What is the addiction cycle?

The addiction cycle has four stages:


The addict starts thinking about his addiction. His mind blocks out everything else and he quickly loses control. His brain has been hijacked.

When thoughts leading to addictive behavior enter your mind, replace them immediately with other thoughts.

It is important to know the cues: the places or situations that trigger the preoccupation — and avoid them.


The addict's behavior follows a pattern that is highly predictable. Their excuse is “I need it” or “I deserve it.”

The sexual addict may look at a pornographic website, go to a strip club, browse in an adult bookstore or cruise a red light district.

The gambler may buy a copy of The Racing Form or put money into his track account.

The alcoholic might visit a favorite bar on his way to a party. He might hide a bottle "just in case."

The addict experiences pleasure during the fixation and preparation stages.


Now the attraction is so strong that the addict is forced to continue. He is in a trance-like state, like being on automatic pilot. No appeals to family, job or moral values will stop him.

He becomes euphoric as he takes the drink, places the bet, experiences the sexual release or the drug-induced high.

Shame and Depression

After the high, the addict falls into depression. This creates the need to begin again.

The depression is caused by his loss of self-control and the possible consequences.

To take away the pain of his depression, he begins the cycle again. He tries to get rid of the low by getting high again.

For some addicts, drugs, alcohol, sex, food or gambling becomes a way to get through life’s difficulties. While most people can stop, addicts seem unable to stop. The addiction is a way to cope with life.

To overcome an addiction... stop at the very first stage...

the Fixation Stage

This is not easy since the cycle moves very quickly to the next three stages: Preparation, Compulsion, Shame and Depression.

To break this addiction cycle, a person needs strong support. Meeting Jesus Christ in Quiet Time and following the 12-step program is the answer.

The addict in the established stage is powerless over their addiction and must seek the help of a higher power. Dr. Patrick Carnes

Overcoming an addiction NEXT >

Return from Addiction Cycle to Serenity Prayer

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