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The Cycle of Addiction

Cycle of Addiction DiagramMost of us know someone who, we can see, is addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, work, chocolate or something else, but who maintains it’s not a problem. They could give up tomorrow if they wanted to, it’s just something they enjoy and it isn’t doing them any harm anyway.

This is the denial, or pre-contemplation stage.

Then at some point they have to admit to themselves they should stop, or cut down at the very least – but tomorrow, not just yet. They have reached the contemplation stage. This can go on for a long time before they actually do anything about their addiction.

Next they make a firm decision that they are going to do something positive, this is the determination stage. They get all the information they need and might feel quite committed to taking charge rather than being at the mercy of their addiction.

Eventually the time is right for them to take action. They might do it on their own, have an agreement with a friend to kick the habit together or seek professional help. They can feel quite strong and upbeat, determined that they are going to succeed.

Next comes the maintenance stage. This can be challenging and they may need support. Their enthusiasm for their new life might slip, after all it does not seem a load of fun and they would just love a cigarette, a Mars bar or a large glass of Sauvignon blanc.

And this is where they are at risk of relapse. That one cigarette turns into a whole packet, the Mars bar is the first of many. And it’s all too difficult, I don’t think I can do this after all.

Some people then go right back to the pre-contemplation, or denial stage again. Others realise that all is not lost and take action once again.

Many of us go round and round the cycle a number of times before we finally kick our addiction. So it is important not to feel we are failures if we have relapsed several times. The next time we could well succeed and finally be free of our addiction.