First let me explain what addiction is. Addiction is frequently being compelled to indulge in a behaviour that offers short-term relief, but long term damage in any area of your life (heath, relationships, finance and work to name just a few areas). The important word here is compelled.
Addiction is a difficult challenge to overcome. Not because the addictive behaviour is hard to break once the addict realises they have an addiction, but because addiction is shrouded in denial, preventing the addict from seeing their behaviour with clarity.
Denial is created by the addict in a bid to protect them from the loss they perceive they will endure if they give up the addictive behaviour or substance. Perceive is a very important word here because the addict actually does not gain anything from their addiction at all. Their addiction gradually and systematically destroys every area of the addicts life until all that is left is the addiction. As each area of the addicts life is slowly destroyed, the addict clings more and more to the addiction because the addiction is perceived to be a pleasure. The key to breaking any addiction is to break the cycle of faulty thinking that keeps the addict enmeshed in this cycle. So the good news is, addiction can be overcome a lot easier than we all think possible.
First let us explore addiction itself. All addiction has exactly the same roots regardless of the substance or behaviour that makes up the addiction. So addiction could be to substances such as alcohol, drugs or food, or it could be to behaviours such as gambling or shopping. All addictions are there to serve the same purpose, which is to change the way the addict feels. All addiction is masking unresolved pain.
This is how it works. The addict has a feeling. Now the feeling could be good or bad. A good feeling will lead the addict to celebrate. If they are addicted to food, they will celebrate by eating. An alcoholic will have a drink. A gambler will treat himself to a little flutter. If the addict has a bad feeling, they will indulge in the addictive behaviour to try and make themselves feel better. This is the paradox of addiction. One cure for all feelings! So, as the addictive behaviour continues it naturally gathers momentum (I will explain why in a moment) and becomes a bigger and bigger part of the addicts life. In extreme cases, if allowed to continue, it becomes the only thing in the addicts life.
Addictions naturally gather momentum for numerous reasons. The first reason is that the addict perceives that they gain some kind of reward from their addiction. This is never the case. If you enjoy something, you can take part in the activity and feel better for having done it afterwards. An addict usually feels worse following the addictive behaviour. A drinker will have a hangover, a shopper will feel guilt about the bills they now have to pay, an emotional eater will feel guilt about their latest binge etc. As discussed earlier, addicts indulge in their addictive behaviour to change their emotional state. Once the bad feelings surface after their latest indulgence, what is the first thing you think they will want to do? Yes! They will indulge once again in their addictive behaviour in order to get rid of their unwanted feelings. This is obviously a downward spiral.
The second reason why addictive behaviour gathers momentum is because it is used as a coping mechanism but in addition is used as a celebration (initially anyway. Once the addiction really takes a grip there is no longer the desire for celebration). Usually, if we are healthy and balanced, we have a number of ways to alter our emotional state. A few examples are, take a hot bath, meditate, read, relax and watch a movie, chat with friends etc etc. The addict stops looking for new ways to resolve challenges and ease stress. They use their addiction for immediate gratification. This gives the addict fewer and fewer coping mechanisms, as the addiction becomes a bigger and bigger part of their lives.
The third reason addiction gathers momentum is if the addiction is to a substance rather than a behaviour. If the substance is physically addictive, this causes further complications in the cycle of addiction as the body starts to crave the substance and will react (withdrawal symptoms) when the substance in question leaves the body.