Sex, Drugs, Gambling, & Chocolate: A Workbook for Overcoming Addictions
Chapter 1: Introduction
Addictive behavior is repeated involvement with anything, despite excessive costs, because of craving. Addiction is an extreme version of habit. Overcoming addiction occurs using the same processes we use to change other habits. Addiction develops when desire goes unchecked. All human beings need to learn to manage habits and desires, but in various degrees some need this knowledge more than others. This workbook aims to teach you how to go from “I can’t live without it” to “I live even better without it.”
Chapter 2: Getting started
Addiction is excessive involvement, in varying degrees, with any substance or activity. The costs of involvement clearly outweigh the benefits, but involvement continues repeatedly because it is craved. This workbook presents ideas (and techniques) for overcoming addiction which have been helpful to many others. Some ideas may be helpful to you; some may not. Ultimately, you will need to use your own judgment about which ideas to adopt. There are as many ways to overcome addiction as there are individuals. This workbook can be useful if you are ready to overcome addiction now, have overcome it but want to review your work, or are unsure about overcoming addiction and want to consider information about how to do it.
Chapter 3: The initial benefits of addiction
When you began your involvement with (what has become) your addiction, you liked the substance or activity enough to stay involved. You would not have continued unless you liked it at first. Initially the costs of involvement were probably minimal. As you continued, the costs got bigger.
Chapter 4: The current benefits of addiction
Because your initial involvement with your addiction was positive, you stayed involved long enough to develop a habit (a pattern of regular involvement with costs and benefits about equal) and eventually an addiction. Over time you came to rely on this habit or addiction as a means of coping with other problems. The addiction may now be your preferred way to cope with one or more problems. The effectiveness of your addiction as a coping method may have diminished, but you may not have realized this.
Chapter 5: The current costs of addiction
If a habit is excessively relied on as a coping method, it becomes an addiction. Although an addiction may still provide benefits, it also has costs. These costs may increase over time. Eventually they can greatly outweigh any current benefits of the involvement. Knowing and being able to recall the costs of involvement are essential to overcoming addiction.
Chapter 6: Coping and connecting
There are many ways to cope with any need or problem. You have identified the needs that your addiction satisfies. You could learn new coping methods, ones which would not cost as much as the addiction. There are many options for learning new coping methods. Almost all of these options involve learning from or learning with others. Learning and overcoming isolation are related projects. We need to balance learning independently with being tutored, and being independent with connecting with others.
Chapter 7: You have choices
You don’t have to overcome your addiction or change it in any way. You have choices. You have no choice about dying or certain bodily processes. You do have choice about almost everything else (even if you don’t like the options available). Others may say that you “have to” change or stop your addiction, but you don’t. If you are told this, the resentment you feel in response may become a problem for you. Either cutting back (moderation) or stopping altogether (abstinence) can be successful ways to overcome your addiction. Success with either will depend on your preferences, circumstances, and capacity for self-control, among other factors. Your life will probably be happier if your day-to-day choices are based on your long-term goals and ultimate values.
Chapter 8: Identifying craving
Craving to engage in your addiction occurs at times. You experience craving because you have had repeated experience with your addiction. The craving will subside over time if your experience ends. Monitoring craving is a simple way to understand it better. Craving is partly predictable.
Chapter 9: Understanding craving
Cravings are time-limited. If a craving is not acted upon, it goes away. Cravings are uncomfortable, but not painful. Craving does not fundamentally interfere with your ability to make decisions. Cravings cannot force you to act on them. Craving in itself, if not acted on, is harmless. Despite the harmlessness of craving, in severe addiction we act on craving as if our survival depended on it.
Chapter 10: Coping with craving
Cravings are normal for you and will continue during the first weeks to months of abstinence. They may last even longer if you are moderating. You are not responsible for the existence of craving, only for your response to it. You can cope with craving by avoiding high risk situations, substituting other substances or activities, re-directing your attention, counterarguing it, or by distracting yourself. During your initial efforts at change it may be better to use avoidance and substitution. As you gain confidence, reduce avoidance and substitution, and bring out cravings regularly so that you stay in practice for dealing with them. When cravings occur spontaneously, consider them as a sign that some problem needs to be identified and solved, and as a reminder of the progress you have made. Refusing offers from others to engage in the addiction is not difficult if you are prepared.
Chapter 11: Other satisfactions
Before you got involved with your addiction, you experienced other satisfactions. Even during your addiction there have been other satisfactions, but you may have overlooked their significance. If you overcome your addiction, you create the opportunity to experience even better and more satisfying experiences in life. Being productive, having good relationships, and accepting yourself can be especially satisfying. If thrills are still important to you, there are other ways (less risky than your addiction) to experience them.
Chapter 12: Building a new life
You can build a new life that is even more satisfying than life with your addiction. The more severe your addiction, the more different your new life will be. During the initial period of overcoming addiction your primary focus will be on coping with craving. As craving diminishes your focus will shift to building habits which reflect your ultimate goals and values, and which enable you to experience the satisfactions that arise from these goals and values. Building good habits (positive addictions) involves observing the (good and not so good) habits of others, persistently but patiently taking small steps, revising behavior as needed to solve problems or fit larger goals, and looking beyond short-term difficulties to the long-term results you want. Your new life will also need a balance between momentary and higher satisfactions. Good health habits establish a foundation for other satisfactions.
Chapter 13: Following through
Regardless of whether they have been written down, you have some plans for addressing your addiction. Reviewing your plans regularly will keep them as a focus of your attention. You can notice a slip or relapse well before it actually happens. When you first notice a slip or relapse on the way, review your motivations for overcoming addiction. All relapses start as slips, but a slip does not have to become a relapse. If you follow through successfully, in time the process of following through on change, and the process of living your life, will become identical. When you arrive at this point you will have overcome addiction!