How To Quit My Addiction

1. Find your vice 

Addiction isn’t only about drugs and alcohol. Some people think that working a 12-hour day and drinking six double espressos isn’t a problem. Others think that eating sugar or going to the gym seven nights a week is fine. These things can be difficult to recognise as addictions because they are common and socially acceptable, but they can be as detrimental to yourhealth as any other addiction. Asking a friend for a critique of your lifestyle can be frightening, but it may open your eyes to addictive behaviour you aren’t aware of.

2. Avoid triggers 

“Compulsivity” is a word used to describe addiction. Perhaps you feel compelled to check Facebook all the time or are a compulsive shopper.It’s helpful to know that certain triggers are likely to set off compulsions: feeling hungry,angry, lonelyor tired. Take action if you feel a craving coming on: eat something or have a warm drink. If you feel irritable, breathe deeply; phone a friend and try to keep your day simple. Breakfast is important, because if you skip it hunger cravings will build up and they can be misconstrued as a craving for your vice. Try to have a healthy routine – our bodies appreciate the comfort of a regular pattern. Find structure by writing a plan for your day.

3. Stay in the moment 

Learn the mindfulnessconcept of “keeping it in the moment” to deal with anxieties associated with giving up your vice. Instead of worrying about the past or future, concentrate on now. Focus on what you are doing, rather than what you are not doing. Go for a walk and make a conscious effort to absorb your surroundings through your senses. Another helpful tool for achieving mindfulness is meditation. Sit and breathe slowly for 20 minutes – concentrating on one thing, such as your breathing – while you empty your mind.

4. Address the root of the problem

Be careful of cross-addiction or, as I say, swapping deck chairs on the Titanic. We’re very good at going from one addiction to another. For example, a person addicted to work who has been told to take more time off may over-exercise to compensate. This is not dealing with the addiction, it’s transferring it. Look at addiction as a whole. As a general rule, if your addiction is a manifestation of something you have done and feel bad about, you need to pay attention to it and get advice on how to lay your demons to rest.

5. Know your goals 

Set resolutions to reduce your addictions. Write a letter to yourself about your lifestyle and how you would like it to be in a set period of time – it could be two months, it could be two years. Put it in a prominent place and write a date on it. When the date arrives, read the letter and see if you’ve achieved what you set out to do. At various stages of life it is helpful to look at your lifestyle and ask, “Is this appropriate anymore?” Just because something is a habit, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should carry on doing it forever.

Who Says I’m an Addict, by David Smallwood, is available from Telegraph Books (£11.69)