Addiction is complicated. It’s a serious mental health condition that causes people to repeatedly engage in behaviors- even if it’s harmful and they want to stop. Part of the reason that addiction is so challenging is that it operates in a cycle that is difficult to escape. Find out what the cycle of addiction looks like and how someone can get out of it.
What is the Cycle of Addiction?
The cycle of addiction is the typical pattern many people with a substance abuse addiction fall into. It’s possible to get out of the cycle and break the addiction or get caught up in the never-ending, repeat behaviors that focus on immediate rewards.
The cycle has eight stages:
- Internal frustration
- Substance abuse
- Loss of control
- Guilt over use
- Stopping use
- Passage of time
The starting point of the cycle of addiction is some form of internal frustration. A person may be dealing with additional stress, be peer pressured or bullied, or be unhappy with their life. This type of stressor leads them to the next stage in the cycle – fantasizing about relief.
The person now starts imagining what it would be like if they felt better or if life was more carefree. The thought of a substance, such as drugs and alcohol, providing immediate relief starts to feel very tempting.
After having the initial fantasy, the thoughts eventually progress into an obsessive stage. The person is now constantly thinking about how they could be in a much better place if they caved into their desires.
Eventually, this may lead to stage four – substance abuse. Initially, you might be able to convince yourself that you have control and you only use the substance sparingly. But, eventually, you will develop a physical and mental dependence, and you’ll need more and more of the substance. At this point, you enter stage five of the cycle – losing control.
When you lose control to your addiction, you’ll start to make poor choices. Your physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and performance at school or work may all suffer. Sadly, you begin to prioritize your substance needs over everything else. And then you start to feel guilty about your actions and choices, which brings us to stage six in the cycle.
Some people enter the guilt stage quickly, and others may take months or years to get here. Sometimes, an intervention from loved ones is needed to get to the guilt stage. But getting to the guilt stage is an important step. It helps you to start looking beyond your addiction to the consequences of your choices. Additionally, the guilt stage is the precursor to change.
Eventually, your guilt might be strong enough to drive you to seek help and stop abusing substances. It’s important to note that it can be hard to get to this stage of the cycle, but ending substance abuse is possible if loved ones can support you and you get the help you need.
Over time, you’ll conquer your addiction and understand how to handle your triggers. You can lead a happy, sober life and thrive.
Of course, this cycle doesn’t look the same for everyone. Some might recognize the warning signs at stage four (substance abuse) and get help before reaching stage five (loss of control). And others might make it all the way to stage seven (stopping use), only to relapse and have to go through the entire cycle again before reaching stage eight (passage of time).
Regardless of how you experience the cycle, knowing this pattern is common is essential. You’re not alone, and there are systems out there that help you get through the cycle. Contact Hickory Treatment Center today to find out how we can support you or a loved one on the road to recovery.