How to Overcome Addiction

What are the reasons for addiction, and what can help you break free of the cycle?

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Addiction Has a History!

The use of alcohol has been reported in Egypt as far back as 3500BCE, yes that’s BCE! By the 14th century there were over 1000 taverns in London alone.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1931), who is seen as the founder of psychotherapy (or psychoanalysis back then), used cocaine himself, becoming addicted through his experiments using the drug to treat other afflictions. The ‘term’ addiction has been prevalent since around 1100. The relationship between drugs, alcohol, and addiction then is not some modern-day phenomena.

If you are compulsively using mind-altering substances, or engaging in activities that give you pleasure, to the detriment of your life, you are considered as suffering from an addiction, or you are ‘substance dependent’.

Do you know someone who is addicted to something, or substance dependent? Are you?

The Many Faces of Addiction

Addiction comes in many forms. It can be seen in people who are working all the time, excessively looking at pornography, or continually over-exercising. Others might take drugs, yo-yo diet, over-eat, or drink heavily.

The latest addiction you might be aware of is those that are constantly glued to Facebook, needing to know what others are doing, or shaping how others are perceiving them, through presenting a ‘form’ of their reality.

Whatever it is, being addicted means that you must keep doing these things. The reason is that is quells or excites your brain, which becomes unbearable and intolerable if the behaviour or substance is not maintained, and the effect not experienced.

Furthermore, have you thought that a habit or addiction may be a rare source of reliability and consistency in your life? Within your addicted actions, you know exactly what you will get. Whatever you keep repeating, you know how it will make you feel, and that’s the crucial pull.

  • The process of smoking that cigarette is the same every time. You’ll get a rush of consistency and sameness maybe 20 times every day. That’s addictive!
  • You know exactly what you’ll get when drinking alcohol, and you know how it will make you feel, or not feel. Again, it’s no surprise that it becomes addictive.
  • The same with exercise. You know how you feel during and after the gym workout. It’s a rush of adrenalin, and a buzz. Why not do it again!?

If we think about it, addictions become a part of someone’s lifestyle, and shapes their identity. They become defined by the addiction, and define themselves by their repeating behaviour.

Therefore, we start to hear labels, such as “I’m an alcoholic,” or “I’m a workaholic,” and “I’m a fitness freak.”

But there is so much more to a person than these 3 or 4 words.

Escaping from Self-Awareness

An addiction can offer a ‘way out’ when you’re experiencing an intense desire to escape from a part of your life.

Think about what you are looking to escape? Is it yourself, or your feelings perhaps? It might be your work? It could even be your life? You might just want to be somewhere else, as opposed to where you are now?

Maybe it’s a desire for an alternative reality and the relief that is imagined from that? An addiction can offer a form of self-support, or self-survival from one moment to the next, taking you away from the reality of what’s happening in your life.

Who would you be without it? Nothing? Is that too fearful to even think about?

Look at what the need is behind the addiction, other than the physiological need that has been created. What is someone (you) struggling to face? What is actually there? What are they (you) so afraid of?

Meeting You!

It is only in being honest with yourself … telling yourself the true story, that you can begin to quieten your brain, and your thoughts and perceptions, and subsequently begin the process of change.

In my experience, an ‘addict’ holds so much passion in life, and there is something they are running away from. Whilst it might seem strange to want to escape ‘passion’, the reality is that when you don’t know what to ‘do’ with it, it can become unbearable.

Addiction is how you look to avoid experiencing your life. To move to a different way of being, you need to access what is deep within you, get to know it, and befriend it.

It is only through self-awareness that your ‘thinking rational brain’ can understand and quell your emotional brain, so you can reconcile yourself back into your life, with a way to manage yourself, and live harmoniously with who and what you are.

Meeting ‘you’ is the answer.


Dr Tom Barber

Dr Tom Barber has 25 years of experience as an Existential and Integrative Psychotherapist, helping people through a vast array of difficulties. As well as being a bestselling author, his research interests include the study of emotion, and addiction. Tom teaches workshops and lectures throughout the world, and has gained international acclaim for his contributions to psychology, and psychotherapy.