Carey already did an amazing job defining addiction in the very first blog post called “If you are addicted to it, then it is an addiction.”
Like she said, addiction is unique to the individual. Addiction hides behind many masks. It is something that we may or may not be aware of, if we are; we are most likely ashamed of it. We may feel the need to hide it from those who we care about most or we care about what others think about us. Its repetitive behavior, it robs our time by way of our thoughts, actions and moods. Withdrawal symptoms are inevitable, and we may even miss the behavior like an old friend.
For all of us who have overcome a bad habit, know the difficulty it can be with it returning, and returning with a vengeance. For me it was my depression and weight. After I got married, which was a positive stress, the change from being single to a couple, and a mother of two was an upheaval to the structure that kept me on the right path. That structure was perfected as a single person, but the terrain changed. Like spiritual paralyses I had to relearn the things that kept me strong in the past.
A message by Victor D. Cave had a profound influence on me years ago when I was battling depression. Called: "Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Empty House", Ensign, Mar. 2003, 45–47
You might wonder what one of Jesus Christ parables would have to do with addiction. Whether or not you believe in God or the Devil, there IS opposition in all things; Light/Darkness, Good/Bad, etc.
In this message he quotes Spencer W. Kimball
“The devil knows where to tempt, where to put in his telling blows. He finds the vulnerable spot. Where one was weak before, he will be most easily tempted again.
“In abandoning sin one cannot merely wish for better conditions. He must make them. … He must eliminate anything which would stir the old memories.
“Does this mean that the man who has quit smoking or drinking or had sex pollutions finds life empty for a time? The things which engaged him and caught his fancy and occupied his thoughts are gone, and better substitutions have not yet filled the void. This is Satan’s opportunity. The man makes a start but may find the loss of the yesterday’s habits so great that he is enticed to return to his evil ways, and his lot thus becomes infinitely worsened. …
“Many who have discontinued bad habits have found that substitution is part of the answer, and have conquered a bad habit by replacing it with a good or harmless one.” (The Miracle of Forgiveness (1969), 171–73.)
“True repentance (or putting off an addiction) is not merely eliminating the negative but replacing it with positive attitudes and actions.”
The parable of the Empty House is found in the New Testament, Matt. 12:22-37 and also can be found in that article in more clarity. To be honest I didn’t understand it reading it through the first time. It took several times and allot of prayer and study. I felt it held answers for me so I was driven to understand it. It had such a profound effect on me that several years later I did a sort of a diptych of the parable.
The second painting was to symbolically show a “full” house. We are vessels that must be full at all times. We choose what to fill our vessels with.
So what can we replace our bad habits with?
It will be different for everyone, just like our weaknesses and addictions are varied. Our strengths are varied too. We can’t afford to be idle. That is when we can be caught off guard. For me filling me life with more prayer, fasting, scripture study, service, yoga, meditation, work, painting along with other hobbies etc., helped me a great deal. Avoiding people or places that would potentially bring me down, like an alcoholic would avoid a bar, I had to avoid certain things that would trigger my eating or depression.
If you look within yourself, you can find many wholesome things to replace the time spent being less edified. It is good to have a plan so you can fall back on it during weak moments. I can confirm that it does get easier as we persist. Because that which we persist in doing becomes easier, not because the nature of the thing has changed, but because our ability to do it has increased. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) And with God’s help, anything is possible.