A person struggling with addiction usually engages in a set of behaviors that precede taking a substance or engaging in an addictive behavior—this set routine in known as the ritual stage.
Stages of Addiction
Before a person becomes addicted to a substance or addicted to a specific behavior, there is a period when the substance or act only takes up a small amount of time. As the addiction grows, however, the addictive act will consume more and more of a person’s thoughts, feelings, time and money.
In the case of sex addiction, for example, a person may go through a cycle. According to the Sexual Addiction Recovery Resources website, this cycle includes the following four stages:
- Fantasy—A person has a thought, which leads to conjuring up a fantasy.
- Ritual—A person engages in behaviors that will lead to acting out the fantasy, such as cruising for prostitutes.
- Acting out—A person engages in a sexual act related to the original fantasy.
- Shame—A person feels shame and regret for acting out.
These stages make up a cycle of addiction, which can be difficult for addicts to break.
Individuals who prepare to act out or abuse a substance may use rituals to fill up time or prepare to use. Seeing a friend at the same bar every night is an example of a ritual that reinforces addiction or even creates the addiction. Some individuals rely on rituals for comfort, especially as the pull of addiction separates them from family and friends. The regularity and procedure of rituals can intensify feelings of euphoria and pleasure.
Just as rituals contribute to making an addiction worse, an individual can use awareness of rituals to break the addiction cycle. By being aware of his or her own rituals, a person can work to avoid them in order to stop using or engaging in unsuitable behaviors.