11/21/2012 10:17 am ET Updated Jan 21, 2013

8 Steps to Smartphone Recovery

I love my phone but to be honest, I reached my limit on this technology at a restaurant the other night when six friends took their phones out and placed them face-up next to their plates.  Frankly, I have no right to judge or criticize others. I am so addicted to my technology that if I don't have my iPhone nearby, my heart starts to palpitate. I can't even count the number of times I check my pocketbook, my pockets, my car, to make sure my phone is within reach. Before I leave anywhere, I check to make sure I have it. Smartphones have invaded our bedrooms, too. When my husband and I wake up in the morning we both roll over and check our phones first... Did our boys call? What's on our calendars? Who is texting us?

Let's face it, we're all hooked on the connectivity of smart phones and pretty much everyone we know has one. Smartphones account for over 50% of U.S. mobile phone users. Once you've started to use them, it's hard to put them away. The instant gratification of immediate feedback, being just a text away from those we love and knowing we can respond instantly to a crisis, keeps us clutching our devices. But when does our relationship with our smartphone qualify as an addiction and a compulsion? When does it become a behavioral problem that needs to be attended to?

Most of us are thrilled to have smartphones in our lives. So what's the problem? We have a problem when our smartphone use interferes with our relationships with others and ourselves.

There's no question that being hooked on our smartphone comes with fallout. In our attempt to stay connected with the outside world, we risk alienating the people who are sitting right next to us. We don't mean to -- it's not intentional -- but there are the unintended consequences. We just can't be everywhere at once and we have to make choices--it turns out that smartphone time is winning out over real time.

I guess we could just accept that this is our life -- technology is defining how we live. But if you're like me and there's a voice in your  head that screams, "something is not right here -- I need to take control of my phone behavior." ... maybe it's time to  "JUST SAY NO" more often to this drug of choice. But why is that voice screaming?

Because smartphones do not fit seamlessly into a social context. They aren't a natural fit. And our relationship with our smartphones, if not managed properly, can negatively impact our relationships with those we care about.

I know I'm not the only smartphone addict who has fallen into the technology vortex. It takes vigilance to change behaviors that have quickly become ingrained habits. I believe we need to be strong and begin to start putting our phones away. But it's not going to be easy.

I'd like to wean myself off this device. I don't want to give it up, just try to create some separation between ME and IT. And besides, my husband has been after me for years to leave my phone at home when we go out. I never want him to feel like he's not my priority -- yet I can't seem to unleash myself.

There's no question that the message we put out when we take calls in the company of others is that "You don't matter." We carve time out of our days to get together, so where's the respect when our friend takes a call and we are left waiting? Most of us get annoyed by this as our time is precious, too -- we certainly could have worked out another 15 minutes, done one more errand, slept a little later.  What about when we rushed, sat in traffic, and finally arrived and were greeted with -- "I'm so glad you're here, it's great to see you" -- and then our friend takes a call?

So here's some red flags to look for if you think you may be a smartphone addict: take your cell phone out and place it next to your plate at the table; take a (non-emergency) call when you are in a car with others; read or write texts during dinner with others; answer phone calls during meals with friends; talk on a cell phone on a train or a bus; talk on the phone while shopping; text while walking.

Thanksgiving is the perfect forum to begin the recovery process and here's a few action steps:

Step 1: Admit you have a problem.

Step 2: Recognize that you are in charge of your phone.

Step 3: Take a walk with a friend and exchange your phones. Should your phone ring, your friend may not answer it -- just suffer through it.

Step 4: Take a walk WITHOUT your cell phone -- leave it at home.

Step 5: Get up in the morning and brush your teeth before you look at your phone. The message will be there after you brush your teeth.

Step 6: Turn your phone off when having sex. Your partner may really appreciate that.

Step 7: Bring a magazine to the bathroom instead of your smartphone.

Step 8:  Start this Thanksgiving -- turn off your smartphone during this Thanksgiving meal.

Good luck. Congratulations -- you may be on the road to recovery!

Read more from Better After 50:
A Winkie to the Twinkie
Uninvited For Thanksgiving
Why We Make In-Laws into Outlaws
Tabled Thanksgiving Discussions