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Understanding the Cycle of Addiction

Man finally understanding the cycle of addiction

The cycle of addiction is the process by which the addiction continually manifests in someone who is actively abusing alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription medications. When that cycle is broken, and the person lives a healthier lifestyle, they are in recovery. Understanding how the cycle of addiction perpetuates is crucial in figuring out how to disrupt the process so that healing can begin. Unfortunately, without outside intervention from professional counselors, doctors, and rehab programs, most addicts are unable to break addiction’s repetitive cycle.

At Northpoint Recovery, our team of professionals works hard to create individualized addiction treatment programs that meet each patient’s needs so they can find hope on their journey toward a healthier life. We are committed to providing compassionate care, education, and support so you can recover. Learn more about our programs or find addiction information by contacting us online or calling 888.296.8976.

What Is the Addiction Spectrum?

Addiction exists on a continuum that gradually worsens over time. This pattern includes:

  • Misuse – This is when a person experiments with drugs or alcohol recreationally or uses those substances to ease physical or emotional pain. When they experience the temporary pleasurable effects of alcohol or drugs, they are motivated to use them again.
  • Abuse – This is when the person increases their drug and alcohol use to escape reality and prolong the desired euphoric effects.
  • Addiction – By this time, the majority of the person’s time and effort is spent in the acquisition of more drugs or alcohol.

Ironically, the problems they are trying to escape are still there. New problems invariably arise as a result of constant substance use. This is when a person becomes dependent upon the substance, and satisfying their craving becomes their existence.

What Is the Cycle of Addiction?

The cycle of addiction is a process that describes how an individual continually engages in substance abuse, leading to dependence and, ultimately, addiction. Understanding this cycle is crucial for disrupting it and starting the journey towards recovery.

7 Steps of the Cycle of Addiction

The cycle of addiction has seven steps that may present variably for different users. For example, a person who abuses a substance daily may rotate through that cycle several times during the day, while a person who binges may move through the process at a different pace.

  1. Frustration – Substance-seeking as a means of relief
  2. Fantasizing – Thinking about using or drinking
  3. Obsessing – Uncontrollably thinking about how it will feel after using or drinking
  4. Using or drinking – Achieving relief for the pain or frustration
  5. Loss of control – Inability to regulate frequency or amount of use
  6. Dissatisfaction – Feelings of remorse, shame, and guilt for using or drinking
  7. Promising to quit – Resolving “never again”

Unfortunately, this proves to be an empty promise because when the emotional or physical frustration turns, the addicted person begins to re-experience the fantasies of relieving their pain with alcohol or drugs.

How to Break the Cycle of Addiction

The cycle of addiction is broken when the addicted person becomes abstinent and makes lifestyle changes that substitute dysfunctional, self-destructive behaviors for healthier, productive ones.

Here are the stages of readiness for that change:

  • Pre-contemplation – At this point, the person has not even considered stopping drinking or using.
  • Contemplation – The person begins to consider quitting.
  • Preparation – The person begins to mentally prepare to quit using or drinking.
  • Action – The person seeks treatment, begins counseling, or attends self-help groups. At this point, the person has stopped using.
  • Maintenance – Following a recovery program, the person lives a healthier, substance-free lifestyle.

One important thing to remember is that a relapse can occur at any stage of recovery. Aftercare and ongoing support are essential for successful, long-lasting recovery.

Start Your Journey at Northpoint Recovery

At Northpoint Recovery, we understand that there is hope in every situation. Our team of experts strives to provide creative and innovative approaches to addiction treatment. Learn more and get started today by calling 888.296.8976 or contacting us online.