For Patients Hot Topics Psychology Wellbeing & Fitness

Dry January is Finally Over but Does it Actually Help in the Long Term?

Written by Mr Gary Bloom for Doctify

Dry January is something that has taken off in recent years. For some the motivation behind it is to cut back after overindulging at Christmas. Others are sponsored to do it for charity. And then there are those that are doing it just to prove that they can. But is this actually a meaningful achievement? And can it help with taming our habits?

Here to give us some insight into addictive tendencies is Psychotherapist, Mr Gary Bloom

Are short periods (like Dry January) of giving things up like certain foods, alcohol or gambling actually helpful?

Addiction is a really complex business and short periods of giving up may reduce your appetite in the short term, but rarely works in the long term.

As a therapist I’m more concerned what the addiction is covering up. We all have addictive behaviours, from shopping and using a smart phone to cigarettes, alcohol, sex, and drugs. I’d suggest seeking counselling to find out why you have the addiction

Can you ever give up an addiction cold turkey?

Yes, but it’s very difficult and some addictions are more dangerous if you stop suddenly (like drug abuse) and once again I would suggest seeking medical advice.

Understanding why the addiction is there is more helpful in my opinion.

Do the nature of addictions change depending on the type?

An addiction is an addiction. They only differ in who they affect. We often find that addictions are co-morbid – that is, they are often present in more than one addiction at the same time. Some therapists see eating/drug taking as a form of self harm and might be viewed psychologically on a attack on a something much deeper inside the person.

Other therapists feel there is a strong connection between food and love, and over eaters are trying to compensate for an ’emptiness’ in early years.

The bottom line really is ‘seek professional help’.

What are some tips for giving up addictions for good?

There’s no shortcut here. You might as well be asking ‘can I run a marathon without any training or diet modification?’

You need psychological help and remember to be patient with yourself and those who are treating you. Doctify have an excellent directory of qualified therapists.

How can you help a loved one through overcoming an addiction?

I think our whole attitude to addiction is a bit messed up. People turn to addictions when they are stressed or lonely or feel unempowered.

During the Vietnam war 20% of US soldiers were taking heroin to get through the horrific conditions they were encountering (if you’re too young to remember this conflict watch a film called ‘Apocalypse Now’). Once back home, the US government were frightened that after the war there would be mass heroin addiction amongst returning soldiers. But this didn’t happen. There was only 2% addiction reported. When the soldiers went back to their families, friends and jobs their need for narcotics to dull their senses disappeared. They stopped using.

Many years ago in a laboratory, they put a solitary rat in a cage with two feeding bottles, one filled with heroin and water and the other with just water. Nearly all the rats died of an overdose.

Next they created a similar experiment – a much larger compound but with lots of rats with exercise wheels and tunnels and good food and where they had lots of rat kissing and cuddling ( well, rat sex). In fact, they had built heaven. Again two feeding bottles with similar solutions in them were provided. Guess what? Not a single rat died of an overdose!

The opposite of addiction is not sobriety – it’s socialisation. Build a version of rat heaven for that person and addiction will disappear!



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