When you start an addiction, you begin engaging in a negative behavior pattern. The key to ending that addiction is to create a break of any kind in that pattern.
The human mind is designed to create patterns through the process of repetition. We are wired this way as humans because we have very few instinctive processes operating within ourselves.
We need to understand that routines and patterns are not addictions by definition. Rather, addictions can be defined as routines and patterns that are harmful to us and others that we struggle to break. Because this is the case, there is a simple and highly effective key to overcoming an addiction: To overcome an addiction, break the pattern that is present in the addictive behavior.
Breaking a pattern of addictive behavior doesn't consist of just stopping the negative behavior—it consists of stopping the negative behavior and replacing it with positive behavior. Some consider the definition of self-improvement to be exchanging negative behavior patterns for positive ones.
One thing that’s helpful in making this happen is understanding that our minds are somewhat compartmentalized. Within us we have an entity that is the constant thinker and watcher of all the thoughts that flow through the mind. That “thinker” entity must be willing to change a bad behavior pattern.
Once a person has resolved to quit an addiction, he or she must take concrete action steps. Those steps will vary from one person to the next. One option for stopping a bad habit is just quitting “cold turkey” and not ever picking up the habit again for the rest of your life. I present this option to you as the simplest and most straightforward way of overcoming addiction.
The problem with quitting cold turkey is that it is not for everyone and is not effective for overcoming certain types of addictive and negative behavior patterns.
Our connection (or “attachment”) to a negative behavior pattern is usually caused by something in our subconscious mind. Our subconscious can be thought of as our “subsurface thinker.” It considers information related to events in our lives and puts behavioral processes into place attempting to help us resolve or overcome anxiety birthed from trauma.
Unfortunately, the processes that the subconscious puts into place in attempts to relieve anxiety very often do not serve our best interests. The processes result in addictions of various types, and the problem with addictions is that they have negative side effects.
The “thinker” entity within us will recognize that an addiction is taking place. More often than not it will be unable to recognize why that addiction is occurring, though. That’s because only the “subsurface thinker” is cognizant of the reasons behind the addiction.
The good news is that we can make changes to the thinker entity within us, and the changes we make can help us conquer our addictions. Our mind is set up such that we can call upon the highest thinker within us for assistance.
What are some of the things we can do to expedite improvement of our conscious thinking as we seek to overcome addiction? Three of the primary ones are prayer, meditation, and writing.
Writing is especially crucial. Writing gives us increased awareness and fosters in us the strength to change. It will instill courage in us, and we need courage to overcome the negative patterns that we once thought were bringing us positive results.
A particularly important writing exercise for you if you are in the very earliest stages of quitting addiction is to document what you have determined about your addictive pattern(s). To do so, you have to ask yourself many questions: What are you doing? Is it hard to admit to what you’re doing? What purpose does what you’re doing serve? Why do you think you are in a pattern of addiction?
When you begin to write about your addiction, you are taking a concrete action towards releasing yourself from it. Concrete actions are crucial, and I would like to speak of a concrete action I took to break an addiction when I was 14 years old.
I began smoking cigarettes at age 13. A few months later I hated the habit and I wanted to stop it. My father’s friend who was a smoker told me that when he wanted to quit or cut back he would do 10 push-ups whenever he had a craving to smoke. Because I fantasized about having puffy muscles, I took his advice. Sometimes I would do 200 push-ups during a single day.
It worked. I managed to quit the behavior pattern of smoking by replacing it with the positive behavior of push-ups. Not only that, by the time I was 17 my chest and biceps were massive.
In those days, I was not capable of getting in touch with old trapped emotions and working to free, feel, and process them. But when I was significantly older I realized the importance of feeling uncomfortable feelings so that they could no longer fuel my addictive behaviors.
This bears repeating. It’s extremely important in the process of overcoming addiction that you face up to troubling feelings. Taking on a positive behavior, whether as a distraction or as a well-thought-out measure to promote your own good health, is an outstanding first step. But to achieve lasting freedom from addiction, you must confront and overcome the emotional obstacles that prevent you from experiencing that freedom.