First things first, getting out of addiction is not easy. I appreciate your endeavor to reach upto this article.
Well, I don’t want to pull you from getting help from expert in this matter. But it is not good to totally depend upon expert to treat your addiction. Your effort and commitment are the most important things that are needed to beat the addiction. Here, I will like to mention some steps which will help you to understand and go against your addiction and eventually beat it.
Understanding false belief:
This generally happens to those, who are in the dilemma of quitting the addiction. Their thoughts will play tennis in your brain, should I quit it or just keep going with it and even if I have to quit it when should I start, today or the other day.
Let me give you my own example; in past, I was a huge fan of TV, I don’t think I was addicted, but I was concerned and wanted to quit it. So, while I was trying to commit against watching TV, some part of me didn’t actually wanted to. It was saying “I should atleast watch that crime reality show, it makes me aware of crimes, I should watch that comedy show it makes me laugh and experts says laughter is good for health, I should watch that music channel so that I can get updated with latest movies, trends and songs, I should atleast watch that science documentary show, it teaches me so many tricks and facts” it even told me that I should watch that show otherwise how can I talk about that show with friends and so on. Well nowadays, I don’t watch TV (not much), and I don’t think it has affected me any bit. But I can give you tones of benefit of not watching TV, from saving my time, being productive to not getting exposed to advertisement which just creates unnecessary desire to buy the product and gadgets I don’t need, to watch the movies or do the things I don’t have to. And I don’t think I have stopped laughing after ceasing to watch that comedy show and I don’t think I have become stupid or unintelligent by not watching the science documentary show.
Once I committed to quitting, next thing I have to decide was when to start. Even though some part of me wanted to quit today, my emotional brain said, “Are you insane, you should atleast start from next month when that show finishes, or when the exam comes near” and so on. Whether it’s forming a new habit or breaking bad habits, our brain always resists change, so it gives various reasons to support its claim. And this is just one of the ways with which our brain resists change.
Remember, addiction does no good to anyone. So, we should always try to get rid of it, not tomorrow, not next month or next year but now.
As I have already explained, that our brain forms habit inorder to increase its efficiency and how trigger makes us to perform habit.
Triggers differ from person to person. For smoker seeing other smoking can be trigger, for an alcoholic attending social occasions or meeting with other alcoholic friends can act as trigger, for addict porn user or addict online chatter (especially to online dating sites) being alone or having high speed internet can be trigger, feeling low or bored can be trigger for overeater (especially unhealthy foods) and so on. Similarly, being stressed, nervous, anxious, physical pain etc are the very common trigger that starts or creates the craving for addicting behavior.
Make a list of all kinds of triggering situation you think that make you crave your addicting behavior. And avoid them as much as you can or prepare plan ahead about how to deal with the trigger if it can’t be avoided.
For a typical smoker, his trigger can be seeing other smoke, getting together with other smoking friends, being stressed, nervous, visiting certain shop or place, recurrence of bad memory of past etc. So, inorder to avoid the triggering situation you can avoid the place where chances of seeing smoker is high, reduce the contact with smoking friends (remember it’s not going to hurt your social life, it’s just the brain’s way to resist change) as much as you can, learn stress management techniques like meditation relaxation, do exercise etc, avoid those places which ignites the desire to smoke, on the other hand if you have some severe kinds of emotional disorder meet the psychologist. As I am not a smoker, so I might have missed some points but I think you might have understood what I am trying to say.
Debunk the False Expectation:
Once you commit to quit, the real challenge starts to begin. As I have mentioned previously in chapter ‘Expecting the High’, how expectation releases dopamine and motivates us.
While trying to quit, suddenly trigger pops up from somewhere and your mind begins craving. You will push that craving little bit farther with the help of your will power. Now brain unleashes its ultimate weapon, ‘The Expectation’. Your emotional mind gets activated; it ignores all kinds of logical reasons. Your brain starts expecting how beautiful the high will be, this releases shots of dopamine and this keeps on increasing unless you give up. This motivates you. Brain gets overloaded by thoughts, it will say, “Come on buddy, let’s do this, atleast only just one time, you are not going to die, nothing’s going to happen, you can again begin your commitment from tomorrow etc.” Now, your will power starts weakening, you starts forgetting your commitment, deadlines and risks, you starts moving towards your addicting behavior and ‘Boom’, you are engaged in your addicted behavior without even knowing it.
It’s very hard and thrilling. But it doesn’t have to be like this. So, what should we do is, we have to identify each of those expectation and debunk it. We are going to follow the principle of ‘tit for tat’. You have to bring forth your own expectation, why addiction is dangerous, how it is destroying your life, where it will lead you if you continue and so on
Let’s assume you are an (sorry dude) alcoholic, you have committed to quit but suddenly you end up in a triggering situation. Well, it’s better to remove all kind of triggering situation but some triggering situation are hard to avoid like social occasions, nervousness, anxiety, stress etc. Now, your craving is activated. With the full thrust of your will power, you pushes the craving little farther. You want to divert your mind in other things but brain gets overloaded with expectation and images of past how you happily used to drink alcohol and how it makes you feel great. Your emotional mind might say, “Look! Drinking this glass of alcohol will increase your confidence and makes you look more appealing towards that girl (or that boy emo), alcohol makes you feel calm, did you forget how you always used to enjoy it, how it increases your creativity, productivity and focus, how just the sip of alcohol is going to lift your mood”, like this emotional brain keeps on shouting it’s false claim “how this and how that” and so on.
At this moment, as soon as you realize your brain has started attacking with the false expectation, you should begin your counterattack. We have to debunk all those false claims one by one with the help of truth. Let’s begin, “NO, alcohol is not going to increase my appealing, but rather most girls gets repelled by the smell of alcohol, alcohol neither makes me confident nor creative, look at those guys they aren’t drinking alcohol but still they are very calm and creative rather alcohol just turns me into silly arrogant person, look at that guy he don’t drink alcohol but still he is much happier than me” and so on. Just don’t let any of those false claims go away without getting debunked.
On the other hand to make craving more unappealing and boring, you can add your own version of expectation. For example, “Drinking alcohol massively increases my chance of getting cancers of …(name each part)… and infertility, it increases the chance of heart diseases, it destroys my brain cells, drinking alcohol is going to affect my family, spouse or children emotionally, financially and in many cases even physically due to fight, it can destroys my career, I have seen many addict drinking alcohol all the time ignoring all kinds of responsibility, some alcoholic even turns violent and kill people around them, I can die in accident due to drunk driving, actually drinking alcohol is not fun, I remember those painful hangovers and those idiotic behavior I have done due to alcohol.” Just keep expecting all those negative impacts that drinking alcohol is going to create as much as you can. This helps you to avoid craving and makes it unappealing.
Well, it’s not easy to debunk in the first try. You have to prepare for this ahead. Make a list of all the false expectation your emotional mind might throw at you and also debunk them. And inorder to make craving more unappealing and repelling, make a lists of all dangers your addicting behavior is going to bring in your life as much as you can.
Remember, it’s always better to remove the triggering situation but some are hard to avoid, like attending important social occasions, nervousness, anxiety, excitement etc. For this kind of situation, plan ahead how you are going to deal with expectations that your emotional mind might release.
With enough practice you will get better at debunking and hence you can easily ignore the craving as you move forward.
Note: Even though you fall into triggering situation try to get out of it as soon as possible, try to divert your mind; call the friend, talk to loved ones, go for a walk or do other healthy things you love to do.