In my last post, I discussed the cycle of addiction, which is a common issue I see in working with families and businesses. As a reminder, the cycle consists of several parts: some negative emotion, triggers, rituals, acting out, and back to the negative emotion.

To start breaking the power of addiction you must identify the various aspects of your addictive behavior as it relates to the cycle above. A good way to approach this is to start with the seemingly trite statement I made in my last post that “the only way to break the power of the addiction is to stop engaging in the behavior.”

Start with the acting out component. You have to do whatever it takes to keep you from acting out. In Alcoholics Anonymous, when someone joins to break an addiction to alcohol, they have to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days. This is largely to help them stop the acting out. If they have to attend so many meetings, they are more likely to stay focused on their treatment and go without drinking for 3 solid months. This is a good start, but remember intermittent reinforcement. The 90 days has to be the start of a new lifestyle without the addiction. Once you’ve decided to stop, you can never start again, or you’re simply reinforcing the addiction.

Once you are underway with ending the acting out, you must be able to identify the ritual behaviors and the triggers.  If you drive by your favorite bar every night on your way home from work, you need to identify that as a ritualistic behavior and change your route home from work.  Then you have to identify what was it that triggered you to start thinking about your favorite bar during the day before you left work. Once you’ve identified these elements you can deal with them to assist you with achieving the goal of sobriety.

But, the most important part is yet to come. See, the most significant trigger, or you might think of it as a pre-trigger, is the negative emotion. This is often the most difficult piece of the cycle to figure out. In my first post I used the feeling of loneliness as an example – but identifying loneliness is simply part of the key. Once you’ve identified that negative emotion, you need to dig deeper to determine where that negative emotion is coming from.  When you begin attacking the addiction, you’ll be well on your way to freedom.  You will need help, so don’t be afraid to seek it out. 

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