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]