Do you have a compulsive habit or addiction that is ruining your relationship? Is your spouse or partner threatening to leave you? Is your behavior affecting you at work? Even if you are in a Twelve Step program, fighting off cravings is still a difficult job.
What can you do if you can't stop overeating, drinking, drugging, spending, gambling, smoking, sitting at your computer for hours watching porn, or something else that makes you feel good temporarily? Many people will suggest that you "just say NO." However, that doesn't work permanently. Have you ever noticed that when you are able to stop one behavior you often begin doing something else compulsively?
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Many alcoholics overeat sugary foods; compulsive eaters often are shopaholics; compulsive spenders may also have food or alcohol issues. In the 1800's thousands of alcoholics in Ireland who swore off booze became addicted to drinking ether! Does this describe you? Do you engage in more than one feel-good behavior?
My client Jane was an alcoholic, drug abusing, compulsive overeater. She could never get free of all three cravings at the same time. When she moved to another city she decided to seek treatment from an addiction counselor. He told her, "Whatever you do, don't drink!" She later wrote to me that she had stopped drinking but had gained 30 pounds! It took her more than ten years to finally kick all her addictions using conventional therapy.
How do you stop going from one feel-good to another? The answer lies in the brain. Everyone experiences stress in their lives, I call the kind of stress that causes the most binges Super Stress. Super Stress occurs when you feel totally powerless over a situation or relationship in your life. You tell yourself, “Ain’t it awful and there’s nothing I can do about it!”
Super Stress creates an imbalance in the dopamine and serotonin in the brain's pleasure center. The longing for relief from stress, whether physical or emotional, is what creates your craving. The craving is then directed toward any substance or behavior that will raise dopamine and make you feel good again.
But relief is temporary. When the stressful situation continues the craving returns.
The way to end craving cycles is to learn how to balance the dopamine and serotonin in your brain. Follow these 5 Steps and you can avert dangerous binges that lead to self-hatred and frustration. You will feel better and so will those that love you.
Become aware of your craving for a substance or behavior that makes you feel better. Even if you are not near alcohol, food, drugs, or shopping malls right now, are you making plans to have a binge later today?
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How strong is your desire? How intense is the feeling that "I gotta have it or do it?" Use a rating scale from 0-10 with 10 being so strong that you feel as if you have to give in immediately no matter what else is happening right now.