The Six Skills of Addressing Addictions

Photo: Milad B. Fakurian on Unsplash

Are you addicted to anything? Maybe it is just one too many episodes of a Netflix show or one too many YouTube videos. It may be as innocent as video games or online shopping, but it has a grip on us. Even vices such as pornography or alcohol can have a debilitating effect on us. Some addictions are deeply rooted in our identity, such as people’s approval or desire for attention. Perfectionism and wanting control are also high on the list.

Many of us know the feeling of being controlled by something or someone and we just don’t like it. We feel powerless and it seems impossible to even stop and be set free. Even if some of you feel like you are not addicted to anything right now, the possibility of getting addicted is real. It disrupts our lives. It has a way of fueling our emotional and mental turmoil.

For some of us, we settle and assume that there is nothing we can do about it. Therefore, we learn how to adapt and just make it a part of our lives. Others of us are on a downward spiral and we are living on borrowed time. It is just a matter of time when we will hit rock bottom – but maybe that is where some of you are right now.

So, what can we do? How can we try to take some steps in being responsible for our lives, so that we will not allow things to control us? It is important to understand that there are no easy solutions because addictions are complicated. It involves various “triggers” and different psychological and neurological factors. Therefore, it is going to take a lot of hard work in order to get started in the process. I highly advise some of you to seek professional help so you can work through the addiction.

I am going to give you the basics so that you can get started in the steps toward freedom. Here are 6 skills (REFUSE) so that you can get a better handle on your addiction and start moving towards a life free from some of the strongholds:

  1. R – RECOGNIZE your need for change. One big step towards freedom from addiction is to recognize that you need to change. In fact, as the famous axiom goes, “unless the pain of NOT changing is greater than the pain of change, we will NOT change.” Some of us have a high tolerance for pain, therefore, it prevents us from taking some active steps to change. But we need to get to a point where we are literally, “sick and tired” of where we are so that it will be the impetus for us to do something.

Next Steps: Take some time to reflect and think about these 3 questions: 1) Where your life is at this point? 2) What your life will be like if you overcame this addiction? 3) Where you will be in 10 years if you continued to live with this addiction.? These questions help us to look into the future with hope.

  1. E – EVALUATE and ELIMINATE. It is very helpful if you know what the causes of your addictions are. When you evaluate, you will be able to spot various things that fuel your addictions. Also, you will start to recognize the environments and situations that do not help you. Is it stress? Is it certain types of people? Is it what you are feeling? How about the people that you hang out with? Take the time to evaluate and get serious about eliminating various things that hinder you from taking steps toward freedom. A word of warning though. It might be easy to eliminate something from your life, but then we just as easily replace the addiction with something else. This is why we have to go to the source of the addiction, which oftentimes is associated with our thoughts and our emotions.

Next Steps: Once you identify some things that are not helpful for you, then do whatever you can to eliminate or at least temporarily put a halt to things. For example, if you are addicted to Netflix, then you might want to cancel your subscription or remove the phone app. Or you might want to take a break from alcohol.

  1. F – FIND a supportive community. People who have experienced freedom from various addictions have all said that they would not have been able to do it without a very supportive community that loved them unconditionally and kept them accountable. Too often, people try to fight the battle of addiction on their own and fail miserably. It helps to have people fighting with you and not against you. With their words of encouragement, as well as their willingness to patiently walk by your side, it will catalytic in finding freedom.

Next Steps: There are many different support groups that are available. Find one and commit to it. But one source of support can help holistically is finding a religious group that meet regularly.

  1. U – UNDERSTAND your triggers. The more you know of the things that trigger your addictions, the more you will be able to preemptively curtail it. You have to remember that addictions are fueled by cravings and unmet needs, which then form a pattern or a habit. This causes our brains to associate the addiction with certain feelings and behaviors or responses. This is why it is vital that you know your triggers to stop the addictive process from starting. One major trigger that we overlook is the experience of shame. When a person feels shame, they want to hide. Then we go through isolation. From there, it is easier for the addiction to get out of control. Get to the source of the addiction and then experience a greater victory.

Next Steps: Keep a journal and ask some trust friends to take notice of your behavior. Write down every time you struggle or fall into the addiction. Then start to understand the situation or the emotions that fuel the addiction. In the future, you will be able to anticipate when the addiction will occur.

  1. S – SAFEGUARD your mind. All our actions have their root in our thoughts. It is easy to blame your emotions, but even what we feel is activated by our thoughts. It might be helpful to remember T.E.A. Simply, our thoughts (T) affect our emotions (E), which eventually lead to our actions (A). Therefore, if we just focus on the action, we will not really address the issue. It will be more of behavior modification and that will lead us down a familiar path. This is why it helps to work backward. Ask yourself why did I act this way. Then figure out what emotions you were feeling. From there, ask what thought encouraged the emotion, which sparked the action. Since our minds are weak, it is imperative that we safeguard it with good thoughts and with the truth. This will also help you with distractions so that you can develop a focused mindset.

Next Steps: Get a hold of some positive quotes or saying that you can remind yourself when you start to feel certain emotions so that you can restrain your addiction.

  1. E – ENGAGE in helping others. Addiction almost inevitably causes us to get self-focused and selfish. We think about how we can have our own needs met and what benefit we can gain from it. But when you are focused on others and trying to find ways to serve and help people, then you are switching the focus away from yourself to people around you. This helps release oxytocin in your body, which changes your emotional composition. Also, it helps with staying “purposeful busy” so that you won’t have unbridled times of laziness or being consumed with distractions.  

Next Steps: You can either join a group to serve some of the marginalized people in your community or simply, find a few people that you can serve and help. Sometimes you just have to ask, “How can I serve you?”

None of us are immune to addictions. In any given moment, we can quickly get addicted to anything. Often times, it causes havoc in our lives because it disrupts the things that we need to do. It hinders us from living a life of freedom and joy. Therefore, start to practice these six skills of REFUSE and start taking steps to face your addictions head on:

  1. R – RECOGNIZE your need for change
  2. E – EVALUATE and ELIMINATE
  3. F – FIND a supportive community
  4. U – UNDERSTAND your triggers
  5. S – SAFEGUARD your mind
  6. E – ENGAGE in helping others

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