06/01/2012 07:45 EDT | Updated 08/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Making Your Addictions Work for You


Almost everyone you know is addicted to something. Whether their addiction is coffee, jogging, or something less socially acceptable, addictions are a way of life for many people.

For some, addictions limit their enjoyment of life and limit their successes in life as well. Many people simply have addictive natures whereas others can try the most addictive things and then say "meh" and never do them again. The scary part is that until you know which one you are and which thing will be your "it" attraction, you never know what you are getting into or where it may lead.

The young clients I work with tend to be addicted to video gaming, MagicCards, junk food, or cannabis. Many would say that their addictions seem to provide a level of comfort -- a buffer from an unsafe world. It only becomes problematic when it rules your life. It doesn't really matter if the addiction is deemed "good for you" or "bad for you." Something that rules your life has a different agenda than your higher intentions will have for you.

Having an addictive nature can also mean that you have a passionate nature. So, how do you take these passions and make them become something generative; something that improves your quality of life?

The Good Stuff

These are the basics of the work I do with struggling teens and young adults with the goal of taking charge of their lives:

First, find your power by starting a daily routine that includes inner reflection, walking, something creative and giving back to the world. Chart it. Own it. Rise above the obstacles that stop you from doing it on a daily basis. Pretty soon, you will be ready to be in control of your private world and you will have found these successes give you a sense of self-worth that is truly empowering.


When you still feel the urge to indulge, use it as a reward for doing the work you need to get done. If you can handle it, give yourself micro-rewards (10 minutes of Angry Birds for every 20 minutes of daily routine). Slowly increase the "work" time and reduce the treat time.

Important: The rewards should not impede your ability to go back and continue your work. Certain addictions will not work with this system. If this does not work for you, establish all the things you need to get done in the day and then give yourself your reward at the end of the day.

If you have the rest of the day off once you've done your chores, try introducing a small segment of healthy stuff to do in your goofing-off period. Try taking a break at some point in the evening and go do 15 minutes of your "good stuff" once more. Just this small step will put you in charge of your passions. It's not easy but it is transformative. These exercises will work for those of you who can moderate with a bit of direction.

So what if you are not a moderator? What if you can't do a little bit of it after doing what you were supposed to do? Then you proceed to stopping cold turkey...well, lukewarm, cool or cold.

Lukewarm means you can stop for the week and get your stuff done and then go nuts on MagicCard nights/weekend tournaments or whatever else burns away your time.

Cool means that you can stop for a period of a few months and get what you need to get done and then start up again on vacations, giving yourself a week or so of re-acclimation before having to get back to your real stuff once again.

But some need that Turkey chilled to the bone.

Cold means once it's gone, it needs to stay gone because when you start up that particular addiction, you cannot stop. In that case, if you can stop, stop for just that day, then the next day, then keep that stopping day at a time.

There is another level where you need outside-intervention to help you stop whatever your addiction is. When what you do is truly self-destructive, you can lose yourself, your friends, your family, your employment or possibly your life. In this situation, go seek professional help and don't forget to pick the system that works best for you. You should still be in charge of what system you pick but only if you have those moments of clarity to admit your problem and know what system will work best for you, not easiest for you.

Here's another thing about your guilty pleasures:

Try to determine if these indulgences do or do not benefit you and if they don't benefit you, ask yourself, would I be better replacing them with something that brings out the best in me? Search for that thing that would be a worthy outlet for your passions, determine a plan of action and change your world for the better.

Accept your passions, choose them wisely and vow to leave the world a slightly better place then before you came into it kicking and screaming.

"A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them" -Carl Jung

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