Modifying Addictive Behaviors: Tips to Help You and Your Teen

Recovering from an addiction—the compulsion to engage in an activity or take a substance, regardless of the negative consequences—is a difficult path. There are many types of addiction, from substance abuse to porn to gambling. An addict usually wants to quit their dependence, but either don’t know how or finds it too hard to give up. We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can help your teen start modifying their addictive behaviors in order to help them take steps toward recovery.

Try to Postpone the Behavior

Photo by Luis Llerena

Recovery is a process, not a destination. If the idea of letting go of an addiction altogether seems too difficult for your teen, encourage them to start small and postpone the activity for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes has passed, they can try to see if they can do it for another 10 minutes. If they keep doing this for as long as they can, your teen may find they can stay away from their addiction for much longer than they thought!

Replace the Behavior With Something Else

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Replacing an addiction with a safer alternative may help your teen get through some tough cravings. For example, if they’re recovering from a drug addiction, they can chew gum or shoot hoops in the driveway when they experience an urge to get high. If they’re recovering from an Internet addiction, they can go for a hike in the woods, away from their computer and phone. Finding a different behavior can help prevent a relapse. Even more, it may help your teen stay healthy if the replacement activity leads your teen to go outside and get some exercise.

Change Environments

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Many people who struggle with an addiction find that there are certain places, people or situations that are present when they engage in their addiction. Perhaps your teen takes drugs when they hang out with a particular friend, or maybe there’s a specific grocery store where they buy food to indulge their craving. Suggest that they change their environment so they no longer encounter these places or people. For example, you can recommend that they take a different route home from school to avoid that grocery store or spend time with other friends who won’t pressure them to do drugs.

Reduce Vulnerabilities

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While there are many different things and situations that may cause people to be vulnerable to their addiction, the most common factors that induce relapses are being Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT). Next time your teen experiences a craving, they should HALT and check if they’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired. If so, they can do what they need to change that feeling, whether that’s getting a bite to eat, talking with a friend or taking a nap.

Make Recovery a Priority

Photo by Leonie Fahjen

Recovering from an addiction and modifying addictive behaviors takes a lot of hard work. In order for your teen to succeed in recovery, they need to ensure they make recovery a priority. This means occasionally stepping back from social events or extracurricular activities so that your teen can focus on their health and well-being.

Feature Image: Jordan Sanchez