3 Ways You Can Break A Bad Habit Or Addiction Fast

First of all, big apologies for my absence over the last few days. I’ve had a serious bacterial illness, and living in an RV without a bathroom in my condition has not been fun! Anyway, my convalescence got me thinking about bad habits (you don’t get the chance to indulge any when you’re sick!)

Several years ago, I acknowledged that the internet was my ‘bad habit’ or addiction. Most people wouldn’t accept the internet as being a real addiction and only think of excessive smoking, alcoholism and other destructive physical behaviors as being ‘genuine’ bad habits. I disagree with such notions.

There was a time when ‘obsessively thinking about sex’ had no psychological diagnosis, too. It was seen as just a form of laziness, a failure to reign in urges. And video game addiction was not included as a diagnosis even in the brand new edition of the DSM.

“Californication” star David Duchovny made headlines for voluntarily entering rehab a few years ago for sex addiction. I think that people are surprised that there is such a thing as ‘sex rehab’, and they’re simultaneously excited by the idea. People love to discover things about others that are taboo and hidden from view.

Just as celebrities play a twisted public/private game with what they choose to reveal about themselves, I think that oddly we hide our own addictions from ourselves even as we are aware of them. I knew that I used the internet far too much, to the point that it gravely damaged to my social and familial relationships. Yet I escaped from the faint feeling of guilt by browsing webpages more to try to find ways to stop browsing the web!

I was looking for a solution from within the problem!

The same goes for hard drinkers who become drunk to escape their lives, lives which have gone downhill largely as a result of alcohol. Or smokers who smoke more to handle stressful financial situations which wouldn’t be quite as bad had they not spent so much of their incomes on a commodity which ruins their health.

So I’d define a serious addiction as a habit that becomes a solution to its own problems. It’s a circular descent down to a false Shangri-La that leaves you incapable of facing the real world. That’s why the internet, gaming and even coffee could all be addictions – it’s not the product, but the brain state of the inveterate user that matters.

How to deal with such a treacherous self-consuming obsession? Here’s how I stemmed my internet addiction:

1. Tell everyone that you’re going to quit your addiction for a week

Publicly announcing a goal is proven to make it far more difficult to relapse during your week of hell. You’ll have the negative opinion of others to face up to if you go back on your word.

2. Remove all ‘quarantined materials’

We’re going to call anything that triggers your habit a ‘quarantined material’. Such items must be removed from your household at once. Trash the television, lock up the laptop, incinerate the cigarettes. If you eat too much, like most Americans (who on average eat 150% calories worth of the recommended daily allowance), then simply empty the house of comestibles and don’t head down to the supermarket at any cost.

3. Find a substitute activity

During your week of purity, you’re likely to continue to receive mind-urges to get involved in your addiction in some way. In my case, every time I ran into a piece of information which I didn’t know much about – say, the meaning of the word ‘comestible’ – I was desperate to run to the nearest computer and look it up. I substituted in a nice dictionary and encyclopedia, and adjusted to using these instead. An alcoholic could simply drink loads of water; a smoker has nicotine patches to replace cigarettes.

4. Profit

After a week has passed, you might give yourself a day of indulgence before trying a month off.

I usually recommend a kind of cognitive therapy for achieving goals, but physical denial is the only route forward. I think that addictions hack your mind, and the only way to escape the circle is to remove the material activator of the habit.

Have you struggled with major addictions? Did you find this strategy useful? I’d love it hear about it below.

4 thoughts on “3 Ways You Can Break A Bad Habit Or Addiction Fast

  1. I definitely like the steps you listed. I think my addiction would be sweets. I temper the potential weight gain by running or engaging in physical activities. But I eat too much sweets to lose weight. it the past, I was able to break my sweet cravings by employing similar strategies. I week of no sweets really kick started a 4 month journey of little to no sweets.

    • Thanks, Defining Hopes. What do you think the underlying cause is? Have you tried switching to a more savoury snack instead, say croissants and baked food (it’s not ideal but it’s a step forward). I wish you luck in beating your addiction!


  2. I’m sorry I am contributing to your Internet addiction by posting comments here! I think I already mentioned elsewhere my poor eating habits. I tend to put on weight until I get disgusted with myself. Then I skip lunches until the weight goes away. That’s a painful way to control my addiction to food, but I guess it beats bulimia. Another “addiction” I wish I could get rid of is my tendency to curse out loud when I think I am alone. I worry that I have developed a Tourettes Syndrome-like tendency to make involuntary outbursts which are going to get me in trouble while teaching class or when my wife might be listening. A traffic light turning red can set off an incredible spew of invective, “G-dd-mnm-th-rf-ck-ngc-cks-ck-r!” I find this especially shameful because I am an atheist, my wife is a mother and I have absolutely nothing against homosexuals. While I was washing the dishes once, something set me off and I said, “I love you so much… you g-d-mnb-tch!” My wife was in the other room and said, “What did you say dear?”

    • Your height and weight that you posted elsewhere look very healthy, at least. Eating habits like that are actually really common. It seems that most younger girls that I know perpetually skip meals too and Marlon Brando and Orson Welles would be extreme examples. It may be painful, but I honestly don’t know how bad that strategy actually is. Most animals put on weight and lose it seasonally.

      The semi-Tourettes syndrome habit I think arises from the fact that cursing is proven to make you feel better! You might have seen the study where people placed their hands in frozen water – people who cursed found they were able to submerge their hands for longer. Maybe you could force yourself to swear inside your head only and stop something coming out your mouth at all costs!

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