I know two heroin addicts—in fact, I’d say I’m pretty close to them. They’re both family members.
Both of them had dysfunctional upbringings: verbally and physically abusive fathers, and emotionally dysfunctional mothers. Both of them ruined a large portion of their lives with heroin.
One of them decided to step into the light some 25 years ago—he now has a wife, two kids, and a nice house by the ocean side.
The other had his wife divorce him, his family disown him, and eventually became homeless. He stuck himself with a dirty needle, and ended up in the hospital with a deadly heart infection. As he struggled to stay alive, he phased in and out of consciousness for days.
Suddenly, he awoke, gasping for air, and in one agonizingly lucid epiphany, he realized that he had wasted his entire life.
He broke down into tears, begging God for a second chance. Unfortunately, he passed away later that night. Often, we don’t realize the consequences of our actions until it’s too late.
Addictions Aren’t Always That Obvious
I realize that the previous example was very jarring, and most people think “I would never let that happen to me!”
But most addictions don’t destroy your life—that would be too obvious. Most addictions slowly sap you of your energy, focus, and passion, condemning you to a mediocre life.
That’s why they’re so dangerous. You don’t even realize that you’re an addict, and all the while, you’re being drained of your vital energy and will power. This is something known as the slight edge effect, where something isn’t huge enough to be noticeable, but just slowly saps away at your energy.
A lot of people struggle with addictions. In fact, I would go so far as to say that 99.99% of people are addicted to something, whether it be something extremely serious like heroin or methamphetamine, or something less serious like technology or food.
This is because our society indirectly encourages addictions. We live in a culture where most people have lost meaning. We have our passions crushed out of us at a young age by the Prussian school system, and consequently end up working jobs that we hate for the rest of our lives.
We’re bombarded with advertising and marketing—we’re promised happiness if we buy the latest product. So, we waste our time and our money pursuing things of little value. This makes our lives miserable and devoid of any higher meaning.
And what does somebody do when they hate their life? They seek relief, and if they can’t find it naturally, they’ll turn to artificial methods of relief.
For many this relief takes the form of television—millions of Americans come home from work exhausted and miserable, and instead of seeking a better life, they simply plug into the boob tube. They give away their agency for some temporary relief.
Others seek solstice in food. They gorge on unhealthy processed foods to temporarily numb their dissatisfaction. But it always returns, because they’re not fixing the root of the problem.
What Is An Addiction?
A lot of people have their own idea of what an addiction is. Some say that it’s when you want to stop, but you can’t. Some say that it’s when you don’t even want to stop, but could if you wanted to.
Addictions can be things that are healthy done in excess, like the bodybuilder who has zero social life, because he’s always at the gym, or the millionaire workaholic whose wife divorced him, but hey, at least he’s rich! Addictions can be thoughts, emotions, or other intangible objects.
However, the commonality that all addictions have is this: they take more than they give.
That’s it. They take more from you than they give to you. They promise you happiness and relief, and they even give you some at first, but eventually they end up taking far more than they give.
Think of the addict who pops pills to avoid dealing with his unresolved self-hatred issues, stemming from a dysfunctional childhood. He gets some relief at first for sure, but there’s a price to pay. There’s always a price to pay.
Soon the pills start to take over his life, and he turns to begging, manipulating, and stealing to get his way. His addiction gives him temporary relief, but it takes far more than it gives him in the long run.
Likewise, let’s look at something else: working out. In moderation, it’s something that’s obviously beneficial to your health. However when it becomes an obsession, it’s terrible, and can lead to loneliness, unhappiness, sky-high cortisol levels, and a lack of self-acceptance.
For quite some time, I was addicted to working out. I worked out 7 days a week nonstop for YEARS, and do you know what happened?
I was fucking miserable. I was constantly obsessing over my caloric intake and over my routine, I never did anything fun, and I started to develop an ego based around the identity of being the “buff guy.”
But, I kept at it, because every week I got more and more complements and stares. I got trapped, because I didn’t want to give up my identity and all the work that I’d put in to get there.
Eventually, my body just couldn’t take it anymore: I got very, very sick for almost a month. I had burnout syndrome.
This is an example of how even a healthy activity can be an addiction.
Now, DO NOT use this as an excuse to say “Ah, forget going to the gym today. Working out more than twice a week is an addiction.” No, that’s bullshit. You should still live a healthy lifestyle—just don’t let it consume you.
You Can Be Addicted to Anything
Technically, anything that gives you pleasure can be addicting. However, I have compiled a list of common addictions for your convenience.
As you’re reading this, ask yourself: “Do I spend a lot of time indulging in any of these? If I try to go without it, do I crave it?” If the answer to both of these questions is yes, you’re likely addicted. If you only answer one of these with a yes, then you may be headed towards an addiction.
Heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and other opioids
Sex, pornography, and masturbation
Emotional thought patterns (I will blog more about this later – they’re perhaps the most common and insidious form of addiction)
These are the most common addictions in our society, however there’s virtually an infinite amount of things you could potentially be addicted to.
Regardless of what you’re addicted to, however, the process of beating it is the same.
5 Steps to Permanently Breaking Your Addiction
Before we start, I want to be very clear: this will not be easy. I have personally overcome a couple of addictions myself, and it’s always a difficult process. It requires a lot of discipline and focus.
But do not mistake me—overcoming your addiction will be one of the best things that you ever do.
Addictions prevent us from reaching our full potential. They eat up our time and energy, so that we can’t channel it into accomplishing great things.
By getting rid of your addiction, you will be free to apply your mental energy to accomplishing your goals and improving yourself. This is why I’ve created a bulletproof 5 step process to overcoming your addictions. Here is a brief outline of it below:
Believe that you can
Properly associate pain and pleasure surrounding it
Understand what triggers it
Replace it with something pleasurable
Control your environment 100%
That’s it. I realize that it’s much easier said than done, but the path has been laid out in front of you. All you have to do is follow it—it’s on you to take MASSIVE ACTION and eliminate your addiction, once and for all.
1. Believe That You Are Good Enough
This is the most fundamental step to accomplishing anything, including breaking an addiction. Before you even start trying to eliminate an addiction, or any negative habit from your life, you have to believe that it’s possible.
If you don’t believe that you can break an addiction, then you won’t be able to.
Months or years of trying to break an addiction can give us the false belief that we simply “can’t” break it. This isn’t true. Plenty of people, in far off situations than yourself, have broken their addictions—ever read the Heroin diaries?
Even worse, sometimes we don’t even want to break the addiction, because we believe that it just isn’t worth it, or that we aren’t worth it. If you’re reading this article, I doubt that you believe this, but if you do, then don’t worry—it is possible to change them.
But in order to understand how you can change your beliefs, you need to understand what they are and how they form.
Beliefs are nothing more than ideas that we are certain about—whether it’s that “I’m sexy,” or “I’m smart,” or “I’m worthless,” or “I’m weird.” Whatever the belief is, it has the same structure.
Let’s examine the belief “I’m smart.” Every belief has “pillars,” or evidence that supports it. Some pillars may be the following:
My parents told me that I was smarter than my brother.
My teachers liked me.
I read a lot.
I got good grades in school.
The combination of these pillars supports the belief that “I’m smart.”
The more pillars that support a belief, the stronger that the belief is. Likewise, the more pillars that you can demolish, the weaker a belief becomes.
Beliefs often form in an interesting way—rather than evidence dictating our beliefs, what happens most often is that we’re given a belief from a young age, and our mind scours reality, looking for pillars to support it.
This is how most negative beliefs form. Your upbringing puts a certain idea into your head over and over again, until your mind looks for evidence to support it.
For example, maybe the belief that “I’m not good enough,” was placed into your head by your parents from a young age, and you look for pillars to support it:
I can never hold down a job. I’m so lazy.
I always feel so depressed – I’m such a loser.
I didn’t try that hard in school. I just didn’t feel like it was worth it.
My relationships always fail. There has to be something wrong with me.
Funny enough, it isn’t the pillars that made the belief, but rather the belief that made the pillars! When your mind has a certain belief, it tends to look for evidence to support it. It will even go so far as to completely ignore evidence that contradicts it.
Even if you have negative beliefs, don’t worry – we can change them. First we must weaken them, and then we must replace them with new ones.
Choose a negative belief that you have, and do the following exercise from this book:
Ask yourself: “How is this belief ridiculous or absurd?”
Was the person I learned this belief from worth modeling in this area?
What will it ultimately cost me emotionally if I don’t let go of this belief?
What will it ultimately cost me in my relationships if I don’t let go of this belief?
What will it ultimately cost me physically if I don’t let go of this belief?
What will it ultimately cost me financially if I don’t let go of this belief?
What will it cost my family/loved ones if I don’t let go of this belief?
Take the time to write the answers down. We’re beginning the process of weakening your negative belief.
Now it’s time to replace your negative belief with a positive one.
If you chose to weaken the negative belief “I can’t beat my addiction,” then let’s replace it with the opposite, more empowering belief “I can beat my addiction.”
How do you do this? Remember – a belief requires pillars. So we need to support this belief with as many pillars as possible.
Write “I can beat my addiction” on a piece of paper. Now underneath it, write down every single time you’ve done something that was difficult beneath it.
Maybe there was a time where you went to the gym when you really didn’t want to, or maybe you were extremely depressed one day and had the courage to get out of bed. Maybe you were afraid of signing a lease, but you did it anyway.
Find examples of times you conquered your fears and “beat” something, so to speak.
This will start to strengthen the belief that you CAN in fact beat your addiction.
Keep this piece of paper with you for the next month or two, and every time you think of something new, put it down.
Another great way to begin changing your belief system is to use affirmations. I’ll blog more about this later, but for now I would recommend checking out The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.
2. Properly Associate Pain and Pleasure
This is where most people fall short. It is literally impossible to break an addiction if you believe that it is more painful to quit it than it is to hold onto it—why would you ever quit the addiction, when you think that you’ll get more pleasure from holding onto it?
Even if you are completely capable of beating your addiction, if you gain more pleasure from it than you would from quitting it, then what’s the point in quitting?
So, in order to break it, you must realize that it is more painful to hold onto than to let go of it.
Tony Robbins presents a fantastic exercise to drill this into your head in his book Awaken the Giant Within, which I’ve laid out below. It is important that you answer it with 100% honesty. Nobody is judging you, and the more honest that you are with yourself, the easier that it will be to change.
Write down the addiction that you’re trying to quit.
Ask yourself: “Why haven’t I quit this addiction in the past? What pain will it cause me?”
Now, write down all of the pleasure that this addiction has given you.
Write down what it will cost you if you don’t change.
Write down all of the benefits that you will gain from quitting this addiction.
This is a very simple, yet powerful exercise that everybody should be aware of. When done properly, it will shift your mindset and make it almost natural to kick an addiction.
When you’re doing this exercise, be sure to go deep. Really think about what pain your addiction has cost you. Really think about what it will cost you if you don’t change.
If you’re addicted to cigarettes add up all of the time you’ve lost from smoking and from getting bronchitis. Add up all of the money you’ve ever spent on cigarettes, and think about what you could’ve bought with that in detail.
If you’re addicted to food, think of all the pain it will cost you in the future. Do some research on diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other diseases. Think about how being chronically overweight, fatigued, and brain foggy will affect your relationships and your career.
Once you’ve properly associated pain and pleasure, you are ready to move onto the next step.
3. Understand What Triggers Your Addiction
Now it’s time to go really deep. You need to figure out what triggers your addiction. Every single addiction has some sort of external or internal stimuli that brings it out—for some people it’s if you’re lonely, if you smell cigarettes, or if you see a bottle of Jack.
The answer may be something like “I always have a drink when I’m lonely.”
This is important to note. Understanding when a craving hits you is a vital weapon to have. To help you figure out what triggers your addiction I’ve compiled a list of things that often trigger addictions and relapses below:
Pretty much every addiction is triggered by at least one of these emotions. Find out which one it is that triggers your addiction.
Now that you know which emotion triggers your addiction, it’s time to go deeper. What causes that emotion?
Be as introspective as possible. Is it anger? If it is, go to the root: are you angry at the world? Why? Are you angry at a particular person? What did they do that made you feel this way?
Really go deep here. Once you realize the fundamental cause of this emotion, take steps to treat it.
If a person frequently makes you feel depressed, it may be time to establish some firm boundaries kick them out of your life. If you’re always bored, it may be time to take up a new hobby.
Unless you treat the fundamental cause of the emotions which led to your addiction, you will continue to relapse.
Now I realize that there are situations where you can’t always do this. Maybe you live with an abusive spouse or parent, or maybe your job makes you miserable. That’s okay—do what you can to get away, and take your time.
If you can’t escape whatever is causing these emotions, then just accept it and strive to improve. Eventually, with some effort, you will be able to get away from it.
4. Replace It With Something Pleasurable
This is a very valuable tool that everyone should use when combating an addiction—whether or not they can get away from the root cause of the emotions which led to it.
The idea is that, every time you feel the need to relapse, do something else that feels good. This will start to condition your brain to associate pleasure with other things, and it will start to weaken the neural connections between the pleasure center of your brain and the center that handles the addiction (it varies depending on the addiction).
Here are a few things that you can do when you feel the urge to relapse:
Personally, I recommend doing something physical. Negative emotions are what lead you to relapse, so often times it’s hard to read or meditate—but doing something physical takes your focus away from your mind and puts it into your body.
Here’s a trick that I personally used when I was trying to overcome an addiction. I kept a couple of 15 pound weights in my house, that I bought for like $20 at Walmart, and whenever I’d feel the urge to relapse I’d just pump out a bunch of curls and tricep extensions.
Not only did this help me beat my addiction, but it gave me a nice endorphin rush (natural high), and bigger arms!
5. Control Your Environment 100%
This is absolutely crucial. You need to be smart and set your environment up in such a way that it’s easier to kick your addiction.
There’s 3 main things you need to control in your environment:
The physical surroundings
The thing you’re addicted to
How can you quit shooting up, if all of your friends do? The answer is: you can’t.
It may sound cruel, but this is your life that we’re talking about. If your friends or family are a negative influence on you, cut them the fuck out of your life.
Like I said before—if you can’t, because you’re dependent on them, then accept it for now, and work on it. However I would bet that most of the time when we think that we “can’t,” we really can, but are just afraid.
If you are addicted to a chemical, don’t quit cold turkey. This can often be life threatening. I highly recommend checking yourself into a rehab center, but if you don’t want to do this, then at least ween yourself off.
Instead, tell yourself that you’re only going to have a certain amount every day, and create a schedule to ween yourself off.
For example, if you’re an alcoholic and regularly finish a fifth every day, consider slowly having 4/5, then a week later 3/5, then a month later get it down to a few shots a day—do you see the point? If you try to just quit suddenly, it usually doesn’t work.
It’s best to “reward” yourself with your shot or whatever else it is that you’re addicted to, after you’ve done something good.
For instance, maybe tell yourself that you can only have your final 5 shots of the day until you’ve gone on a 20 minute walk, or spent some time meditating.
If you’re addicted to a practice or a food, you can quit cold turkey—these don’t trigger chemical dependencies.
So, for example, if you’re addicted to food and it’s negatively impacting your health, then simply throw away all of the garbage food and replace it with high quality, fat-burning food. That way, there’s no way for you to relapse in your own home.
If you’re a sex addict, consider kicking your girlfriend out for a month or deleting the women on your contacts list. If you’re addicted to porn, consider installing an internet blocker and punching in a random password that you won’t remember.
And be sure to eliminate anything in your house or room that may remind you of your addiction. Whether it’s an old picture of someone, or a gift from someone, or whatever it is—you need to eliminate EVERYTHING in your environment that might screw you up.
Summary: How to Break An Addiction
If you have a very serious addiction, I seriously urge you to see a doctor or go to a rehab clinic. I am not a qualified practitioner, I’m just a guy who’s got some opinions.
I realize that not everyone wants to go through this process of checking into rehab, so I have created this guide for you. Please use it responsibly if you do decide to use it.
I realize that it may be hard to quit an addiction, and for many it is a lifelong process, but do not give up. I promise that if you put in the effort required to transform your life, you will be grateful.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to shoot me a message below—I love hearing from my readers, and I hope you enjoyed the article.