Thursday, February 6, 2014

Break All the Rules of Addiction--Part 1

Some bad habits seem rock solid, unmovable. Especially the ones we keep trying to kick, but can't.

Fortunately, the scaffolding that supports addiction in our lives is surprisingly flimsy. A few well-timed strikes on key support beams can do serious damage.

Defy a rule of addiction and you weaken its hold. Keep rebelling and you're on the path of freedom. Make rule-breaking a regular part of your life, and freedom will eventually be yours!

Over the next few days I'm going to post on some of the key rules of addiction and how to break them.

Addiction's Rule #1: Trust the Trance. Addiction simply cannot keep us relapsing unless, from time to time, it rips us out of our right minds and plops us into a state of urgency and craving. To sway us, our sentiments have to shift from the everyday-usual to distorted and driven. The continuation of addiction depends entirely on these intermittent episodes of absolutely immersed myopia.

To Break the Rule: Look at Your Lenses. This means taking the time to step back and look at our sentiments, rather than continuing to merely look at life through our sentiments.

Sentiment is defined as a thought, view, or attitude, based mainly on emotion instead of reason. Our sentiments morph and mutate all the time. They're like those transition lens glasses: clear indoors, darker outside on a sunny day. Our sentiments are naturally going to vacillate all over the place. One moment we're committed to finding a home for that poor orphaned cat and the next we're ready to scream at the landlord for cardboard-thin doors that don't block out the meowing.

Erratically bouncing sentiments are not a problem, they're part of life. The scientists who study consciousness insist that the problem is when we fuse with our sentiments. We forget that our emotional transition lenses will change shades again in a few minutes. When we're fused, this moment's sentiment doesn't get a skeptical squint from us, it gets total buy in. We break this rule of addiction when we squint skeptically and remember that we got to this point because the shade of our sentiments changed, and it will keep changing if we just give it time.

Your Daily Dose: The Instant Replay Game. When you catch a change in sentiment, even a seductively slight shift in your state of mind, 1) articulate the thought, 2) repeat the thought in "you" form (making it a statement said to you instead of by you), and then 3) attribute that thought to a part of your mind and give that part a pet name.

For example, let's say I've committed to watching my calorie intake. But halfway through an afternoon of spreadsheets I start to wonder if that's the leftover donuts I hear, beckoning me all the way from the break room. "Wait, I was gung-ho, now I'm starting to waver. Here's where I Instant Replay it: I just thought, 'I should go see if there are any donuts left.' Oh, 'go see.' That's an interesting way of putting it--not necessarily eat one, just gather recon. Which part my mind said, 'You should go see if there are any donuts left'? Let's see: Is that Hunger talking? Not really. Still full enough from lunch. Sweet Tooth maybe? Actually, I think it's Tom Sawyer talking: 'You're not going to just keep working, are you? Well okay, but if we can't play hooky, the least you can do is feed me another glazed with sprinkles.'"

Or let's say I'm trying to kick a porn habit. I've been doing great for a couple of months, but my wife's at her sister's place for the weekend. I walk in to get ready for bed and discover her iPad on the dresser. Unlike my laptop, it's not password protected. "Nope," I say to myself, and I turn to walk into the bathroom. But then I realize my heart's pounding and I'm breathless. "Ahh. Wow! That suddenly: launch sequence initiated. Time for Instant Replay: I just thought, 'I didn't go looking, the opportunity just fell into my lap!' Which one of you in there said, 'You didn't seek it out so, hey, you get a free pass'? Was that Lester the Luster--always hoping and hungry? Not particularly. It's not so much sex itself I'm craving. Just been a long day and I'm still feeling tense. Soother, that's you in there, isn't it, looking for a little tenderness. Or maybe Escapist, craving blissful oblivion. Well, I appreciate the input guys, I really do. But that hasn't worked out so well for me in the past, as you'll recall."

Hope that gives you enough to go on. Try out the Instant Replay Game for yourself. And be sure to tune in next time as we explore how to break addiction's Rule #2: Don't Get Too Down


  1. It seems like really helpful stuff here...I can relate on the donuts, lol! Your blog is such a great resource. Any chance you could address some betrayal trauma stuff here in the near future, or talk about how intimacy, sexual intimacy withstanding and make the case as to why it is in opposition to addiction? Or re-establishing trust...I don't want to interrupt the sequence you've been teaching though.

    1. Hi Kari,
      Thanks for your input. Yes, those are such important topics. They need to be addressed by me or a guest, for sure. Perhaps Kevin Skinner would do a guest post on betrayal trauma...

  2. Thanks Mark. That's an idea! Although I don't want to undermine your talent of explaining with compassion and assertiveness.