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.