Expert offers tips to resist addictions
During this first week of 2006, many Texans have probably vowed to kick bad habits that have been clouding their lives -- whether it's drinking too much, smoking, overeating or taking drugs.
James Quinn, professor of rehabilitation, social work and addictions at the University of North Texas and coordinator of the addictions program for the Department of Rehabilitation, Social Work and Addictions, says one of the first steps you should take in abolishing a bad habit from your life is getting social support.
"Stay away from smokers. Stay away from people stuffing food in your face. Get with people who will be supportive of you," he says.
Those fighting addictions to drugs or alcohol should talk to their doctors as a first step, Quinn says, adding that the conversation should be good for motivation and will help them understand why they should kick the habit. Doctors can also discuss pharmaceuticals that might help, he says.
When dealing with an alcohol problem, consider whether you need to control your drinking or eliminate it, he says.
"Ask the people close to you to find out what you should do. Look for signs of loss of control. If you try to cut down and can't, you probably need to quit altogether," Quinn says.
He says stress reduction is very important in kicking any addiction.
"Stress will send you back to any addiction -- from heroin to food," Quinn says.
He suggests participating in cardiovascular exercise for at least 20 minutes a day at least two to three times a week to relieve stress and depression, exercising in the afternoon or evening to burn off stress or in the morning to combat depression.
"Exercise is also going to make your brain work better, which means you are thinking instead of acting impulsively," he says.
Quinn's other tips for combating addictions include:
- Determining what purpose the addictions serve in your life. For example, drinkers may use alcohol to relieve stress, he says.
- Finding a counselor who can help you through your addiction.
- Talking to your doctor about alternative therapies, such as hypnotherapy for smoking.
- Considering neurofeedback or biofeedback. This relaxation response is a way of teaching the calm, peaceful brain to take power over the emotional, impulsive brain, Quinn says.
- If you relapse, just vow to quit again, Quinn says .
"You have to take it as a learning experience," he says. "Relapse tells you what you failed to account for. Maybe you put yourself in a situation of temptation, or maybe you let your stress build up."