Tag Archives: addiction

Do you have an addictive personality?

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There is an accepted idea out there that once addicted to something, you will always be prone to returning to your addiction. This idea is reinforced by mainstream media, with constant stories of celebrities going into rehab or, even worse, taking their own lives through substance abuse. Alcoholics Anonymous encourage the idea that you will always be an alcoholic but that you can follow 12 steps to get off and stay off using alcohol. Many smokers will still answer that they are a smoker even when they have given up smoking for a while.

It is also assumed that, given a certain set of circumstances, people will return to their addiction. It is also accepted that there is such a thing as an addictive personality. In fact, for many years I believed I had an addictive personality and would stay away from addictive substances because of the belief I would never be able to stop if I started.

I no longer believe that to be true. I do not think people have addictive personalities. I believe that people have a need to use some substance to help them cope. As long as there is a need to cope, there will be a need for the substance (or behaviour because gambling and shopping can also be addictions). I had a lot of difficult stuff in my childhood, if I had found something that allowed me to escape from that, I would definitely have used it. Luckily for me, nothing really worked.

To understand why it is possible to permanently overcome an addiction, we first have to look at what an addiction truly is.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is using a substance to either give you a feeling, or escape from a feeling.

For example:

Alcohol: Some people drink alcohol to feel more confident in social situations. It allows them to forget their inhibitions. Some people drink alcohol to the point where they can’t remember what happened when they were drunk. This allows them to escape from unpleasant thoughts in their head.

Drugs: Some people take drugs to relax. Drugs like cannabis are often smoked in a social environment where people are chilling out together. Some people take drugs to forget. Hard drugs like Heroin totally take you out of reality. This is often taken by people who really need to escape from the harsh realities of life.

Food: Some people eat because it makes them happy or it gives them comfort. Eating reminds them of happy times. Some people eat to create a window of nothing-ness. This is often true of people who binge eat; they often describe it as a mindless act.

So What?

If addiction serves a purpose, then the logical step to take to get rid of the addiction is to get rid of the need for it i.e. get rid of the purpose.

If we try and work on addiction as a behaviour or as a disease, we are merely treating the symptoms rather than the cause. It is like trying to get rid of a tree by chopping the branches; for a while it may seem like it’s been very effective, but eventually new branches will emerge from the root. The only way to get rid of the tree is to get rid of the roots.

How Addictions are Formed

From working with hundreds of clients, I have learnt that connections are made in our subconscious in early years. It is like a massive web, where something that happens right now can vibrate a small thread which sends a signal right back to an early memory. That early memory holds with it the instructions on how to respond. When the triggering event leads to a memory where there was a feeling of hurt, the response returned is one of protection and is designed to enable damage limitation to give you the best chance of survival.

The problem is, these memories are from when you were a child. As a child you didn’t understand the complexities of adult emotion. It was easy to feel hurt by small things, such as your father telling you that you should have done better at a test at 8 years old. If your subconscious equates that moment to feeling hurt, it will lock in a lesson from it and it will become a significant event. When, as an adult, something pattern matches to that significant event, such as feeling like you messed up a presentation at work, you get a protection response that is disproportionate to the event. Messing up the presentation becomes further evidence of how useless you are and how you will never be good enough; all because you disappointed your father at 8 years old. The other problem is that the subconscious is a primitive part of the brain. “Hurt” in the subconscious equates to physical hurt, which ultimately equates to death. So it will do anything it can to stop you getting hurt, even when the hurt is only emotional, as it is these days.

Addiction is Not Necessarily an Addiction for Life

The problem is, because of the spider web of memories, if you try and address the problem in your present reality, you are not changing the early memory. You are merely getting rid of one thread. There are many routes back to the significant memory.

If the memory that keeps getting triggered is painful, then it leaves you with nowhere to go. No matter what you try, eventually something else will trigger it. This is when people turn to a substance. If you can’t avoid the thing that causes the pain, the only option you have is to dampen or escape from those feelings.

Let’s take alcohol. One day you are drinking and as you drink more and more you being to realise that you are not feeling so much. Night after night you tell yourself you won’t drink but the thoughts are in your head and won’t go away. Soon the night time drink spreads into the day when something happens and you just need to escape. Even though the consequences can have a really negative impact on you and your life, in that moment where you are hurting, you do the thing you know works. Soon it has become a habit. Even if the situation that originally made you turn to drinking has now changed, you are now in the habit of using alcohol to cope with everything. Where others may draw on their innate skills, you are now conditioned to use the substance. This is how an addiction is formed.

How Do You Permanently Overcome Addiction?
If we work off the basis that a significant memory from childhood ultimately becomes the root of an addiction, then overcoming that addiction is simply a matter of changing the significant memory. Of course, we can’t change time, but we can change our perception of it. Have you ever compared childhood memories with someone else who was there? I am sure you found that they either don’t remember the same things as you, or, if they do, they remember them differently. We remember things based on the limited understand of a child. This means if we look back on a memory, we have the benefit of hindsight. We can see something differently as an adult than we did as a child.

How Do You Permanently Overcome Addiction?

Now, I’m sure we all know the rules of time travel? If you go back in time and change something, then it will have an impact on the present day. So if you go and look back on a memory with your adult eyes (and maybe an external guide for perspective) then you will see what happened in a different way. If you see it differently you can change it. If you change a significant memory, it loses its significance and becomes just another of the 7,363,228 minutes that you experience by the time you are 15 years old. If a memory is no longer significant, when you vibrate a thread there is no response and no need to go into a state of protection i.e. there is no need to cope. The addiction ceases to serve a purpose.

This process takes time. Imagine you broke a leg really badly when you were 5 years old. The doctors told you that you would never be able to put a weight on that leg again. You spend the whole of your life using a crutch to take the weight of that leg. Then one day, when you are 43 years old, you come and see a therapist like me. I tell you that your leg is perfectly fine and kick the crutch away. Does that mean you are going to run out of the therapy session? No! You will need to learn that you can trust that leg. You need to learn that it can support you. There will probably be times in the early days where you still use the crutch, just to be sure. Eventually though, you will realise you don’t need it. You will never need it again.

Getting over addiction is a slow process, but it can be a permanent one, if you approach it by getting rid of the need for the substance, rather than cognitively choosing to stay away from the substance.

Save water, drink wine

imageYou get home from another long day at work. After you’ve done the things you must (fed the kids, put them to bed, sorted out dinner etc) you sit in front of the TV and grab the bottle of wine that you opened last night, that is now half empty. You and your partner chat about the day as the mindless television allows you to switch off and escape from the stresses of the day. You mess around on Facebook a bit at the same time.

Pretty soon it’s bedtime, you grab the empty bottle and stick it in the recycling. For a moment you think that maybe tomorrow night you will skip the wine, but like Groundhog Day, the next evening you find yourself doing the same thing.

Thing is, you are not the only one. Your friends do it to.

This is the socially accepted norm these days. A glass of wine or two, or three in the evening after work. It helps with the stress.

Pretty soon you are getting tagged on Facebook against images of t-shirts about wine drinking. “Lol” you reply “that is so me”

The arrival of so many T-shirts tells us a lot. Drinking wine in the evening has become a socially accepted norm. Not an addiction. Not a growing epidemic like weight. Just a fun thing to. A fun thing to do to relieve stress. A fun thing that results in weight gain and health issues. A fun thing that you need to cope. Maybe not such a fun thing. Maybe it is closer to an addiction than you have realised.

An addiction is where you use a substance to get  feeling or to escape from a feeling. So what is wine to you?

The problem here is not the wine, it is the fact that there is something in your life that you are struggling to cope with. Wine could easily be replaced with food, drugs, smoking, shopping, gambling, etc.

So when you find that you need that glass of wine to relax in an evening, consider this: why do you need it? What would you feel like if you didn’t have it.

Is food a substance to you?

Addiction serves a purpose. When a person first starts drinking heavily or taking drugs they are doing it for a purpose.

It might help them dampen down the thoughts in their head, creating a sort of numbness that is better than the thoughts without the substance. It can be an escape that allows them to feel less or feel nothing.

It might replace feelings of insecurity or inadequacy with feelings of confidence and ‘not caring’.

It doesn’t matter what the substance is, what matters is the purpose you use it for.

Many people use food as a substance.

Think about the following questions in the context of when you are actually eating (not afterwards when you are judging yourself for what you did):

  • When you are tired do you find that you eat because it’s too much effort to resist?
  • When you are stressed does food allow you to feel calm?
  • When you are feeling like you are different and not good enough does eating give you something that allows you to forget about that for a while?
  • When you are feeling lonely does food give you comfort?
  • Does eating to keep the weight on make you feel safe in a strange way?
  • While you are eating do you feel numb in a way that is better than when you are not eating?
  • Does eating making you happy? While you are actually eating do you feel comforted and good?

The important question to ask yourself is:

Do you use food as a substance in the same way as some people use alcohol or drugs?

Many people I see use food like this.

Because we have to eat to survive it is not regarded as an addiction but food is often used as a substance without us realising it.

I can help you by removing the need for the addiction. I get rid of the meaning behind eating so that food becomes what it should be – fuel to get you through your day.

It can take time. But we can always get there in the end.

If you are interested in losing your dependence on food for whatever reason have a look at my weight loss coaching website www.thinkchangebecome.com . You can see how well Sandy has been doing and sign up for online coaching.

I can help you get over your dependency on food.

Stoptober , willpower, volunteers

I need volunteers who want to give up smoking to try a new download I have developed which boosts self-control and willpower.

Let me explain why I think this download will work

I’ve just read brilliant book by Kelly McGonigal called “Maximum Willpower”

Let me summarise what I have learnt so far (this is her take on things blended with what I know):

There is a battle going on in our heads at all times between the subconscious primitive drivers and the rational thought of the prefrontal cortex…the prefrontal cortex was the last part of the brain to develop in human evolution and it’s one of the key things that separates us from animals.

This part of the brain,let’s call it conscious thought, is a behaviour regulator. It often overrides the primitive drives initiated by our subconscious.

So for example, without the prefrontal cortex we would eat anything and everything that was available – to the point of making ourselves sick. We wouldn’t store food when we’d had enough. We also would not be so interested in wearing clothes and would not be so restrained about satisfying our sexual urges.

The pre-frontal cortex helps us be human.

However, it has an awkward relationship with our subconscious. The drive to survive is the strongest part of us. It can’t afford to be apply reason and take time to make decisions. It has to be instantaneous and based on ‘gut instinct’….feel first think later. It is emotional and physiological…with each instinctive survival response there is both an emotional response and a physiological response that happens far quicker than our conscious brain can respond.

We also know that the subconscious is the one in charge for up to 90% of the day.

With all that in mind you might think it’s some kind of miracle that we don’t spend all day eating until we are sick and satisfying all our primitive urges.

But we don’t…so what is it that makes the difference?

Well it’s all about willpower and self-control. At the end of the day, the subconscious can always trigger off a response but we have a choice to override that with rational conscious thought.

The good news is you can train yourself to make your self-control as effective as possible.

The download I’ve developed guides you through improving and using your self control using some simple tricks.

If you are a smoker that wants to stop and you want to volunteer to try it out in these early stages please email dawn@thinkitchangeit.com

Stoptober

Addiction is an interesting thing isn’t it? A need for something that is driven in combination of physical and mental.

Of course, when it comes to smoking they do everything they can to keep you addicted even to the point of putting molasses in the cigarette paper to give it a bit of sweetness. 

And the thing with addiction is, the more you do something the more you need to because our bodies are pretty clever and adapt. To get the same adrenaline boost you got when you smoked your first cigarette, you need to smoke 2, then 4, etc…to a point where to be able to get what used to be a normal adrenaline rush before you started smoking, you now need to smoke 40 a day. You are smoking to get your body to feel like it used to before you started. Because your body has adapted. 

So it doesn’t do for you what you thought it did. 

Smoking_benefits

You can see that pretty soon smoking stops being about the physical addiction and switches to what is going on in your head. 

On this basis, it makes sense that if we purely address it from a physical point of view then the chances of successfully quitting are more limited. 

So if you want to do something with the NHS initiative of “Stoptober” or even if you’ve just decided it’s time to give up smoking or anything else, why not browse my website and/or drop me an email and see if I can help.