These are the important tools and understandings you need for Addiction recovery.
- The Cuckoo in the nest
- Why are addictions so hard to beat
- The stages of quitting
- Recovery path in outline
- Your addiction Time Line
- Addiction downloads
The baby cuckoo in a sparrow’s nest
The baby cuckoo begins its life there as an egg – a bit different from the others but harmless and inert. And then the egg hatches and very quickly the young cuckoo chick begins to pull its weight – and disposes of the other eggs or chicks – those that have the right to be there. And the cuckoo grows bigger and bigger fed by the incessant activity of the cuckoo chick’s surrogate parents. And as their activity grows and grows and the chick grows and grows – well in time there is nothing else. That chick has taken over everything and left – nothing – no space and no time – no anything.
And that is how an addiction works.
Why do addictions seem so hard to beat?
So what is it that makes addictions so easy to acquire and so difficult for most people to shake off? The answer lies in the chemical reward mechanisms that the human brain uses to motivate itself to act and learn.
The excitement we get when we are keen to do something is produced by dopamine, a natural brain chemical, very like cocaine in its effect that raises our emotional level so we want to take action. And the warm feelings of satisfaction we get after doing something — eating, laughing, having sex, or achieving some new understanding or skill — are produced by endorphin, another natural substance (which is similar to heroin). Working together these chemicals keep us interested in doing the biological functions that preserve the species, and stretch each one of us to learn and achieve.
In a well-balanced life, a reasonable amount of natural reward is felt by the human every day, but in a life where essential emotional needs are not met and abilities are not stretched, the rewards do not come and life feels flat and meaningless.
This kind of life is rich territory for addictions to target, as every addictive substance or behaviour either stimulates a reward mechanism or provides a chemical reward directly. Dangerous activities stimulate production of dopamine, generating a feeling of exhilaration; injecting heroin gives a warm, cosy feeling like the natural feelings of satisfaction you might get after fulfilling any biologically necessary function.
The Five Stages of Quitting – Where are you now?
- Pre-contemplation: Before you know you have a problem
- Contemplation: Yes, maybe you do have a problem
- Determination: a decision is taken – something has to change
- Action: You do something about it
- Maintenance: There is real effort to stick with it
- Relapse: You learn that any (likely) slip is not a disaster but a staging point on the road to complete cessation
The path of Addiction Busting
- Understand that the emotions and emotional triggers have to be shifted and not even to pretend that your rational brain or your will alone can do it on its own.
- Take your time – and don’t even begin to face the addictive habits directly until you have begun to take tiny steps that show you the possibility of a more fulfilling life and bring you a measure of control.
- Change your relationship to the dependence. Be less friendly toward it and separate yourself from it but don’t necessarily begin to hate it. It is after all doing its best to keep you safe.
- Know that when the time comes you will be ready to get rid of it – to loosen the power of the addiction trance state.
Checking your Addiction Time Line
Take a piece of paper and draw a straight line across it horizontally – and write out on that line years that comprise your life to date – in decades if you are quite old or in five year slices or less if you still young. And then draw a wavy line on the paper which denotes your relationship with your binge drinking (or eating problems or any long standing addiction/obsession) over your lifetime. When the addiction was absent – for sure in the first decade of your life and when it was there but quite weak and when it was stronger – when the line moves to the top of the page.
And what do you notice as you look at this line and think about your life at the times when the line was low on the page? Was there any addiction or giving up any of your power to an addiction then or it was very weak? And when the line shifted to rising or falling and also when it was high on the page (the addiction was powerful there). Like it is now?
You will find that your life was working better – in terms of getting those essential needs met – for security, relationships and satisfying work – when the line is low and that when the line is high on the page – well then needs were not being met very well and indeed the alcohol and binge drinking was probably squeezing out your capacity to get those needs met.
This is very important to realise clearly.
And consider those times in your life when that line shifts to rising and falling. What changed at that time for you? And at the time in your life when the line is rising can you recall the stress and pressures you were under and why you were under that pressure and how the alcohol or eating and the association with social activities found a fruitful place to grow then. And you might spot an association in your life at one those times when the line began to rise that can explain to you why that addiction to really losing it in that particular setting seemed to provide the answer. Perhaps then, the eating or drinking (or whatever it is) did seem to give you relief because there was a sense of control or social connection that you lacked at that time.
Addictions can only flourish if lives are not working and needs are not being met. The US army found that when they followed the lives if the drug addicted Vietnam vets as they returned to their previous lives. Those who returned to families and jobs and balanced lives just stopped the drug – just like that.
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