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Addictions Are Not Crutches

addictionA crutch is a handy device that provides support in times of injury. We use it to get around when it would otherwise be painful or impossible. When it’s needed, a crutch simply helps.

Beyond this, a “crutch” is not a crutch.

There are the “crutches” that injure us. These are mental and emotional crutches that aren’t helpful (or even masochistic) yet somehow are still labeled as crutches.

We can see cigarettes, alcohol, and food as crutches. When the going gets tough, we turn to these substances as a way to cope. But this isn’t coping. If these emotional crutches were effective, they’d actually help. In fact, these crutches are just another way to create injury.

I need cigarettes to get through the day. They’re my crutch when things get stressful.

Cigarettes are poisonous and cause physical injury and heightened stress in the form of hypertension and withdrawal symptoms when you go too long without one.

A few times a day I need a stiff drink.

Alcohol is a depressant. In small quantities, it may be fine. Turning to it as a chronic coping mechanism causes physical and emotional injury, including drastic effects on mood, blood sugar, and liver function.

After a long, stressful day, I can’t help but binge in carbohydrates. I escape into food.

Bingeing on food leaves you feeling bloated, lethargic, and miserable. It’s also a superhighway to obesity and early death.

Are these crutches?

Alcohol, cigarettes, and food are anything but helpful crutches. When we turn to them as coping mechanisms, they only add to the problem with their own brand of pain.

Overindulgence in substances injures us. It doesn’t help at all and falls well outside what could reasonably be called a crutch. Imagine, you break your foot, so you get some crutches that break the other foot. Then you end up in a wheelchair that breaks your back. It’s unthinkable. No one would buy crutches or a wheelchair knowing that more bones would be broken and their situation could only get worse.

Yet, we turn to substances that do exactly that, adding injury to stress. Worse, when we smoke, overeat, or drink too much, we typically respond to the resulting injury by partaking further. It’s a trap that begins by seeing a perpetual crutch where no crutch exists. You could call it a belief trap. You have been conditioned to believe these coping mechanisms help you cope, but they only injure you.

The next time you feel compelled to turn to food, nicotine, or alcohol in response to stress, rather than tell yourself that you need a drink, smoke or piece of junk food, tell yourself instead that you are stressed out and plan to make it worse by injuring yourself. No one needs these substances to cope with stress because they don’t calm stress, but only create more of it.

This is not to suggest you don’t need a coping mechanism for stress. You do. I do.

Substances could never be coping mechanisms, however, because they do the opposite of help you cope with the cause of your stress. If you need to cope, find something that works rather than make the situation worse. In the least, begin to see addictive substances for what they are, a way to injure yourself.

The best book on redefining addiction so you can stop is Allen Carr’s The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently.

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Addictions Are Not Crutches

Mike Bundrant

Mike Bundrant is the author of Your Achilles Eel: Discover and Overcome the Hidden Cause of Negative Emotions, Bad Decisions and Self-Sabotage and co-founder at The iNLP Center which offers online certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming and life coaching.

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APA Reference
Bundrant, M. (2018). Addictions Are Not Crutches. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jan 2018
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