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The Complex Nature of Addiction

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Addiction is vast and complex, and, most experts agree, addictive behaviour is destructive to the addict and stressful for family and friends. Addiction is any habitual activity that increasingly undermines the ability to lead a healthy life.

Addiction is vast and complex, and, most experts agree, addictive behaviour is destructive to the addict and stressful for family and friends. Addiction is any habitual activity that increasingly undermines the ability to lead a healthy life. Addicts believe this activity is essential to survival; in reality, it threatens survival.

Until recently, most addiction research focused on physically addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. While this research is valuable, it is important not to limit our understanding of addiction as a purely physical dependency. The cause of addiction is more profoundly psychological than physical.

The Source of Addiction: Negative Core Beliefs

The root of addictive behaviour is the avoidance of painful feelings; however, feelings are not generated on their own they are always attached to beliefs.

Negative beliefs, feelings, and attitudes manifest themselves in many addictions, from drugs to obsessive-compulsive behaviours. Physical exercise is one example. Excessive exercise can be an attempt to overcome painful feelings of self-hatred addicts may want to improve their appearance as a means of addressing these feelings. Constant exercise can also be a way of escaping the difficult work of relationships. Addicts may be using the personal satisfaction derived from exercising as a means to hide from feelings of inadequacy in a relationship. The root of their addiction can be traced to these painful feelings. When a person turns to any activity to escape, forget, or simply feel better on an ongoing basis, the addictive cycle has taken hold.

Overcoming Addictions: Change Your Beliefs

Self-awareness: The key to any personal change begins with an understanding of internal forces that generate external behaviours. Addicts must be willing to scrutinize all of their thoughts, perspectives, and values. They must be honest with themselves and others, and be willing to feel unpleasant things. Every emotion points to a belief and serves as a clue on the road to healing. Finally, addicts must affirm all that is good about themselves, their full value and potential.

Acceptance: Possibly the most difficult step in addressing addiction is accepting responsibility for beliefs and the resulting addictive behaviours. Real change will not take place until addicts fully embrace the reality of their self-hatred. Familiar thoughts that accompany self-hatred include "I'm not good enough; There is something wrong with me; I'm a loser." Anything short of fully accepting the painful feelings that accompany these statements results in the avoidance that supports addiction. Once addicts face their painful feelings, they are on the road to wholeness; self-hatred turns into self-love.

Action: The way to love oneself is to incorporate new behaviours that support self respect. Healthy feelings follow healthy actions.

Ultimately, overcoming addiction is about choice, and choice requires courage, determination, and perseverance. It is important to live with integrity and self respect. Empowering feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment replace desperate, dependent feelings. Admit failures and mistakes, learn from them, then forgive yourself and build a healthy, whole life.

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