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Solution to Addiction Part I
October 16, 2015
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.
Solution to Addiction Part II
October 16, 2015
These tips might sounds useless but they are very useful, if you want long term success.
1. Fix the root cause:
Your addiction might be just a symptom of another deeper problem. As I have already mentioned, how stress in life can increase the chance of addiction, there is a chance that your addiction might be just the symptom of another problem.
It is possible that you might be using addicting behavior to mask the deeper problems like stress or depression caused by loneliness, heart break, emotional or physical trauma or abuse in the past, living with the person who abuses you, doing things you don’t love to do or other psychological problems.
In his Book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” Johann Hari says the solution to addiction is not neglect or punishment but human connection, love and support. Recently, I was just feeling low and lying in my bed, hanging on Facebook. I saw that my friends and relatives had wished me birthday couple of months ago. But I just saw it that day, I started replying and felt really good, my mood went up in seconds. It’s amazing, how just even small small wishes, gratitude, sympathy and compliment can bring a good feeling in us, eliminate stress and improve our mood.
Socializing, developing relation, human connection, learning new skills, taking regular break from work or doing things you love can help a lot in the process of beating addiction. Well I am not asking you to make a girlfriend or boyfriend, which might or might not help, but what I am trying to say is befriend with people who motivates and promotes you, who are free from addiction and live healthy happy life.
But if your emotional problem is severe like being raped or abused in the past, having experienced extreme violence, somekinds of phobia or having experienced childhood trauma, I recommend you to visit a psychologist or counselor. Or atleast do Google Search and read books and articles about it.
2. Visualize success:
Do you know when you imagine moving your right hand same part of your brain is activated when you actually move your right hand? Well visualizing of being success may sound new concept to you, but it isn’t. Since decades athletes have successfully improved their performance through visualization. Nowadays, even many self-help leaders and experts emphasizes on visualization.
Although, it is hard to say, how it works but it works. One concept says, our body and mind is interconnected and thoughts can bring change in our body. Anyway it works and I have personally used it to bring various changes in my life from breaking bad habits to forming good habits.
Good thing is, it’s easy to visualize, you just have to create clear mental picture of already achieving what you want to achieve. Just, create a target, close your eyes, imagine you already achieved it, imagine how it has positively impacted other aspects of life, how you carefully executed your each actions steps in order to achieve your goal, how happy you are… Just imagine as much precisely as you can.
Let’s take an example of how an addict smoker can visualize. I assume you are an addict smoker and your target is to go 100 days without smoking. Let’s begin; Imagine it’s day 100, you are very happy about it, things are getting better. Imagine your children, parents, spouses and all who cares about you are so happy and proud of you, picture their happy face. Your clothes, office, house and equipment no longer smells like cigarette. This is the life you had always wanted and you have finally got it. Imagine how other aspects of your life have improved like career, health, finance, relationship etc. Imagine how much opportunities and progress you will get if you just keep following this path. Now imagine, how you carefully and precisely executed those each action steps inorder to get rid of smoking habit, how you carefully debunked those false expectation brain had thrown over you, how you successfully avoided those triggering situations. Imagine how you started a healthy way to meet your needs and deal with the stress, how you successfully dealt with the relapse…… and so on.
In this way, visualize atleast once a day and if you can then you can visualize as much as you can, especially in the morning just after waking and at night before sleeping. And don’t forget to improve upon the way you visualize, I mean adding those things that helps you and cutting those things which you think isn’t helping.
Just “Fake It, Till You Make IT.” and don’t give up, sooner or later it works.
3. Get ready for relapse:
No one wakes up one day and becomes free from addiction. Your addiction didn’t developed within a single day, it have taken months or even years to become like this. So, it will requires months or even years to reverse the change it has made to your brain and body, so it is certain you will fail several times.
There is no any single person in the history, who has achieved something without couples of failed attempt. And I don’t think you will be exception.
It is certain that you will fail couple of times in the beginning, sometimes even after months or years. Recovering from addiction is slow process which can takes months. But everytime you fail and get back up, you are weakening the system that causes addiction and recovering yourself, becoming stronger. If you fail, figure out what went wrong, learn from it and keep moving. Recovering from addiction is a long-lasting process, it don’t have a certain end point, so even if you have stayed clean for years, you can still relapse. But it’s your choice to return back to your old life and become victim or you can stand back and move forward, improve your life and achieve the best things life can offer.
By the way, it’s always good to prepare action plan about how you will deal with your relapse, this makes recovering from relapse easy and fast. So, prepare a plan ahead, about how you will deal with the relapse.
i. Start cultivating other healthy habits, like meditating, running, exercising, improving relationship but don’t stress too much on accomplishing them as you need to save your will power for beating addiction. But keep your mind busy, doing things you love which can be playing sports, knitting, drawing, singing etc.
ii. Keep records of your struggle and success, this helps to get motivated and see how far you have gone. So, create journal.
iii. But if you are hardcore addict, who shakes or cannot perform or think without engaging in addiction then I recommend you to get some help from professionals.
iv. It’s better to get help from the people who cares and love you, so tell them you are addicted and you need help. Sometimes they may get disappointed and it’s usual because you have broken their trusts. But after you explain everything to them they will understand and will be happy to help you.
v. In the beginning, it’s normal you may suffer from insomnia, mood change, lack of focus, little depression but also don’t give up. After some time, when your body is adapted to new way of life, things will get more better.
vi. Many addict turns into spiritual people in order to deal with the pain of withdrawal and surrender to higher power. It can help one’s to improve his confidence and belief to beat addiction during stressful situations. By the way belief is very strong thing and surrendering to the higher power give you some strength.
vii. Instead of completely stopping to get involved in addictive behavior many tries to slowly reduce their involvement addicting behavior but there is a chance of chaser effect and hence relapse. So do it in your own risk.