You Don't Need Help To Beat An Addiction Or A Bad Habit—Just Yourself

With all the reality shows we're exposed to, it's probably easy to think that beating a bad habit or addiction requires the help of a team. According to Stan Peele at Psychology Today, more victories come without any help at all.

Photo by Roy Montgomery

Peele argues that point by looking at addiction patterns at various ages:

Every year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health interviews Americans about their drug and alcohol habits. Ages 18 to 25 constitute the peak period of drug and alcohol use. In 2002, the latest year for which data are available, 22 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 25 were abusing or were dependent on a substance, versus only 3 percent of those aged 55 to 59. These data show that most people overcome their substance abuse, even though most of them do not enter treatment.

While the point isn't to negate the usefulness of addiction therapies and helpers along the way, the most common way to overcome an addictive problem is to truly understand how it interferes with your daily life. If you've got a family and a drug problem, it's tough to go on a family vacation and maintain it at the same time. Recognising that interference can help you take the necessary steps towards changing the behaviour.

A serious drug addiction is quite a bit more severe than a bad habit, like nail biting or eating poorly, but the principle is still the same. It's really easy to have a bad habit because you find it comforting, and it's difficult to want to change when the long-term effects aren't obvious. If you want a piece of cheesecake, it can taste good right now and make you worse-off down the line. It's much easier to imagine now rather than later, so you need to find a reason a particular behaviour is bad right now if you want to change it.

What that reason is will depend on you, but you may find it easier to discover if you look at what you consider bad about the behaviour and amplify it. Imagine the worse-case scenario and try to remind yourself of it every time the behaviour surfaces. Think of how it can cause problems in your every day life and how it already does. The more those feelings are present, the stronger they'll be and the easier it will be for them to overpower your bad behaviour.

Do you have any tips or tricks for beating bad habits or overcoming addiction? Share 'em in the comments.

The Surprising Truth About Addiction [Psychology Today]


Comments

    willpower and accountability is all you need... Human will is almost limitless, and accountability is really just a way of remaining honest with yourself.

    This article and the first response (by Nate) were clearly written by people that have never had to deal with real addiction themselves.

    As an addict in remission, and having spoken with dozens of addicts of all forms, I can tell you for a fact, that for the truly addicted, there is nothing on earth that is "holy" to the addict- no reason which can be used as a springboard to fight addiction. And this despite a conscious understanding of the destructive effects of the addiction on self and family.

    This article is so profoundly ignorant of what addiction is like its hard to put into words. I can tell you for a fact that willpower alone is NOT all it takes to beat addiction. I would suggest to any doubters to politely ask if they can visit their local chapter of AA, GA or NA and you will get just an inkling of what addiction really is.

    Personally, I believe that different poeople benefit from different techniques. A serious addiction can cloud decision-making and logic, which is where this would fall over.
    Interesting that this article considers the Charlie Sheen school of rehabilitation as a viable option.

    the hard question no one has ask, what persentage of people die from drug addition betwwen 18-59 and has this been used in this study.

    As a counsellor and psychotherapist I think it's well worth the investment to get some help. Addictions can cost you your relationships and possibly even your life. A couple of $100 therapy sessions from someone who's trained to help explore your issues is a meagre cost in comparison.

      Well dont forget about the benefits of addiction. Its a two-way street. You cant wear your addiction like its a badge and talk about being thru the trenches without acknowledging the things you learned. Yes, of course there is a cost. There is also a payoff. Like most things worthwhile. If you have been an addict like me and been able to pull thru, you know what im saying. Sure, The people that need and benefit from help, interventions and therapy do need to go thru this. I wouldnt dream of belittling that. This article is right on. MOST dont require help. And to the Delta Bravo that chooses to include Charlie Sheen in the category of folks who cured themselves...please. The whole point of that comment is that he DIDNT help himself. Nuf said.

    You are comparing people in their 20s to people in their 60s. What about people who are getting their lives dstroyed and can't wait that long. The data used does not show that they will be able to quit at least not for another 40 years. That's not very helpful. Addicts can't think. When that urge hits them all the guilt in the world just disappears. Do you understand how much guilt I am talking about. The brain is too powerful. Its a chemical process.

    First before I begin I'd like to tell you that before being diagnosed with chronic pain and prescription pain med. I had never been addicted to anything. Now it seems as if I can not go without my medication and have been taking more and more of the recommendation dosage. I am very aware I am dependent upon it and am addicted to it. It seems I have the willpower until the med wears off and I'm right back into a vicious cycle. I'm terrified and ashamed. How can I get this under control without being absent from my kids lives?

    First before I begin I'd like to tell you that before being diagnosed with chronic pain and prescription pain med. I had never been addicted to anything. Now it seems as if I can not go without my medication and have been taking more and more of the recommendation dosage. I am very aware I am dependent upon it and am addicted to it. It seems I have the willpower until the med wears off and I'm right back into a vicious cycle. I'm terrified and ashamed. How can I get this under control without being absent from my kids lives?

    Clean 6 yrs then used. I want to become clean again. Have problems w AA/ NA

    I'm not sure how much help this may be to the woman calling herself, "Trying to change" because you obviously have a pain problem to start with. However you might try letting go of your preconceived notions of addiction and how dreadful a label that is in your eyes...if you learn to not be so judgemental of yourself and maybe speak to your doctor, he might be able to give you an alternative drug to help your pain, easing you off the addictive stuff.

    But for James, have you tried books; I know of some great ones that really helped me but you must be completely open minded, never write it off until you've you've considered it, and again, judging ourselves as low lifes or gutter people will only propel us back into addictive behaviour. If you like him, Deepak Chopra wrote a book called, Overcoming Addictions; the meditation in that helped me. There's another book, a bit on the wild side, called, God I Am, by Peter O'Erbe but the best I've found, and don't skip the part about parents taking care of their children because we were all kids once, is called, The Road Less Travelled, by Scott Peck. Good fortune, I hope you gain true inner knowledge and learn how every answer to every question is to be found within, never from outside of us and never from mood altering chemicals; the real journey is the one within.

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