Staying Addiction Free

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What is An Addiction Free Lifestyle?

According to the Canadian Forces Health and Physical Fitness Strategy an addiction free lifestyle is one “that does not compromise health and performance with behaviour such as alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, problem gambling and gaming, and tobacco use.” This Strategy also says that developing an addiction free lifestyle means, first, choosing a lifestyle that is about moderation or that strives to stay within reasonable limits; not too excessive or extreme. It also suggests that “developing effective coping skills” will go a long way in reducing the likelihood that you will become involved in these potentially harmful behaviours.

So, what does this really mean? How do you know what is reasonable when we talk about alcohol, illicit drug use, gambling, gaming and tobacco use? Here are some guidelines and suggestions that have been developed by researchers and practitioners in this field. They are meant to help you make decisions about the lifestyle you choose.

Alcohol Use

An Addiction Free Lifestyle is one that limits alcohol intake. Canada's Low Risk Drinking Guidelines are suggestions to assist healthy adults to make informed decisions about their alcohol consumption. They describe drinking practices that minimize alcohol-related risks. They suggest the following guide for maximum daily and weekly drinking limits because research indicates that staying within these guidelines is a good way to remain healthy.


#What the number means
0-2 No more than 2 standard drinks a day for women
0-3 No more than 3 standard drinks a day for men
10 Women - up to 10 standard drinks a week
15 Men - up to 15 standard drinks a week

Illicit Drug Use

The Canadian Armed Forces strives to maintain an impairment free workplace for many reasons, including safety and legal concerns. Therefore, choosing to use illicit drugs means making a decision to accept the various risks from the drug use itself: risks to your job readiness, as well as to your mental and physical health along with the risk of putting your career and the safety of others in jeopardy.

Gambling & Gaming

Gambling, like alcohol, is considered a behaviour that can be done in moderation, although there is a risk of problematic use developing. These tips for responsible gambling are suggestions to help people who choose to gamble make the experience safe and enjoyable. They are:

  • Have a plan. Before you start gambling, have an idea about the kind of experience you want to have.
  • Decide how much time and money you want to spend on gambling and stick to it.
  • If you lose money, never try to get it back by going over your limit. Never borrow money to gamble. When the amount is gone, call it a night and have fun another day.
  • Don't gamble to escape your troubles. It's a form of entertainment and it’s supposed to be fun.

If you decide to gamble for fun, stay within your limits and gamble safe!

Gaming and the use of interactive media is extremely popular nowadays. Gaming, as a form of occasional entertainment but some individuals can become overly involved with and feel dependent on being online and playing games. The fact that gaming and and the use of interactive media is readily accessible through a variety of new media — computers, laptops, netbooks, iPads, iPods, cellphones and smartphones— means there is a risk of problematic use developing. These tips for responsible gaming are suggestions to help individuals who wish to be mindful of their gaming:

  • Plan to use gaming as entertainment – work or other responsibilities come first.
  • Decide how much time (and money from your budget) you want to spend on gaming.
  • Don’t use gaming as an escape from the real world – take a break from gaming and be aware of the possible impact of regular gaming in your life.
  • Engage in offline activities and games such as sports, and social activities with your friends and family.

If you decide to enjoy online gaming, play for leisure and pleasure to avoid excessive or compulsive use of computer games or video games.

Tobacco Use

Research has consistently shown that there is no safe exposure to any type of tobacco and almost all use results in addiction. An addiction free lifestyle is one that does not include tobacco use, including the use of smoke free tobacco products such as chewing tobacco.

For more information on this and other topics, contact your local Health Promotion Office.

How to Stay Addiction Free

As the model below suggests, the best way to stay addiction free is to stay in, or work towards, being in a healthy state (in the green). The best way to do this is to continue to develop effective coping skills to manage daily stress, develop healthy leisure activities and build a supportive network of family and friends. Also, when engaging in behaviours that may lead to addiction, such as drinking alcohol, do so in a responsible manner and know the signs that may tell you when your use is becoming unhealthy.

This model can be used as a guide to help you determine where you are with your alcohol and other drug use. If you are concerned you are moving to orange or red, help is available through your local Medical Officer or Base Addictions Counsellor (BAC), or through the Member Assistance Program.

Mental Health Continuum Model Applied to Addictions


  • No / Occasional / Social alcohol use/gambling and/or gaming
  • No Use; or
  • Use is motivated by curiosity or desire to experience new feelings; or
  • Uses on specific social occasions for its specific effect
  • No regular pattern of use is established
  • E.g. Drinking alcohol when socializing with others at a party
  • Follows the LRDG


  • Regular but controlled alcohol use/gambling and/or gaming
  • A pattern of regular use is established
  • Tolerance to the substance is increased but major life areas are not affected as a result of use
  • Can readily control the use of the substance
  • Little or no withdrawal symptoms
  • May use alcohol / gambling and/or gaming  to cope
  • E.g. Drinking every weekend but not on weekdays
  • May drink beyond LRDG


  • Increased alcohol use/gambling and/or gaming
  • Hard to control with negative consequences
  • Uses at higher doses and/ or with increased frequency
  • Increase in tolerance to the substance
  • Consequences can be felt in many of the major life areas
  • Increased emotional pain
  • Withdrawal symptoms experienced
  • e.g. Tries to set a few rules (will only drink on weekends) but cannot stick to it, always has a stash, and creates opportunities to use
  • Unable to follow LRDG


  • Frequent alcohol use / gambling and/or gaming
  • Inability to control with severe consequences
  • Uses very regularly and frequently
  • May experience decreased tolerance
  • Consequences are felt in most or all major life areas
  • Increased emotional pain
  • Severe/ life threatening withdrawal symptoms
  • Constant obsession with use
  • Attempts to stop are followed by relapse
  • e.g. Spends more and more time alone and using alone
  • Unable to follow LRDG
  1. This model was adapted from the adaption of Capt (N) Bill Nash, USMC and USN Combat and Operational Stress Control, US Marine Corps, and is currently used by the JSB, DND.
  2. LRDG refers to the Low Risk Drinking Guidelines
  3. Tolerance is the need for an increased amount of a substance/or behaviour to achieve the same desired effect
  4. Major Life Areas are considered to be: family, social, employment/ education, finances, legal, spirituality and health: physical, cognitive and emotional
  5. For more information on this and other topics, contact your local Health Promotion Office.

Addiction Free Lifestyle: It's a family affair!

There is a growing awareness in today’s society that alcohol and drug use can have serious health, social and legal implications. However, studies have confirmed that early intervention by parents can prevent substance use. Talking about drugs and alcohol with your kids strengthens family ties and makes kids more resilient. Serious problems related to alcohol and drugs are less likely to develop if kids are able to talk openly and honestly in a respectful and loving environment.

Information: Did you know?

Parents who talk to their children and monitor their activities can reduce the likelihood of them using drugs.

Top Ten Tips for an Addiction Free Family:

  1. Communication is the key to a healthy relationship. This will help your children develop sound decision-making skills.
  2. Support is important! Develop a support network within your family by showing love, listening to concerns, and being prepared to help when asked.
  3. Get the facts! If you don’t know the answer, say so and look it up together.
  4. Set the rules! A family works best when it sets rules and responsibilities for each member. Praise good behaviour.
  5. Be a good role model! The things you say and do can have a strong influence on other members of your family. Do not drink and drive.
  6. Everybody has feelings. Make time for all family members to share their feelings about important things.
  7. Spend time together! When you share interests and activities, your family ties grow stronger.
  8. Don’t be afraid to raise the issue of alcohol and drugs!
  9. Watch for signs of substance use and address them early.
  10. Solve problems together! Use the combined strengths and skills of all family members to address important issues.