We are not powerless over our addictions, nor are we helpless victims of heredity, a disease, a spiritual malady, or a slew of character defects that require the intervention of some “higher power,” and a lifetime of meetings to control. This is not my opinion, but the result of decades of scientific research into addiction, and the simple fact that 75% of all addicts recover on their own without formal treatment or self-help groups.
We learn to become addicted, and we can learn to make the changes necessary to our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that will relieve us of the burden of our addictions for a lifetime, not just a day-at-a-time. The objective of “Powerless No Longer,” is to help you learn to take advantage of your brains’ natural ability to rewire itself, its neuroplasticity, to overcome your addictive behavior, and reach your full potential. Click here or on the book to purchase. Click here for the audio book version available from Audible.com.
Researchers estimate that that 90% of those who recover from addictive behavior experience at least one relapse along the way. We can increase the odds in our favor through awareness of the warning signs, along with the process of examining the underlying beliefs. In 1982, two researchers, Terence T. Gorski, and Marlene Miller, identified a set of warning signs that typically lead to relapse. Further research has validated these changes in attitudes and behaviors, and proven they are accurate predictors. As you read this list, realize these changes occur gradually. Recognizing them early in the cycle will allow you to see beneath the behaviors, and modify the beliefs that drive them.
- Change in attitude — Something isn’t quite right. You’re doing fine, but you notice recovery is not as important to you as it once was. You are drifting, and something is wrong, but you cannot identify a good reason for it. You are unsure of yourself, and your ability to overcome your addictive behavior.
- Elevated stress — It seems you have many problems in your life, and your stress level is rising. You tend to overreact to the stress or act impulsively. Watch carefully for mood swings and exaggerated positive or negative feelings. Continue reading
I was reading some back issues of The Writer magazine today, and I encountered the following suggestion, attributed to Eric Maisel, a psychotherapist who works regularly with writers:
“Listen closely to yourself and dispute the thoughts that don’t serve you—even if those thoughts are true…. For example, you might think, ‘Writing a novel is hard. Selling a novel is hard.’ Yes, both thoughts are true, but they don’t serve you. The only thought that serves you is, I’m off to write a novel!” (emphasis mine)
We are used to practicing REBT to help us dispute and change our irrational belief systems. The paragraph above jumped out at me because I think we forget sometimes that the beliefs that keep us chained to our addictive behaviors, can actually be true, as in the example above. Of the three main tests that we apply to our beliefs, only one of them has to do with the belief being true or false. To review the tests, they are:
- Is the belief true? If there was a camera recording the scene, would it see it as our belief reflects it?
- Does the belief make us feel the way we want to feel?
- Does the belief conflict with our short or long-term goals?
If the belief fails any one of these tests, we should dispute it. In the example above, the writer should dispute the beliefs because they conflict with the goal of finishing a novel. I think that oftentimes we concentrate upon the first test, the “truth” test, and forget that even “true” beliefs can fail to pass one or both of the last two tests. Remember that the goal of the REBT process is to help us deal with life’s problems without resorting to our self-defeating addictive behaviors, and sometimes these behaviors are driven by our belief that the problems we’re facing are insurmountable, when the truth is they are not. Yes, it is hard to write a novel, and it’s also hard to change our behaviors, but that’s no reason to stop trying and give up.
A few years ago, when I decided to quit smoking following a major heart attack, one of the techniques that made it easier was seeing myself as a nonsmoker. I visualized a person with fresh breath, no little holes in his shirt, no nicotine stains on his fingers, and no pack of smokes in his pocket. A person who could answer the phone, read the paper in the morning, have a cup of coffee, deal with stress, and socialize, all without having a cigarette constantly burning nearby. Not just any person either, it had to be myself in a new role.
To some extent, I used the same technique years before when I quit drinking, but not as consciously as I did with smoking. With drinking, I had to first convince myself that there even was a life without alcohol before I could see myself in it. Once I decided there was, I could imagine myself in all sorts of situations, even attending my daughter’s wedding, without a drink. Continue reading