An Addiction is an unhealthy obsession where find yourself losing self-control of your regular life routines because you are focused on something you think is rewarding either physically, mentally or financially but is seriously harmful to your health and wellbeing.
The biggest cause of Addiction in autistic people is finding specific things that we become obsessed with through our natural ability to Hyper-Focus. This is not necessarily a bad thing as many autistic have found great success by using this trait but when we find an Obsessive Interest that causes us to lose complete control of our usual life routines, this interest has become an addiction.
How well you can manage Addiction first depends what kind of Addiction you have. There at least 3 types of Addictions (maybe more): Electronic Addictions, Money Addictions and Substance Abuse Addictions with each one being more severe than the last. The latter will certainly require professional help to manage but for now, you can start managing Addiction by using the different strategies below.
Electronic Addictions are addictions that are accessed through electronic devices such as Video Games, the Internet and Social Media.
To Limit Access Electronically involves using software of electronic devices such as apps, browser extensions and default settings to limit the use of your electronic devices. To help you do this, I have broken it down into steps below:
When I once played an open world video game, I knew that I would get addicted to it, so I limited my time playing it to 2 hours a day by setting a timer on my phone.
I can spend hours just watching YouTube videos and this wastes time I could use productively. In order to stop this I used a Google Chrome extension called “Block the YouTube feed”. This prevented me from taking interest in random videos that pop on the homepage and recommended videos side bar putting me in control of what I watch.
I find that I spend so much time on my phone because of how attractive it is to look at and this had to change. One trick used by professionals in Silicon Valley is to make the screen black and white which can be done in the phone’s settings. Another thing I did was make the wallpaper background solid black.
I originally watched YouTube videos through the YouTube app on my phone which was problematic as it made so easy to access and lose myself in YouTube so I decided to delete the app off my phone and my other devices for good measure.
I realised that I could still watch YouTube through the phone’s internet so I blocked it using the ScreenTime (I use an iPhone) in my phone settings in order to keep YouTube completely off my phone fully preventing any temptation to use it.
One of the negative triggers of autism is boredom, I learned this from an autism course I did. I released that I could be tempted to unblock YouTube to cure my boredom. In order to avoid this, I looked for an alternative to YouTube which I found in the form of Facebook Videos: these videos require you to actively search for what you want to watch and they will lead to random videos which you most likely will not want to watch hence it puts you in control of the content.
To Limit Access Physically means to find ways to keep yourself away from your device by moving it somewhere else. To help you do this, I have broken it down into steps below:
I always used to turn my phone off before I went to bed so it wouldn’t go off in the middle of the night disturbing my sleep. I did this until I started using the next step below.
Nowadays, I always keep my phone on my desk which is at the opposite side of the room from my bed (where I tend to use it most often at home). This also motivates me to get out of bed if I want to use it.
I have even gone as far as leaving my phone in the living room rather than take it up into bedroom with me.
I only use my iPad for my work so I removed everything that I don’t need in order to work such as streaming software like Netflix and only keep things such as Pages and Keynote (Apple’s versions of Word and PowerPoint).
I used to use my phone as an alarm clock but this had the negative habit of me then using my phone after turning off the alarm. I used to combat this by using an alarm clock and now I use my smart speaker for the alarm. Another thing I like to do is read and rather than use ebooks at home, I prefer to read physical books.
I remember the first mobile phone I ever got was a Trium Mars, what we today call a dumb phone but they were revolutionary at the time. It was limited in what it could do and because of that people such as myself were happier not using them. Dumb phones still exist today and are ideal for anyone who can’t find any other way to deal with their phone addiction.
Finding something else to do is about looking for an activity that is a better use of your time, something that you can focus on instead of an electronic screen. To help you do this, I have made a list of ideas for you down below:
I started playing Pokémon GO on my phone when it first came out and it was a phenomenon. The game had you walk around in real life to catch Pokémon and would encourage you to explore different areas, even new ones in order to find more Pokémon.
Before I go to bed, I always try to make time to read a book. This could be a comic book, a novel or even a non-fiction book. Sometimes I find certain books difficult to read and for that I use audiobooks. An audiobook is a recording of person reading the book to you, this makes it easier as all you have to do is listen.
Music is a great motivator for our emotions. For me, I like to listen to music that is either fast pace or has lyrics that inspire me when I run on my treadmill or do chores around the house. When I work, I use slower paced music such as classical or ambience to calm me down. Aspie Heroes has lists of music to listen to for both situations in the Health & Wellbeing section of the site, you can find our Aspie Heroes Health & Wellbeing page by clicking EXPLORE at the top of the page (Between ABOUT and CONTACT).
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do. I find a good walk helps me clear my head of any worries I have by looking at what’s around me in the present moment as I walk by it.
Meditation has been a huge benefit for me, I use it as a way to calm myself down when I get anxious and I use it to bring myself back to attention when I lose focus or concentration. Meditation can be simple as doing breathing exercises like this: breathe in for 3 seconds, holding the breath for 4 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds.
Technology is just a tool designed to help make our lives easier and more efficient. As we humans created computers, we should be the ones in control of them not them controlling us. We as humans have far more willpower than any piece of technology, all that we need to do is believe in our power.
Money Addictions are addictions that need money to make them happen. The money is not the addiction itself, it is actually used to fuel the addiction. Two of the most notable Money Addictions are Shopping and Gambling.
Being Decisive involves making a decision or a plan on what you are going to do with your time or in this case money ahead of time and sticking to that plan. To help you do this, I have broken this down into steps below:
The first thing you have to do is understand that shops and gambling outlets are there to take money from you. They will try to lure you in with special offers or offering you 1 more (another item or another game), 1 more too many. I’ve tried playing claw machines for a plush toy I liked. I had seen people just win at them which told me it was possible but even though I managed to grab the plush toy it would never come to me. In the end, I realised it would be easier to buy a plush instead.
When I was a kid and it was Christmas, I would always ask for toys or video games as they were what I wanted. As I’ve gotten older though, I have realised that the focus of my wants and desires should be on what I need to benefit my life. This means I now focus on buying or asking for (at Christmas and on my birthday) things that I need such as a chest of drawers which I can use to store and organise things.
When my cousin and I did our food shopping, we always went to get what we thought we needed but we also got distracted by looking and buying other things we didn’t need leading us to waste more time shopping and dragging it out. To combat this, we started making a list of stuff we needed by looking around our house first beforehand so we wouldn’t waste time and money.
This may sound counter productive to procrastinate on something but as autistic people we always procrastinate on things that are helpful to us and never procrastinate on those things which are unhelpful to us so perhaps it’s best to focus all of our procrastination on our negative habits instead.
This can be as simple as saying you will shop and gamble later. For me, I have seen things I want to buy but then I have said to myself “I’ll come back for it another day” and by saying this I have taken the pressure off myself to compulsively buy something and give myself the time to think about whether or not I want or NEED the thing that interested me in the first place.
Controlling your Money involves looking at how money is used to make payments (usually through cash and cards) and then find ways to reduce or block these payments. To help you do this, I have broken it down into steps below:
Every year I go to Comic Con. When I go there, I always prepare by working out how much it will cost me to get autographs from the famous people attending first (as they are the main reason people attend) and how much I want to spend at the shop stalls, then I take the money out accordingly. I budget it as half the money for autographs, half for the stalls and I take extra just in case.
When I have my budget sorted out for comic con, I take money with me in the form of cash so I don’t get tempted to spend more than what I have in hand and this keeps my budget on target.
My cousin once had issues with controlling her money spending as she found that by having her cash cards with her that she felt constantly tempted to spend money. To stop this, she started leaving her cash cards at home as without them she couldn’t wildly spend.
My cousin found that leaving her cash cards at home was something she couldn’t keep too. Instead, she gave her cash cards to her mother who would agree a budget cash mount to be withdrawn and make sure my cousin could not access her cards after that.
In doing research for money addictions, I learned that if someone loses their cash cards and uses a phone banking app, they can temporarily freeze their cash cards to prevent any unauthorised spending of their cards. I believe that this can also be used as a way to prevent the card’s owner from being tempted to wildly spend.
There are two ways to access Money Addictions: Online and Offline. Online access involves spending money over the internet whereas Offline access involves spending money in a physical location such as a shop or casino. To help you do this, I have broken down both types of access into steps below:
This applies to gambling more than shopping. A lot of gambling websites nowadays offer online tools to help you keep control of your gambling such as a budget setter and time out feature which will throw you out of your gambling account and lock you out for a certain amount of time, forcing you to take time away from the addicting website.
This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to deal online money addictions just like with electronic addictions. If you have an account to a certain website that is the centre of your addiction, then deleting it will stop you from being able to immediately use it.
For good measure, after deleting your accounts, it will be a good idea to block the websites as a double security measure to protect yourself against the addiction.
There are a few places I love to visit in my city such as a gadget shop and a video game shop. I know that if I enter these places, that I’ll start looking for something to buy so I realised that if I don’t want to buy something then I should avoid going to these shops by taking a different route around my city, even if it takes me longer to get to where I NEED to go.
Self-Excluding yourself means asking gambling places not to allow you inside. You can do this by contacting or entering the gambling place and declaring that you want to self-exclude from them. This is only way you can block yourself from a gambling place physically.
Substance Abuse Addictions are addictions such as smoking, alcohol and drugs. These addictions are not only bad for you mentally and financially (like electronic and money addictions), they are bad for you physically and if you don’t do something about these addictions, they can make you severely ill and can even result in an early death. Yes, you can die from Substance Abuse Addictions.
I have never abused substances or had any Substance Abuse Addictions. My experience with substance abuse is from those around me, in my family, who have abused substances in their lives so the advice offered here is based off what I learned worked and didn’t work for them.
Substance Abuse Addictions are the hardest addictions to manage as they not only affect you mentally but also physically. We will look at some of the things you can do to help you with your addiction, these are Get Help, Will Yourself and Take Control. Remember though, these are not easy addictions to beat, it will be a long journey.
You need to understand that your body has already adjusted to the abused substance inside it and is ready to fight against you as it refuses to change. Change is something your body must do in order for you to beat your Substance Abuse Addiction and because of this you will not beat Substance Abuse Addiction alone, you need help. Below are steps you should take to “Get Help” with your addiction:
The first thing you need to do on your journey to manage your addiction is to admit to it. Admitting you have a Substance Abuse Addiction shows that you know something is wrong with you and that you want to change it. To change it, you have to NEED to beat addiction not simply WANT it, this is where many go wrong with making changes in their lives.
You must not let your pride get in the way of your journey. Your pride may tell you that you can beat addiction on your own, in your own way but this will not work. You need help to beat your Substance Abuse Addictions as they are heavy burdens to carry on your. Open up to others, such as your family and friends, telling them that you have a problem so they can help you by holding you accountable to staying on your journey to beat addiction.
The best help you can get with your addiction is from your Doctor. A Doctor can help you by recommending various treatment options for your addiction such as medication, counselling or even going to a rehab centre. There are probably more options available but you will have to speak to your Doctor to find out what they are.
When speaking to your Doctor, it is important to tell them everything about your addiction and how your life has been affected by it. The more you tell the Doctor, the better the Doctor can understand your addiction and recommend the way that could help treat you the best.
With a treatment option decided by you and your Doctor, you now need to commit to it. If it is medication, you must make sure to take it regularly as prescribed. If it is councilling, you must attend regularly and be open about your addiction even admitting to any relapses (giving in to your addiction) you may have had. If it is rehab, you should stay there until the rehab staff are satisfied that you have beaten your addiction, not when you think you are.
To “Will Yourself” you must WANT to beat your addiction and to do that you NEED a reason to do it, a reason that you can use to remind yourself why it it so important to beat your addiction. Below are reasons why you should “Will Yourself” to beat your addiction:
Substance Abuse is highly damaging to you health. It can leave you feeling short of breath, having an aged appearance (I saw a recent picture of my aunt, I couldn’t recognise her, she looked like she was 80 but was actually 57 because of her smoking) and even worse, cause heart attacks/liver failure LEADING TO YOUR DEATH. If you don’t want this to happen to you, then you need to beat your addiction. By doing so, you will have more energy, you will physically look better and YOU WILL LIVE MUCH LONGER.
Substance Abuse damages your Mental Health as much as your Health. Mentally you will spent most of your time in a low mood feeling anxious or becoming more aggressive without the substance in your body. With the substance in your body, you will feel a FALSE SENSE of positivity and feel in control but these soon fade away with you back in a low mood again. This is an endless cycle. If you want to break this cycle you must beat your addiction and if you do you will feel much happier, REALLY be in control and can develop real confidence.
A life of Substance Abuse is a life of waiting for your next fix (use of the substance), being a slave to the bottle or powder. When addicted, you become a sneak with your abuse by hiding substances around your home (my uncle hid alcohol around his home) or sneaking away to abuse (my cousin would sneak off to take drugs). Is this how you want to spend the rest of your life? If not, then you need to beat your addiction. Think about how much better your life will be without substance abuse: being able to spend your time on better things such as your family.
Substance Abuse costs money- WAY TOO MUCH. Cigarettes are highly taxed, alcohol is strictly measured and you will pay whatever a drug dealer demands. What a WASTE OF MONEY this is and if left unchecked will leave you in debt (another cousin of mine had to get a 2nd job just pay off debts from their drug abuse). Without drug abuse, you will have more money available to you: you can buy that thing you always wanted but have never been available to afford, treat yourself to a holiday, support your family or save up for the future.
Drug Abuse is illegal and Alcohol Abuse can lead you to being arrested for being “Drunk&Disorderly” or being “Under the Influence”. The 2nd of those two is worse because you could actually kill someone this way, this could be yourself. Being in trouble with the law may be the motivation you need beat your addiction but you may be forced into a treatment program and when we are forced into something, we tend to not it give our all. With Substance Abuse, YOU MUST give it your all to beat it. It’s better to get help willingly rather than the law forcing you!
Your Family & Friends suffer from your Substance Abuse. They are forced to watch your HEALTH deteriorate, be the victim of your MENTAL HEALTH aggression, watch your QOL revolve around your next fix, watch you plunge into debt from wasting MONEY and worst of all, have to get you from a Police Station because you broke THE LAW. You see, Family & Friends suffer as much as you do. Is it really fair for them to have to suffer because of you? No? Then use this to motivate your self to beat addiction as they are life’s greatest treasures, not substances.
Trying to “Take Control” is easier said than done. It requires tremendous Willpower, Motivation and Help. It is a very difficult journey to go on and complete as there are many obstacles in your way to tempt you into losing control. Below are some of the things you should consider to stay in control:
This can be anyone you trust such as family or friends- a trustee. Promise you will beat your addiction, why you need to do it and that you will start NOW. Have this recorded as a video which you can send to as many people your trust. The idea of this, is to prove that you are willing to take control of your addiction and want someone hold you accountable to your promise in order to help you stay on track with your commitment. When you’re struggling, watch the recording you made to remind you why you are trying to beat your addiction.
There are many different treatment options for Substance Abuse but the best one is Rehab, specifically Inpatient Rehab. Inpatient Rehab involves you living in a Rehab centre for an amount of time whilst receiving treatment there. Inpatient Rehab allows you to come away from your usual environments were your addiction occurs, to be an environment where you can give your full attention to beating your addiction and substance abuse addiction will NEED your full attention to beat it.
Whilst in rehab, you may be receiving treatment along with other addicts, one way is where you all share your experiences about your addiction. In treatment, socialising is fine but when you are not currently receiving treatment, these people should be avoided as they are more likely to tempt you into giving in to your addiction (my second-cousin checked into rehab for her drug addiction, had a relationship with another addict who encouraged her to do more drugs and now she is no longer with us, she was in her 40’s).
The best role models for you and the people who YOU SHOULD be socialising with, are those who are clean and have stayed clean from substance abuse addictions (during my cousin’s recovery from alcohol addiction, he stayed with a man who had stayed clean off alcohol for over 20 years). People like this are the ideal role models who prove to you that substance abuse can be beaten, stay beaten and that it is possible to rebuild your life after substance abuse.
Once you are clean, you should avoid anything that may tempt you to return to your addiction. Avoid drug dealers, avoid going to the pub and avoid going to e-cig shops. With smoking nowadays, cigarettes are no longer allowed to be on view in shops making this temptation easier to avoid. With alcohol it can be harder, for a start avoid alcohol aisles in shops and if you have to go to a pub/restaurant then choose soft drinks, tea or coffee (by law pubs must sell tea&coffee). Remember, it only takes one drink or cigarette to set you back to square one.
Although we have tried to give you as many strategies help you with Substance Abuse as possible, Substance Abuse Addictions are very difficult to beat. It is a long, hard journey to beat this kind of addiction because as you try to beat it, your body will fight back trying to tempt you back into your addictions and you must summon the willpower to SAY NO. Remember you have more likely to beat addiction by seeking help, willing yourself and taking control than if you tried to beat it all on your own. We wish you all the best on this difficult journey!
All photos on ADDICTION page are taken from Pixabay OR Unsplash except for the ones stated below:
The pictures for 'Hide the Influence', 'Make the Screen Look Boring' and 'Block your Access to it' in the 'Limit Access Electronically' section belong to me.
The pictures for 'Freeze your cards temporarily' in the 'Control your Money' section and 'Block the addicting websites' in the 'Limit your Access' section belong to me.