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.

 

 

 

How to improve your mood with Tyrosine

Chemical

I received a big post following my first article in the current series on Addictions and it seems there is a high demand for a series like this.

Why? Are addictions to drugs and alcohol a bigger problem than we realise?

Meanwhile, one reader would like to know what people can do about it if they have Dopamine deficiency. Depletions can occur genetically in the brains of some people, although they are more common in habitual drinkers and drug users. However, if you suspect your mood is low, or that some of your cravings are running away with you, or that you could just do with a boost then there is no harm in trying a Tyrosine supplement for a few days.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest/pleasure in activities
  • Chronic boredom
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation/restlessness
  • Poor concentration
  • Low mood

In my view Dopamine depletion is sometimes mistaken for Serotonin deficiency, which occurs in clinical depression and I wonder that this subject has not been explored in greater depth in developing treatments for depression.

There is a natural way to boost Dopamine levels and that is to consume Tyrosine, an amino-acid which the body uses to synthesise Dopamine in the brain. It is also helpful to take vitamin B6 with Tyrosine supplements as this enables the body to break down the Tyrosine faster.

Tyrosine is also found in soy, chicken, fish, avocado pear, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, nuts, pumpkin seeds and in sesame seeds.

I have worked with several cocaine addicts who have found Tyrosine and Vitamin B6 helpful in reducing cravings and restoring mood levels.

I would be interested in hearing from any readers who have tried Tyrosine supplements, or Tyrosine-rich diets.

 

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.

 

 


How to make that breakthrough

Breakthrough

My good friend and collaborator Mark McGuinness recently alerted me to a stimulating new book by Steven Pressfield called Do The Work which is about a subject dear to my heart: how to overcome Headmind when it is messing your life up.

I was doubly intrigued because Steven Pressfield once wrote a powerful historical novel about the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae called Gates of Fire – one of the very few books of that kind which had me (and my wife) in tears by the end.

Taking time off from writing fiction Steven’s new, very short, book is about how to achieve your goals when you don’t think you can.

The premise is simple: whenever you work on a project that is really important to you, but which is going to take time, hard work, and personal sacrifice then you are going to hit a wave of resistance. And that resistance comes not from outside but from within;  your own personal version of Headmind in fact: doubts, excuses, distractions, worries, whinges, procrastination, or so-called ‘low self-esteem’ – in which Headmind keeps on repeating the mantra that there is no point in your doing anything very much because it is bound to end in failure.

The solution is also simple: just do it. Once you have decided that the project really is important to you then you ignore Headmind when it is trying to do you down and sabotage your goals. Specifically, you ignore the Chatterbox. Or just tell it to shut the fuck up while you get on with things.

Here are some examples from the world of Therapy:

You are working on your recovery from Depression and you have decided to get out more. The Inner Voice says ‘what’s the point?’. Your response: go ahead and call a friend and make that date regardless.

You are working on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and you have decided to increase your morning exercise routine to 10 minutes. Your Internal Saboteur says: ‘you’ll make yourself ill’. Your response: increase it to 15 minutes.

You are working on Anxiety. Your Internal Control Freak says: ‘I worry that you won’t be able to stop worrying because you have been a worrier all your life….’. Your response: you focus your attention on a non-worrisome activity for the next few hours.

One difference between using Steven’s method on creative work, and using it on personal problems is this: in creative work you just get on with the project (for example: your next novel, or work idea, house redesign, etc.). In that way you force Headmind to get on with doing something useful.

Whereas if you are depressed, anxious, obsessional, etc., you may need to give Headmind some substitute activities to do. A good example relates to giving up drug/alcohol/cigarette/ gambling addictions. Whenever the Internal Saboteur twitters on about needing a fix/drink/fag/bet then you just do a 180 degree attention turn and go off and do something more worthwhile. My experience with my clients is that when they do this repeatedly, then over the ensuing weeks that Internal Voice will gradually dwindle away to a whisper.

Image by permission of Fuyoh