How to treat drug addictions and alcohol problems – Part 3

Devil

This continues the series on drug addictions and how to eliminate  them by working through the Addictions grid shown at the bottom of this article.

This week we are going to focus on the Hypnotic Addictive Inner Voice. This is the bullying voice in your head which keeps going on and on about the need to have a drink/fix/smoke/pill, etc.

Often the tone to the voice, is seductive: pleasant, low, smooth and insistent. Some people describe the voice instead as loud, urgent and forceful. A smaller minority tell me they can’t hear a voice as such. Instead they feel the craving getting stronger and stronger as if there were a ‘beast’ on the loose inside their heads. When working with this type of client I typically ask them to ‘translate’ what ‘the beast’ is telling them into words and get them to work with it that way.

Why is the addictive voice so hypnotic? 

Because it works in exactly the same way as a hypnotist. It’s aim is to put you in a trance state in which every one of your choices is blotted out, leaving you with only one way to go. As in all good hypnotic suggestions the voice uses repetition, monotony and persistence – confident that, eventually, you will give in just as you have given in many times before. As the trance state builds you will be drawn in to recalling the ‘pleasure’ to be had from indulging;  more specifically the dopamine release which could follow on from drinking alcohol, using cocaine, or gambling on the roulette wheels. Conjuring up a state of carefree abandon in which you are relaxed, happy and comfortable in your skin. Or  as the stimulated, excited, outgoing, chatty joker in the party. Or having the  the ecstasy of winning thousands of dollars.

Typical ‘suggestions’ include:

  • ‘You’ve had a tough day. You need to unwind/relax….’
  • ‘You deserve this…’
  • ‘It’s been six months since you last had a drink. You’ve proved your point now…’
  • ‘Just the one…’
  • ‘No one will ever know…’ (or) ‘Everyone else will be drinking…’
  • ‘You know you really want one…’
  • ‘You don’t wanna believe everything John Eaton tells you…’
  • ‘The jackpot on that machine is full now….”
  • The alternative is so boring…’
  • ‘You know you are going to give in eventually so stop hanging around…’

The main reason why the Hypnotic Addictive Inner Voice can seem so overwhelming is because, without your realising it, it feeds on your own power. You give it power every time you ‘relapse’ so that it comes back stronger at you next time. You give it power when you fantasise about how good things will feel after you give in. You give it power by taking it seriously instead of treating it as a delusion. In fact you give it power just by listening to it. Each time you listen you are providing it with the oxygen of attention. Without that oxygen the voice will wither away and die.

So the simplest and most effective way to defeat the Addictive Voice is just ignore it. Note: I said this is the ‘simplest’ and ‘most effective’ way; I didn’t say it was the easiest. Most of my clients find it takes repeated practice before they learn how to switch off, accompanied by a lot of work on the ‘Fulfilment’ quadrant (see grid below). Giving up drink, or drugs, or gambling means breaking a well-established habit. That’s easiest to do when you have some better habits to replace it with.

In a large number of cases there is no need to do any work on the Internal voice simply because it’s power has been eclipsed by tragedy:

  • You are told you have a life-threatening illness
  • You kill or seriously injure someone else
  • Your partner/friends/parents/children abandon you
  • You are arrested by the police
  • You are found guilty and sentenced to community service or imprisonment
  • You lose your job or your reputation
  • You are declared bankrupt
  • You lose your home
  • You lose your driving licence
  • You get beaten up, robbed or raped while under the influence

As the person goes into shock the Addictive voice is now seen for what it is: delusional, destructive and degrading.  When the state of shock is combined with emotions like disgust and remorse, the power of the voice is broken at least temporarily and sometimes forever.  To be replaced by a different voice. One that disempowers the old voice; encourages you along the road to abstinence; reminds you about your need to work with emotions like disgust, sadness, boredom and remorse; focuses you on making amends with your family, friends and other people you may have harmed.

If further work on wiping out the Addictive Voice is required then my client and I will use one or more of the many techniques for overcoming negative Headmind states which I have described elsewhere on this blog:

Switching off the chatterbox

Do you control your mind or does it control you?

How to make that breakthrough

 

Quadrant2Image

How to treat drug and alcohol addictions – Part 2

Addiction
In my previous article on The Brain and addictions I mentioned that addictions are largely created by headmind obsessions allied to dopamine deficiency (caused in part by drug abuse itself). In this article I am going to start writing about how you can erase the addiction.

A thing to bear in mind when reading this is that my approach has nothing to do with Alcoholics Anonymous or it’s spin-off Narcotics Anonymous. I will write more about this on another occasion but bear in mind, for now, that I don’t believe the AA approach actually works for many people.

Unlike AA I don’t recognise the tem ‘alcoholism’ and nor do I believe that misuse of alcohol or drugs represents a disease. What I mean by an ‘addiction’ is out-of-control drug or alcohol use which has effects on your personal life you would rather not have. For example: legal prosecution, relationship breakdown, job loss, financial problems, personal degradation, etc.

One thing that is clear to me is that treating addictions is a complex matter. Although getting rid of an addiction can be straight-forward it is not necessarily easy.
As shown in the diagram my approach addresses five different factors:
1. The most important one is the Addictive Voice which resides in Headmind. I have referred to this subject before in my articles on Headmind. It is continually chattering on about the need to have a drink or consume some drugs now. It uses problems in each of the surrounding four zones as an ‘excuse’ for using. For example, it can tell you that you are feeling bad (Physical state) and you need a fix; or that you are so stressed you really need to get drunk now; or that life is so meaningless (Fulfilment zone) that all you have left is drugs; or that since you are right near your dealer’s Tube station etc. you might as well go ahead and have some. Switching attention away from that hypnotic message in your head is crucial to success.
2. I have already written about the Physical State Zone and you can read more about that here. In addition to dopamine deficiency as a problem, however, we also need to address feelings of anxiety, depression or boredom which the Addicitive Voice also uses as excuses to indulge.
3. The Stress zone relates to situations which trigger increased anxiety, tension or agitation. There is no reason why Stress should lead to misue of alcohol but the Hypnotic Inner Voice will use this as an excuse to indulge. Reducing stressors will reduce the power of the inner voice.

4. Nearly all the drug users and alcoholics I have ever met have been profoundly disatisfied with their lives. And most of those people, too, suffer from boredom. Unless you have a connection to Personal Genius and several important reasons to live then drugs and alcohol might have some powerful attractions for you.

5. The Danger zone refers to those most tempting situations in which you are most likely to get drunk or drugged up. They include your drinking buddies, your favourite bar, ‘that time of day’, having spare cash on you, a bottle of wine in your fridge, or keeping your dealer’s phone number on your mobile. Eliminating your triggers makes it harder for you to slide in to the zone, even when your Addictive Voice is clamouring for you to go and get involved.

Quadrant2Image

I will be writing more about how to solve each of these five issues in future articles.

 

 

 

The brain and addictions

Addict1

This is the start of a new series on addictions.

Addictions to alcohol, to heroin, to cocaine, to mephedrone, cannabis, ketamine and pain-killers. There are also addictions to (inappropriate) sex, gambling and to junk food. I have worked with all of these over the years and, initially, found them tough to work with. But I have found an approach that is successful, which I will share with my readers in a later article.

But firstly it is important to understand how addictions get established. In the brain.

Three key points to bear in mind before you read on are that addictions are created by a) changes in dopamine levels, b) obsessions created in Headmind in the pre-frontal lobes and c) a loss of emotional connection through Bodymind.

From one point of view – the Bodymind view – the brain is a superbly engineered chemical factory. Chemicals for growth, chemicals for energy creation, chemicals for digestion and metabolism, chemicals for defence against infection, chemicals for tissue repair, chemicals that activate the muscles, and chemicals for emotions, mood, sensation and so on.

Some of these chemicals are simple protein chains called peptides, which act as messengers to other areas in the body such as the immune system, while others are more complex, such as the hormones that lock to particular glands further down from the brain (adrenalin, for example) and the neuro-transmitters (such as dopamine) that work on the central nervous system within the brain itself.

Hold fast to the fact that all chemicals are ‘drugs’, just as all drugs are chemicals. Meaning, that they influence brain function. In that sense even oxygen is a drug.

Dopamine is an interesting drug because Bodymind uses it to tell you whether or not one course of action will be more satisfying than the alternative. For example, if you are faced with a choice between doing the garden now and watching tv your body might use dopamine to tell you to do the garden now if you have a passion for it or it might tell you to watch tv if one of your favourite films is on. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that dopamine mimics your passion. If your long-term desire is to write good blog articles then you are more likely to write one instead of going to the pub. The important point here is that a dopamine rush will support you when you decide to go for goals that are important to you rather than short-term distractions (but see below for some information on how this can go wrong as addictions develop).

The fact is that some Headmind-based obssessions (or ‘cravings’ if you will) – particularly those for alcohol, cocaine and heroin – disrupt Bodymind’s finely-tuned reward system.

Using hard drugs like alcohol triggers an explosion in Dopamine levels and when Bodymind notices this it damps down the production of Dopamine in order to restore balance. As Dopamine levels drop below the norm (typically the day after drug abuse) the person experiences tedium, apathy, lethargy and numbness. This, in turn, is interpreted by Headmind as a need to take more of the drug. Dopa Which leads to an escalating cycle of abuse-depletion-cravings-increased abuse and increased cravings. In time, this leads to a state in which the individual obtains no relief whatever from the original drug and goes on to try other drug combinations. Which is why many addicts are frequently addicted to two or more drugs at the same time.

The Brain scans reproduced here illustrate the difference in Dopamine depletion between four groups of addicts and normal controls. The reddish-yellow scans on the left are normal, while the weaker, greenish scans on the right are abnormal, showing up that Dopamine receptor activity is much reduced. In sex and gambling addictions the same phenomenon will appear on a slightly weaker scale.

Although these addictions have a catastrophic effect on the central nervous system they are reversible. Dopamine levels can be restored over a few weeks with abstinence. But to achieve that changes in thinking are required and a re-connection to Bodymind. And I will write about those when I describe the cure.

 

 


6 ways to get rid of an addiction

Brainaddict

In my last post – What Everybody ought to know about Addictions – I explained how addictions work. In this article I am going to describe how you can get rid of your addictions (if you really want to).

1. Break your slavery to the Dragon.

The Dragon is a creature who works like an Internal Control Freak. It tells you when to use, how to use, where to use, who to use with and why you should never stop. Some Addictions can seem overwhelming but they are only so because we secretly feed them our own power. Like I said in the last article, Attention is your Dragon’s fertiliser; while Inattention is its weedkiller.

The simplest way out of an Addiction is to live as if you never had one (this is easier than you might think so long as you ignore the Inner Voice – see below).

2. Reduce the power of the Inner Voice

The Dragon (i.e. your Addiction) works through a seductive Inner Voice that appears to know all the answers. Many people who hear the advice given in No. 1. (above) say things like ‘I wish I knew how!’ or ‘I wish it were that easy!’ The reason they find addictions difficult to break is due to the power of the Addictive Voice. Here are some ways to break free from it:

a) Doing something that is the polar opposite of the craving the Inner Voice counsels you to obey

b) Change the Inner Voice over to the Voice of an Idiot.

Listen to the Voice but this time use the accents and tone of someone you consider to be an Idiot.

c) Associate the Voice with someone (or something) very boring

There are endless ways in which you can mess around with the Addictive Voice. Using a voice that puts you to sleep has worked for quite a few of my clients.

3 Reduce opportunities for gratification

Like I said in No. 1 (above) the Dragon feeds on attention. The less you go along with the craving the weaker it gets. Here are some ways to do that:

a) Increase the amount of time between one indulgence and the next. If you consume every day then make it every other day. If you consume every hour then make it every other hour. If you drink alchohol continuously (for example) then have a soft drink between each consumption.

b) Delay consumption. For example, if you think you need a gamble, then go for a walk/talk to a good friend/carry on working for the next 15 minutes or so (you can do this again and again and again…).

c) Avoid situations where temptation could kick in.

Most addictions are tediously predictable. They involve the same substances, in the same quantities, with the same people, in the same places, at the same time of day. If you avoid those places, people and times then you are less likely to use. Period.

d) Stay busy.

Put it the other way around: if you have time to indulge then you are not busy enough. Or maybe you haven’t found something better to do (see No. 7 – below).

4 Go to the extreme.

This is the one I would recommend least. One of the few wrong statements William Blake ever made was that ‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” It doesn’t. The road of excess leads to degradation. But it has become something of a truism that drug addicts and alcholics only turn around and give up when they reach the gutter and there is something in that. But do you need to lose your health, your job, your money, your relationship and your self-respect before you make that decision?

5 Associate gratification with something disgusting.

This is a less dangerous version of No. 4 and is based on reconditioning. For example, a teenager can give up drinking after one bad hangover; someone who is sexually promiscuous can reform quickly after getting a dose of the clap.

But you don’t have to go in for misfortunes in order to reform. Instead, dwell insistently on the way you look to others when you self-indulge. Moments when you were degrading, juvenile, bloated, repulsive, ill, contemptible, etc. Or real-life experiences: in jail, in the gutter, in bed with someone you didn’t want to be with, getting fired, etc.

6. Rediscover your passion.

In a famous quote Gregory Bateson, the Anthropologist, once said:

The alcoholic’s problem is not alchohol but sobriety.’

What he was referring to was a variation on my theme that people who become addicts are frequently bored. They get bored because they have too much time on their hands. And they have too much time on their hands because they have given up on their Personal Genius. Meaning they aren’t doing enough to engage their energy, their passion, their mission in life.

In the long run addictions are a substitute for the life you were meant to live.

Don’t let it happen to you.