Addiction, regardless of how we define it, robs us of the ability to make the right choices. Whether we’re addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, sex, love, other people’s opinions, or old ideas, our lives are no longer our own. Because we’re addicted, we do things we’d never normally do. Addiction decides where we go when we’ll go, whom we’ll go with, how long we’ll stay, and what we’ll do once we are there.

For years I hated the word addiction because I felt it connoted immorality that didn’t apply to me, a level of depravity that seemed like an overstatement. In time I let go of my dislike of the label and realized that regardless of what I called it—a habit, a dependency, or a craving—it still had the power to control my life in a way that was unhealthy and unacceptable. And I never realized how controlled I was by my addiction until I let go of it.

I recently spoke with a woman who hasn’t had a drink in seventeen years or a cigarette in ten years, yet she is 150 pounds over her healthy weight. A man I coach has never had a drinking problem but smokes incessantly. Darian, a longtime friend, is so controlled by what people think of her that she has had more plastic surgeries than most people I know—all to achieve what she perceives as the perfect look. Liv had surgery for a broken leg six months ago, and at the direction of her physician, she took pain pills several times a day. After months of taking them as prescribed, she took a few extras—every hour. When her doctor refused to give her another prescription, she found another source. She’s now addicted to pain pills.

We live in a society that encourages excess, stress, fitting in, and being liked at any cost. It eventually backfires. When we bring together an unhappy person with a means of escape, we may get into a habit.

Getting hooked is easy. Getting off is hard, but it can be done. Here are some suggested steps you can take if you are serious and ready to let go of your addictions:

  1. Admit you have a problem. Before recovery can occur, there must be an admission that a problem exists.
  2. Get help. Today help is available for all kinds of problems.
  3. Listen to the people who have recovered from illnesses similar to yours.
  4. Walk through the daily fears you’ll encounter.
  5. Be willing to stretch beyond your comfort zone. If you’re not willing to do the footwork, you’ll not likely succeed.
  6. Talk about what’s bothering you. You are as sick as your secrets.

We may not be the addict in our lives, but we’ve become controlled by someone else’s addiction. The outcome is the same. We make choices based on that person’s problem, particularly if it’s a family member. We make excuses for this person’s behavior and, without knowing it, support him or her in staying addicted and not taking responsibility for his or her actions. If this is you, get help.

I invite you to examine any addictions or habits controlling your life.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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