An addiction is something which is out of your control and has a negative impact on your life. Human beings can get addicted to all types of things, though the most common ones are smoking, alcohol, drugs, food and sex.
I myself was addicted to nicotine for around 25 years and experienced most of the behaviours and beliefs outlined below.
Addictions: Am I addicted?
Signs you have an addiction may include things like spending a lot of time engaged with your addictive behaviour, thinking about your addiction and overdoing it so you do it to excess. In addition, you may have to do it more to get the same level of ‘satisfaction’ you used to get.
Another obvious sign is that it is having negative effects on your life. These could be physical problems that stem from eating or drinking too much, or emotional ones that come from the after-effects such as shame and embarrassment if your addiction has led to behaviours you wouldn’t normally engage in.
Addictions: Time Spent Doing & Thinking about your Addiction
We spend a lot of time on our addictive behaviour. For example, when I used to smoke, I would have to have a cigarette at least once an hour. So I spent a lot of time running down three flights of stairs at break time when I was a teacher to get my fix. And a lot of time standing in the rain outside restaurants. I also thought about it a lot – especially when I couldn’t have one.
Be honest with yourself about how much you spend doing your addiction. Most people are uncomfortable with this and we may lie to ourselves how much time we actually spend drinking, eating or shopping – or whatever it is that we are addicted to.
Addictions: Doing too much of your Addiction
Ever find yourself drinking until you can hardly walk when you only meant to have a quick one after work? Or buying £100s worth of clothes when you only intended to do a little window-shopping?
I used to smoke more when I drank and would probably have around 20-25 cigarettes a day compared to the 15 (or so) I usually had. Being honest, the reason why I smoked more was that booze soothed my throat which was sore from the fags. But I wanted more, more, more and so I perversely drank more so I could smoke more (please see subsequent section on how the conscious mind is NOT in control of our behaviour as much as we’d like to think). My hangovers, needless to say, were pretty hideous. And my shame levels through the roof.
Addictions: Having to do more of your Addiction
Linked to the situation described above, is the fact that many have to do more of their addictive behaviour in order to create the same ‘buzz’ that they originally got. When I first started smoking, I would have less than a packet on a night out with friends. But this increased until I was fully sucked in and before I knew it I was a regular committed smoker.
Think about how this applies to your own situation. You may have only started with the odd piece of cake to make you feel better when you were depressed or just a couple of drinks to help reduce your anxiety. But you’ve probably had to drink more, eat more since then to get anyway near the same level of satisfaction you once got (which in itself was an illusion anyway).
Addictions: Unmet Emotional Needs & Addiction
For some people their addiction(s) may simply be bad habits that have got out of hand and overcoming the physical addiction and replacing the negative behaviours with more positive ones may be enough to put a stop to it.
However, for others, there will be underlying emotional reasons that have both led to the addiction and sustained it. And it’s not until these have been successfully dealt with will the addiction be fully resolved. It’s like putting a plaster on a wound that goes too deep.
For many, addictions are a sign that our emotional needs are not being met. I started smoking because I felt really unconfident at the time – I had just started university and smoking gave me something to do with my hands and a façade of being at ease. I also told myself that it helped to reduce anxiety. And I definitely felt depressed at times too.
The reality is that we indulge in unhealthy behaviour(s) because we feel lonely, bored, anxious or depressed and need some way to cope with these emotions.
Addictions: The Unconscious Mind & Addictions
Addictions are not rational. They cause harm to ourselves and others and if we were using our logic, we wouldn’t do it. And that’s the problem, we’re not using our rational, conscious part of our brain – we’re using our unconscious brain which operates on a more simplistic level.
The unconscious part of our brain is responsible for up to 90% of our behaviour, and most of the time, we’re not even aware of it. So whilst we think we’re in control of our actions, we’re often not because the unconscious is the one in charge. It’s this part of our brain which directs us to repeat behaviours again and again without engaging our more thinking brain.
As a smoker lighting up again and again was an action which I had done many times before without actually ‘thinking’ about it. My behaviour was automatic. So it is with other addictions, such as reaching for another biscuit without realising or having sex with another stranger just because that’s what you always do on a night out.
It’s not until we engage our conscious, ‘thinking’ part of our brain that we can carefully assess what our addiction is actually doing to us.
Addiction: The End (Finally)
I’d had enough of the stinky fags for years before I actually stopped. I hated myself for smoking and I felt such shame. I was also constantly paranoid I was going to get cancer. But I was really scared of stopping because I thought it was going to be too difficult.
In the end, I became curious about whether I’d be able to stop or not. I told myself I wouldn’t have a cigarette until lunch time…then when it got to lunch time, I decided to continue for longer and then longer still. Not only was I capable, but it wasn’t half as bad as I’d thought it would be.
I didn’t know it then, but I was finding out about myself. I learnt that smoking was just another behaviour that I could change and knowing this meant I could also change other behaviours. Once you realise this, you see that you can do so much.
Hypnosis really helped me through those periods I struggled and later on, when the fags had gone, my attention turned to sugar!
Hypnotherapy & Addictions
Hypnotherapy is especially effective because it works with both the unconscious and unconscious parts of the mind in order to stop the behaviour and build up your inner resources.
You need motivation as no therapist can help someone can help someone stop an addiction if they don’t want to. But if you do want to, even just a part of you, here’s what it can help with:
- Withdrawal symptoms – hypnosis can help to reduce these.
- Motivation – hypnotherapy can help to increase your motivation and keep you going when you have a wobble.
- Underlying causes – Cognitive Hypnotherapy can get to the root causes of your addiction and give you the tools to handle these as well as re-frame them so they no longer hold such sway over you.
- Self-esteem – Cognitive Hypnotherapy helps develop esteem which means you are less likely to accept the harm you are doing to yourself.
- A more positive future – Cognitive Hypnotherapy gives you a sense that you are in control, and once this happens, it starts to affect other areas of your life.
- Set Goals – Cognitive Hypnotherapy helps clients to set goals and reach them.
- Relaxation Techniques – tools to reduce anxiety and manage any stress.
Recommended book: Freedom from Addiction by Griffin & Tyrell.