October is the month for two important campaigns Go Sober and Stoptober. We have already written a blog on the healthy solutions you can use.
What we wanted to do here was consider how and why addictions start. Many of you have probably asked:
Why do I smoke or drink / have an addiction?
The first thing to say is we live in an addictive society and addictions take many forms. We have focussed on smoking and drinking because of their obvious impact on your health. There are many addictions that can affect your health and lifestyle, here are just a few:
- Medical Drugs
- Social Media
- Mobile Phones
- Computer games
This is not an exclusive list and maybe you will read these and would not have considered them addictive.
Addictions tend to creep up on us. We do something because it is a treat or it makes us feel good. At this point we are in control, we have the occasional drink and enjoy or we puff the odd cigarette when out socialising. We find a new computer game and just want to get to the next level.
Typically, a life event or stress occurs and we get stressed or anxious. This is the time we turn to our comfort, our treat. We need something to make us feel better. If the stress continues it reaches a point where we need more of our treat to make us feel better.
This is the slippery slope because once we need more and more of something to feel the same buzz from it we will ultimately consume more and more. We become addicted.
Addictions can be insidious. Those of you who read our blogs regularly will know I had a chocolate addiction. You know you are addicted when you go out at 10pm to find chocolate at the local petrol station… That crept up on me! I hadn’t realised I was addicted and even when I did it took me a good while to work out why I had this addiction.
The story is not unusual; I was doing a stressful job, away from home several days of the week and in an unhappy relationship. Chocolate gave me comfort; until I noticed I had to eat more and more to get that comfort. I became aware that I couldn’t go a day without chocolate. This was full on ‘let me at it’ craving. I suffered mood swings, poor skin, weight gain and hormonal issues. These symptoms are all hallmarks of blood sugar levels way out of control.
My stress levels raised my cortisol levels which affected my blood sugar levels which in turn affected my thyroid and other hormonal balance. You can see clearly how one factor cascades to cause chaos and imbalance ultimately leading to ill health in the body.
Addictions the other effects
Addictions can cause problems besides health issues. Relationships can be affected; a drinker may become a different person after a few drinks. The cost of your addiction might affect family finances; it might affect your ability to work as it becomes more extreme. If you have children you are certainly not setting them a good example particularly with drinking and smoking.
How do I stop being addicted?
Well you are still reading this article, so something must have resonated with you…
There are a number of things to think about and there is lots of information out there on the subject so we will give you a brief summary here.
- Recognise you have a problem
- Be ready to deal with it
- Analyse your addiction in terms of pros and cons what does it give you and what does it take away from you? You need to be really honest here
- Most addictions come from a source of stress this is an opportunity to review your life and make changes for the better.
- Your health will be compromised by your addictions
- Tell the people who can support you – friends, family, work colleagues – these are the people that can really help you and they are also the ones that can be really affected by your addiction. Put yourself in their shoes what impact does your addiction have on their lives?
- Consider professional help. Do you need a therapist to help you through? What about joining a support group? Look on line campaigns like Go Sober and Stoptober offer amazing support and guidance.
- Remove all the associations of your addiction from your environment. Smokers should remove all ashtrays and cigarettes. Drinkers should dispose of all alcohol from the house. Gamers should lock their devices up and give the key to someone else... you get the idea
- Change your habits; doing the same things makes it easier to maintain a habit because it is an unconscious behaviour to you. This is really important as the old saying goes ‘a change is as good as a rest’. This is a strategy I recommend to bereaved people and indeed, I used the technique myself because the reminders of my usual life were just too hard to bear with someone missing from my life. The principle works for addiction too.
- You are a human being, you may slip back but that isn’t the end of the road. Just start again the next day. All too often if we choose change and then don’t maintain it we beat ourselves up and think we have failed. The only failure is not trying again, because eventually you will succeed.
Good luck and please read our GoSober and Stoptober blog there is lots of useful information even if you don’t smoke or drink.