How to Break the Addiction Cycle

Do you have an addiction that is affecting your life?
Would you like a more healthy lifestyle?
Do you know the different stages of drug addiction?

This post will help you break the cycle of addiction. Reading this blog post starts your first step in getting clean and taking back your life. Addictive behavior should not rob you of your happiness. So read on and break the vicious cycle of addiction for good!

Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click on, or make a purchase through a third-party link.


According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics 1

  • 11.7% of Americans age 12 and overuse illegal drugs, and 31.9 million have used them within the last 30 days.
  • 139.8 million Americans 12 and over drink alcoholic beverages, and 14.8 million (10.6%) have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • Less than 8% of those with an AUD receive treatment.
  • There have been 700,000 deaths due to drug overdoses in the United States since 2000.
  • 47% of America’s youth use an illicit drug before high school graduation.

Risk Factors and Protective Factors

Research has shown that drug addiction is multifactorial.

We know that most individuals do not begin using substances to become addicted. We also know that a risk factor for one person may not be a risk factor for another.

The more risk factors one is subjected to in childhood, the greater chance of addiction.

Timing is also essential. Peer pressure during middle and high school is usually more powerful than at other stages of life.

This is also true of protective factors. A robust parent-child bond can have a more significant effect during the Childs early years of life.

Environmental factors such as drug availability and anti-drug use policies are critical. It is impossible to start using drugs or alcohol if they are unavailable.

The table below shows important risk factors and protective factors regarding drug addiction.2

risk factors and protective factors regarding drug addiction

The Seven Stages of Addiction

The infographic below outlines the seven stages of drug addiction.

Unfortunately, it may take several years to progress through all stages. As a result, first-time drug users may not make it to stage 7.

In addition, each stage comes with a higher risk of negative consequences.

Remember, illicit drugs are not the only addictive substances. Prescription drugs can also be abused and are very dangerous if misused.

In 2017, prescription opiates caused 17,029 deaths.3

Ways to Break the Addiction Cycle

respect yourself note on cork board with heart

The Most Important Thing to Remember

If you are reading this post, please realize that you are worthy of happiness.

It doesn’t matter what has happened in your past; you have a gift to give humanity.

I believe the first step in the recovery process is learning how to love yourself. Low self-esteem is an emotional trigger for drug use.

Many of us try to use substances to escape daily life stressors or to numb recurring emotional pain. This might work initially, but it often leads to drug dependence. Remember, the first step is to learn to love yourself.

I am a firm believer in self-love.

Man and woman holding hands looking at ocean during sunset

Engage in Activities that Exclude Intoxicants

One of the easiest ways to break the addictive cycle is to limit activities to those that don’t involve intoxicants. Many forms of entertainment fit this category.

Some ideas are listed below:

  • Engage in a hobby such as scuba diving or photography.
  • Meet a friend and work out at your local gym.
  • Watch a movie.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Cook your favorite meal.
  • Go hiking.
  • Take a walk on the beach.
  • Go to church.
  • Attend a support group.
  • Meditate
  • Read a good book.
  • Play a round of golf.
  • Take a road trip.
Man shopping for a guitar

Develop a Reward System for Not Using

I will never forget things from my experience as Director of Pharmacy in a private psychiatric hospital during the late ’90s.

One of the psychiatrists would tell his patients to take half of the money they would spend on drugs and alcohol and buy something they enjoyed. This can be a powerful tool. Using drugs is expensive, and buying things you want with some of the money you would have spent on your habit can be a compelling deterrent.

You can reward yourself with a trip to the beach, the nail salon, or an expensive meal. A piece of artwork or even a new car!

Whatever it is that makes you happy.

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Traffic sign that reads new skills ahead

Work on Coping Skills


Learning how to deal with stress is crucial if you expect to break the addiction cycle. Pressure can come from relationship problems, job loss, the death of a family member or pet, and even everyday life. Stress often leads to anxiety which can prompt drug or alcohol use. Please read my blog post “9-useful tools for anxiety relief.” for ideas on how to relieve anxiety symptoms. Here are some ideas to help reduce stress. Pick the activities that work best for you.

  • Practice deep breathing techniques.
  • Listen to your favorite music.
  • Try herbal supplements or drink herbal tea.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Get a massage.
  • Spend time in your garden.

The good news is many other choices can help reduce stress. Doing what you enjoy and having a good time is what is important.

Stop the Negative Thinking

Thinking errors can lead to relapse. If you plan to break the addiction cycle, you must learn how to minimize these thoughts. Thinking errors come in many forms, but they can all be detrimental to mental health. Please see my blog post for a more detailed discussion on thinking errors.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the best way to combat thinking errors. This therapy helps to identify unhealthy thoughts and learn to react to them positively. CBT is available as an outpatient or part of a good inpatient substance abuse treatment program.

I highly recommend the book “Feeling Good” by Dr. David D. Burns. This is a must-read for those suffering from substance dependence. I have read this book several times, and it does help with not only thinking errors but anxiety and depression.

Eat Healthily

I cannot overstate the importance of eating healthy

A good diet is not only good for your body, but it also helps your mood. One study showed an unhealthy, high-glycemic diet led to more depression symptoms and an increase in mood disturbances compared to a low-glycemic-load diet.4

A healthy diet can also improve sleep quality.

Be Grateful

Gratitude is an essential aspect of the recovery process.

When a person stops using drugs or alcohol, emotions begin to appear. Addicts often feel guilt, shame, and remorse. It is crucial to balance these negative emotions with positive ones.

We all have many reasons to be grateful. The secret is to focus on the positive aspects of our lives and not dwell on the negative.

For a more in-depth discussion on gratitude, read my blogpost Gratitude Unlocks the Fullness of Life

Bright neurons

Understand the Effects of Dopamine on Your Behavior

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. The dopamine receptors in our brain bind to the dopamine, which leads to the feeling of pleasure. Many things lead to an increase in dopamine release, including:

  • Drugs
  • Sugar
  • Sex
  • Gambling
  • TV
  • Social Media

When we indulge in these behaviors that increase dopamine release, our brains adjust by decreasing the number of dopamine receptors available. When this happens, we need more dopamine to feel normal. If we stop participating in “dopamine-producing” activities, we begin to experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Dysphoria (dissatisfaction with life)
  • irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Craving

This often leads to the person engaging in whatever activity produced the dopamine surplus, to begin with. However, we can break this cycle. If we stop flooding our brains with dopamine long enough, we can return to a balanced state.

Group counseling session

Get Professional Treatment

It is critical to realize that drug addiction is a chronic disease process. For a treatment program to be successful, it must help the patient:

  • Cease the use of intoxicants.
  • Remain drug-free.
  • Become productive at work and in society.
  • Develop into a positive influence on family and friends.

The best treatment programs combine several treatment approaches to provide individualized healing. Drug treatment must provide for individualization. What works well for one patient may not be effective for another. The figure below outlines the principles of an effective drug treatment program according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

There are many outstanding treatment facilities available throughout the United States to choose from. A simple Google search for “drug and alcohol treatment near me” will give you a list of treatment centers in your area.


My Final Thoughts

Drug and alcohol addiction can rob us of happiness and joy. What begins to be an enjoyable activity can turn into a nightmare. Many people have a family history of addiction. If you fall into this category, you owe it to yourself and your family to start a new life.

  • A new life without drugs and alcohol.
  • A new life of happiness.
  • A new life where YOU are in control.


Take a minute to think of your life without intoxicants.


How do you feel?

What will you accomplish?

How will this affect the people around you?

There is no better time to start your recovery than right now! You deserve to be happy! You deserve a better life!

If you have any questions about this post or anything related to health and wellness, feel free to email me at [email protected].

Remember, it is up to you to live a happy, healthy life, and Sunshine Nutraceuticals can help!

Michael Brown in Lab Coat with arms crossed

Michael J. Brown, RPh, BCPS, BCPP

Mr. Brown is a Clinical Pharmacist specializing in pharmacotherapy and psychiatry.

Read Michael’s story here.

Feel free to send Michael a message using this link.

  2. Retrieved from on 2022, June 10
  4. Kara L. Breymeyer, Johanna W. Lampe, Bonnie A. McGregor, Marian L. Neuhouser,
    Subjective mood and energy levels of healthy weight and overweight/obese healthy adults on high-and low-glycemic load experimental diets, Appetite, Volume 107, 2016, Pages 253-259, ISSN 0195-6663