You know you have a problem, and your addictive behaviour is beginning to impact other parts of your life. Quitting any kind of addictive behaviour can be very difficult to do, even if you know that what you’re doing is bad for you.
You can quit, although quitting can be a complicated process. There are many physical, mental, and emotional factors that can make giving up hard. This is why many people seek treatment for addiction, like hypnosis, counselling, or even pet friendly rehabs, although some people are successful in quitting on their own.
Understanding why quitting is so hard can help you to learn how to overcome your addiction. You can recognise that you are not weak-willed or are failing if you find it difficult.
Tolerance and withdrawal both contribute to addiction. Both are a large part of what get you hooked in the first place, whether your addiction is food, nicotine, or something harder. Without tolerance and withdrawal, you would find quitting much easier.
When you experience an addictive substance or behaviour for the first time, it can be overwhelming, or even unpleasant. If you feel the effects strongly, then you might feel as though there is a low risk of you being tempted to overdo it.
If the effects are mild, then you might think your behaviour is harmless. The more you repeat the behaviour, the less sensitive you become to it and the more you need to feel the same effects. Drugs, including alcohol, work on the brain to create physical tolerance.
Some behaviours, like gambling, produce a feeling of excitement. This excitement may become less intense over time. As your tolerance level develops, you might want to repeat the behaviour more to get the same feelings or effects.
As you start to become addicted, you can begin to experience withdrawal when you aren’t able to partake in the behaviour. You might experience physical symptoms, like shaking, feeling unwell or an upset stomach, or you might experience emotional symptoms, like anxiety or depression. These symptoms go away when you act on the addictive behaviour.
Physical withdrawal can vary, and usually takes a few days. Withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can be very unpleasant, and even dangerous, so is best undergone under medical supervision.
Impediments For Quitting
Addiction can reach a level where it creates a lot of internal conflicts. You might feel conflicted within yourself, as you want to quit, but also still have urges to engage in whatever you are addicted to. You may also have a conflict with others, both with those who want you to quit, but also with those who want you to keep engaging in the thing you’re trying to give up.
Even after getting through the withdrawal phase, conflict can still exist. Quitting is stressful, and now you’re managing without something you used to use to cope, so this will be tough.
It is important to learn other ways of coping with stress and to have those firmly established, ideally before you quit. This gives you other options to cope. A therapist can help you with this. Without these strategies already in place, you’re likely to experience stronger urges to relapse.
Guilt And Justification
Feeling guilty and uncomfortable about your current behaviour can be a great motivator to help you make a change, whether you want to drink less, or give up gambling. Sometimes, guilt can also work against you, as you find ways to justify the behaviour that you aren’t happy with to yourself and to others. Justification can a big obstacle to quitting.
Common justifications can include:
- Denial – it’s not a problem
- Minimization – I’ve already cut down
- Comparison – My friend smokes more than I do
- Defiance – I’d rather carry on than quit and be miserable
- Rationalisation – I’m more confident in social situations after I’ve had a drink
- Lesser of two evils – It’s better to do this than be miserable and hard to live with
- Misinformation – It has medicinal uses, so it’s ok
- Glorification – Cool people drink alcohol and smoke
How Can You Quit?
Therapy can be a great starting point to help you to cope with any uncomfortable feelings and to help you pinpoint the thoughts and feelings that keep you addicted or led you to the behaviour in the first place. Quitting is rarely easy or straightforward, but with a good treatment program, you have a better chance of achieving your goals when you’re ready.
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