What does it mean to be addicted? How do you get “clean” and sober? Is it possible to reduce cravings?
Addiction and Habituation
You are physically dependent upon alcohol or drugs when:
- you need the substance to reduce your withdrawal cravings;
- you are not able to control when and how you use the substance;
- you require an increasing amount of the substance to become intoxicated; and
- you spend an increasing amount of time seeking out the substance.
Common signs of addiction include hangovers, blackouts, poor health, tremors, mood swings, alienation from family and friends, and involvement with law enforcement. Depending on the level of dependency, some alcoholics and drug addicts require detoxification. Detoxification from alcohol and drugs requires medical supervision!
When the dependence is on an activity or a ritual, it is called a “habituation.” Habituations include: codependency, sexual and relationship “addictions,” spending compulsions, binge eating, gambling, and raging. Though usually not quite as dangerous or physically debilitating as substance dependence, these rituals are integrated into one’s lifestyle and are as difficult to change.
The Immediate Problem
There is a natural ambivalence when making any change. In particular, giving up addicting substances and habituating activities involves the loss of much that has been familiar. Questions about self-worth and doubts about one’s ability to change are likely to arise. These reactions can shake one’s determination and create strong cravings for the familiar addictive or habituating behavior.
Tasks in a Sobriety Program
Addictions and habituations are formidable! The good news is that their power to influence us lessens with consistent positive attention. Addictions and habituations become less overwhelming as we develop a sobriety program focused on acquiring self-care skills, receiving available emotional support, and accessing necessary resources. Craving and impulsive reactions do lessen over time, but only in response to strict maintenance of sobriety.