People who struggle with addiction may often find themselves asking, “how do I break this cycle?” They may have successfully stopped feeding their addiction in the past for varying amounts of time- days, weeks, months- for various reasons. Inevitably they end up going back to their crutch again. The most crucial step in breaking this cycle is to first admit that one has a problem with addiction. If they never admit or accept that they have a problem, they cannot then move on to confronting the problem. They should seek help from a rehabilitation center. Many rehabilitation centers use a traditional (and proven) twelve step process.
There are many ways this cycle may start. Often times, an individual is struggling with some form of physical or emotional pain. They then turn to substance use to alleviate this pain. Over time, they grow increasingly dependent upon the substance in order to feel “right” or “normal.” Before they know it, they are unable to simply stop using the substance. Additionally, substance abuse can lend itself to creating other problems that also increase their dependence. They may try repeatedly to stop, but that dependence can be difficult to overcome. After trying and failing to ween themselves from their addiction they must admit that the problem exists, and admit that they are powerless over the problem- that they cannot resolve it alone. The cycle will only continue should you continue trying on your own.
According to the traditional 12 step process, the next step is acknowledging that a power greater than his or herself can help restore balance to their lives and help them gain control over their addiction. For those who are theists, this often means God. Those who do not believe in God, however, can still find a higher power to turn to. Participants in a 12 step program are not required to accept a particular concept of God, they are only asked to trust that there is a power “greater than themselves” regardless of how they wish to describe or understand it. Next, the individual must surrender themselves to this higher power. In other words, choose to stop living their life their way, and give themselves to living a life guided by the guidelines of a higher power.
The fourth step towards breaking the addiction cycle involves introspection; taking a look inside oneself and soul-searching. The addict will need to look at their actions, their causes and the results of their actions. They will need to look at the impact their choices have had on not only their own life, but the lives of others. This could be friends, family, significant others and more. It is crucial for them to be honest in the process, and to be willing to acknowledge their own imperfections and admit they were wrong. This takes you to the fifth step- acknowledging your errors to yourself, a higher power and another person. In step 6, they will need to decide they are ready for a higher power to remove these character flaws from their life. Next, they need to ask this higher power to help them in doing so.
Once they are at this point, the addict will be asked to make a list of those they have harmed by virtue of their addiction, and be willing to make amends to them for their wrongs. This process can be difficult, of course, but it can also be therapeutic for both the addict and other affected by his actions. The addict must then take the steps needed to make direct amends to the harmed party, except in those circumstances in which doing so may do additional harm. This is important- the addict must be cautious not to do more harm to others. If making amends to this person will bring up old wounds or create new harm, they must not do it.
The tenth step involves maintenance: taking constant inventory, staying vigilant and being willing to admit they were or are wrong. This means accepting responsibility for your actions. Moving forward, the addict is asked to make “contact” with the higher power they have turned their lives over to. This could be through prayer or meditation. The point is to communicate in some means with this higher power, and to attempt to learn what plan this higher power has for them. This prayer or meditation helps the addict strengthen their connection with the higher power. The final step is to serve this higher power- to spread their spiritual awakening to other addicts and to act accordingly in their everyday life, serving as an example.
Breaking the addiction cycle is never as simple as just following twelve steps. It is important to have support and guidance through addiction treatment, family and friends. There will be hurdles to overcome, and one will need to be committed to pursuing the light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, overcoming the addiction- be it alcoholism, drug abuse or otherwise- is only one step. The addict will need to also address whatever emotional or physical pain it was that they encountered that initially led to their substance abuse. It could have been depression or another mental illness, or it could have been a physical injury that required medication. It could have been a traumatic experience. The key is, taking a holistic approach is the surest way to recovery.