what you plan to do. They may not be receptive to it at first or may not trust you enough to understand it, so try not to take it personally.
Trust in yourself and others. Announce your quit date, share what you’ve written out, and ask for help. People who genuinely love you will come forward with support.
Even if you don’t have a support system to fall back on, you can always check into an in-patient rehab center to detox safely and ride out the most challenging part of recovery: early sobriety.
Depending on how much you use, this may range from cold showers to counteract anxiety to anticonvulsant medication to prevent seizures.
However, you decide to face your demons, make sure you don’t go at it alone. No matter how bad it seems in the moment, this too shall pass.
6. Start Working a Program of Recovery
There is a twelve-step recovery program for nearly any substance use disorder imaginable. If you have checked into in-patient rehab, there is a high likelihood that you will come across these meetings.
Recovery programs connect you with other addicts who have successfully quit and come to share their experiences for those that are still suffering. If you are serious about ending your addiction, make sure that you start working on a recovery program to the best of your ability.
Share openly and honestly in meetings, find a sponsor and start working the steps. It isn’t going to be easy and will likely bring up many harrowing memories, but as long as you do it in a loving and supportive environment, you will make it through.
7. Make Contingency Plans for Relapses
Nobody recovers perfectly, and you may encounter setbacks along the way. This is perfectly normal – make sure you look ahead and plan for it.
Find a way to deal with relapse with self-compassion and forgiveness, and you’ll be back up on your feet, moving forward towards a drug-free life before you know it.
No matter how severe your addiction may be, there is always a way out. Start by letting yourself off the hook, understanding addiction, and admitting your problem. Identify what sets you off and make a goal-oriented plan to justify how you will quit using drugs.
Once you have a clear idea of the way forward, gather family, friends, and loved ones and let them know you’re ready for change. Check into rehab and work your way to recovery, free of fear of relapsing. If you do follow these steps wholeheartedly, all will be well.