Living with an addictive disorder can be challenging, but with treatment and a strong support system, long-term recovery is possible.

Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age or economic status.

Some people mistakenly believe that addiction and substance use disorder results from a character flaw or lack of willpower. They might even think that recovery is as simple as “just saying no.”

You might have heard this and believe the reason you can’t beat addiction, or that you have a substance use problem, is because you’re weak.

You might ask yourself, “Why can’t I stop?” “Is there something wrong with me?”

Defeating addiction isn’t as easy as willing yourself to stop. There are brain differences involved that could get in the way of even the best of intentions.

But if you’re wondering how to fight addiction, there are ways to make your journey of recovery a little easier.

Language matters

We use ‘beat’ in this article to reflect recovering from an addiction. An addiction cannot be beaten. It can only be managed long term and often involves a continuum of care.

Was this helpful?

People with addiction or substance use disorder continue to engage in behaviors or use substances regardless of the adverse impact on their lives. Continued substance use can lead to physical dependence. Other addiction symptoms can include:

  • having urges or cravings
  • experiencing anxiety reduction and elevated mood during use or behavior
  • spending a lot of time using
  • giving up once-enjoyed activities to use

Recovery can seem challenging for some and almost impossible for others. Trying to manage on your own can make it even harder.

If you have a substance-related or addictive disorder and are working toward recovery, consider reaching out to a loved one for help and accountability.

Many treatment and rehabilitation programs that teach people how to beat addiction encourage them to have a sponsor for accountability, empathy, and support. A 2016 study found that nearly 69% of participants reported having a sponsor at least once.

In this study, those who had a sponsor and a strong sponsor relationship were more likely to participate in a 12-step program and practice abstinence from substance use.

The more people you can turn to for support, encouragement, and a listening ear, the better your chances of recovery.

What is an addiction?

Addiction is a chronic but treatable medical disease involving genetics, neurology, the environment, and a person’s life experience.

People living with an addiction often engage in behaviors or use substances even when it results in an unwanted consequence.

Substance use disorder is a type of addiction. Other types of addiction may include:

Was this helpful?

Try to find out what prompts your compulsive behavior or substance use.

Maybe you reach for a drink only when you’re with particular friends or at a specific restaurant or bar. Perhaps you crave the excitement of gambling only when you’re bored or stressed.

Preventing recurrence of use or behaviors by being aware of the places, people, or emotions that act as triggers could be an essential part of your recovery.

Prolonged use of substances could change the brain’s function and structure. It could affect parts of the brain responsible for:

  • reward
  • learning
  • memory
  • behavior control

Experts believe that continued abstinence from substance use might give the brain the time it needs to recover from those changes and return to its regular function. Frequent use recurrences, on the other hand, might make recovery take longer.

Once you’ve identified the causes or prompts of your substance use or compulsive behavior, consider developing a plan to manage them and practice avoidance.

If you think you might have an addiction or substance use disorder, consider reaching out to a trusted healthcare professional for an evaluation and to discuss your options.

They might be able to refer you to a mental health professional or treatment program that best fits you. Treatment might include various options, including:

There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for addiction. Every person is different, and what works for one person might not work for another.

A mental health professional who specializes in substance-related and addictive disorders can tailor a treatment plan that’s best suited to your needs.

Here are some resources that might be able to help:

  • SAMSHA. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a national helpline (1-800-662-4357) that’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. They may be able to point you in the right direction for help and support near you or online.
  • National Harm Reduction Coalition. The NHRC is an advocacy group that provides support and resources for people with substance use disorder.
  • Drugs and Me. This organization was created by a group of educators, scientists, and analysts. Drugs and Me offers a list of educational materials that might be helpful.

A 2016 study shows that peer-delivered support groups, including 12-step programs, could be helpful when in recovery from addiction.

These groups are designed to help you stay sober through mutual support provided by people who are also in recovery.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two well-known peer-delivered groups for individuals in recovery from substance use disorder.

Though helpful, 12-step programs aren’t for everyone. If they aren’t the right fit for you, consider searching for recovery support groups near you.

You might have heard of the gut-brain axis (GBA), but what you might not know is the impact that it has on addictive disorders.

Your GBA is two-way communication between your central nervous system (CNS) and enteric nervous system (ENS). The CNS is your brain and spinal cord, and the ENS is the nerves in your digestive system.

A 2015 study supports the connection between the brain and gut microorganisms because of the GBA. In fact, imbalanced gut microorganisms might play a role in addictive disorders, according to a 2016 study.

What you eat could affect brain functions such as:

  • emotion
  • cognition
  • appetite
  • behavioral states
  • stress reactivity
  • anxiety regulation

Nutrition is a necessary part of addiction recovery. Improving your eating habits could help you manage your emotions, think more clearly, and reduce the impact of substance use.

Trying new activities to replace ones that aren’t as beneficial might help you on the road to recovery.

A 2020 review found that physical fitness and mind-body exercises could be helpful in the sobriety process.

Another 2016 study found that mindfulness meditation might also improve mood and self-control and reduce stress, which could be helpful for people with addiction.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we return to old patterns.

Making any lifestyle change is hard, and maintaining that change over time can be challenging.

You can be prepared if your treatment plan fails. Here are some things you can try:

  • having a sponsor or trusted loved one you can call when cravings strike
  • avoiding places or people that might make you more prone to use substances
  • having another activity you could do, such as taking a walk or jog, when craving hits
  • rewarding yourself for reaching your goals, even little ones

Recovery from a substance-related and addictive disorder is possible, but it requires a strong commitment.

This can be challenging, but you’re not alone.

It can be helpful to surround yourself with trusted family and friends because their support goes a long way in recovery.

If you need additional help, reach out to a mental health professional to discuss other treatment options, which may include residential or inpatient treatment.