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OUT FROM UNDER!
Treating Your Own Addictions
WHAT TO DO AND
HOW TO START
"The hardest path to find is underfoot."
THE RANDOM CYCLE OF URGESThe daily temperature, the stock market, the phases of the moon, even television and radio waves—these are all examples of cycles. Most processes in nature occur in cycles.
Some cycles are predictable, some are not. The cycles that are not predictable are known as random cycles. So it is with urges. There are periods of time when there are few urges to engage in the unwanted actions and healing is not difficult.
Then, suddenly and unpredictably, the urges peak in intensity and you become temporarily powerless in the face of the urges. At these critical peaks in the cycle your recovery is at greatest risk. But then, after a period of time, the urges subside and "cycle down" so that healing is once again resumed. The peaks in the cycle may last a few minutes, a few days, or anywhere in between. Take a look at the following diagram.Another feature of the peaks in the cycle of urges is the change in thinking and reasoning about relapse. When only yesterday relapse seemed impossible today it seems reasonable. Here are a few examples from the "Big Book" of Alcoholics Anonymous:
"So I was driving to Cleveland when I made this solemn promise never to drink
again. That was at three-thirty in the afternoon. At three-thirty the next morning I was in jail for driving while intoxicated."
"With a great deal of determination I would throw out full pints—pour them out and smash them—firmly resolved never to take the stuff. In four or five days I would be hunting all over the place for the bottles I had destroyed, cursing myself for being a fool."
"How many times I swore off in the morning and got drunk by sunset I do not know."
The Random Relapse-Recovery Cycles
The authors of this handbook have witnessed the relapse and recovery processes over and over again in their work in treatment centers. What characterizes healing for the vast majority of them is the slow increase in the length of the healing phases and the slow shortening of the relapse phases, with periodic relapses being part of the process. This "cycling up" process takes time. For those severely addicted it takes years. For you it may be shorter or longer.
Relapse is part of healing. Relapse is a matter of unpredictable cycles and is not caused by circumstances. In addition, long term healing is rarely a sudden event. Slowly, but surely, the total time spent in healing increases if you keep trying. The periodic or cyclic relapses are part of the process. As time passes, you will slowly change the cycles by overcoming urges. Finally, most of your time will be spent in healing phases.
Stop blaming yourself for relapse and tell those around you that relapse is part of healing. You and your relatives and friends will be slow to get this notion, so a be patient. The important thing is that you must stop feeling ashamed and guilty about relapse. Relapse is simply part of the random cycle. The purpose of this handbook is to assist you in developing strategies to change the nature of the cycle. You must learn how to shorten your relapse phases and lengthen your healing phases.
Circumstances Do Not Cause Relapse
Reasons are not causes. Imagine the following simple experiment. Hold a book over the table for a while, and then drop it. The book falls to the table. What caused it to fall? Most persons answer "gravity." However, gravity is not the cause. Gravity is in effect 24 hours a day and was in effect while you held the handbook over the table. Why did the handbook suddenly drop to the table when it did? You opened your hand and released the handbook. This was an actual event that caused another. Your action was the cause. Gravity was only the reason.How does this apply to healing? The circumstances of your life are going on 24 hours a day just like gravity. They can only be reasons, "mind stuff" to explain what has come to pass. Why do you suddenly at a particular time relapse? The cause of relapse is not the external circumstances hat have been going on all the while. Family problems, money problems, whatever the problems, these circumstances are not the cause of relapse. The cause is an act of the will, or series of acts, that are the results of the random cycle of relapse and healing. Try the following exercise.
Do something right now. Maybe raise ,our hand suddenly, maybe throw this handbook at the wall, or maybe think of a day at the beach. Do it for NO reason. Keep trying until you experience the fact that some things can be done for no reason at all. This could take a few hours of constant effort or it could happen in an instant.
Stop needing a reason for an action. Just do what you need to do without explanation or reason. You don't need a reason to do something, and having a reason won't cause you to do it. You have to "be the cause" through an act of your will.Many forms of fun and play involve this. A "game" is merely a context to make tense out of actions that have no meaning in and of themselves. Keep practicing this exercise until you get good at it. One of the best things to do for no reason is to have some fun. Try one of the fun activities in Appendix 1 right now. Work uring the next few weeks to master having un for no reason. Try doing unpleasant asks for no reason. Every day do some fun things for no reason. Just do them.
Twelve Important Points
ONCE ADDICTION HAS SET IN, CIRCUMSTANCES, PAST OR PRESENT, DO NOT CAUSE RELAPSE. Relapse is not caused by circumstances. This is an old wisdom that has been passed along from one generation of recovering persons to the next. Today's relapse isn't caused by yesterday's circumstances or by what is going on at the present time. We relapse whether or not we are upset by circumstances.
Whether you go to a self-help group or treatment center or whatever, it is you who does so. When you "surrender" in a recovery group to a higher power, it is you who does so. No matter who helps you, be it God or your girlfriend, you are the one who created their help.
All healing involves avoiding some kind of action and replacing it with some other action that is healthful and makes you feel good.
The Method of Distraction
Without a doubt the most successful and time tested way to heal is to distract your mind away from your urges. This is the best and maybe even the only way to bring about continued or "long cycle" healing. History reveals a long list of the failures of using chemical assistance to subdue urges. For example, heroin was invented by the Bayer Company for their cough syrup which contained morphine and later used to treat morphine addiction. Then methadone was created to treat heroine addiction. In general, the use of chemicals—other than in hospital detox—to treat addiction can result in more problems.
As we say in the next chapter, having fun is one of the best methods of keeping your mind away from urges. When you play hard, you have little on your mind but winning and performing well those actions that will help you win. If you have an urge during that time it probably will go unnoticed, or at least unfulfilled.
Practice the Method of Distraction many times a day. Keep your mind on some- thing else even though the urge remains. Even while having an urge you can engage in another activity so that the urge does not overtake your mind and control it like a magnet. When you give in to an urge it is because your mind has become "smaller" than the urge instead of "larger" than it. At the point of relapse the urge has your mind's whole attention and you are unable to escape the "pull" of the urge. In time however, when you have learned the skills in this book, you will be able to see your mind is the larger context, separate from, the urges.
The urges can be for a drug, food, or to return to a problem relationship. They can be to gamble, take on more debt, or to compulsively shop. The Method of Distraction applies to all. This may be disappointing news, but the fact is that healing and recovery are the process of avoiding the unwanted urges. THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.
Commitment to Healing
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and say to yourself "I am committed to my healing." Do this twenty times every day.
Commitment to healing needs to be renewed every day. Besides saying the above exercise make symbolic gestures of your commitment to healing. These might include dressing better each day, or being exactly on time for any healing related activity.
Recovery Is Healing
Healing can be from smoking, drinking, compulsive overeating, or many other substances or activities or combinations thereof. The strategies and tactics of healing generally revolve around the idea that you must distract your mind away from urges until they subside. For these purposes it matters little what it is you seek to avoid, just as long as you avoid it.
How You Can Slowly Change the CycleEvery time you overcome an urge you are victorious in a battle that is part of a larger war. Every time you overcome an urge you change what the cycle would have been. This is no small victory; it is a huge success. Probably there was a time in your life when overcoming urges was nearly impossible. By continuing to overcome urges, even during relapse, eventually the healing part of the cycle will be much longer than the relapse part. By then, most of your time will be spent in healing. The way to overcome urges is our next topic.
When There Is No UrgeThere are times when you are not powerless and yet you relapse anyway. How many times have you lit a cigarette or eaten something without thinking about it? Perhaps it was to "calm your nerves" or to relieve boredom. During the periods between the peaks when your recovery is manageable, it is still possible that you'll resume your harmful activity. You must realize that at such times you choose to relapse since you are not powerless. Obviously, if you are serious about recovery, don't do it! Choose not to.
More important are the peaks when powerlessness and "relapse thinking" set in. These are far more difficult times for you. At these times you will need others, and all the strategies and tactics you can find. Because of this, we will concentrate on the peak periods in this handbook.
The Inner Targets ExerciseTry this: Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. Concentrate on a feeling or sensation in your body. Now focus your mind on some other part of your body. Now return your attention to the original feeling or sensation. Concentrate deeply on it for a while. Now focus your attention somewhere else. Notice how your mind is free to concentrate either on an inner image or feeling, or to focus on something else. Keep going back and forth from the original feeling to something else.
Try the exercise when you are experiencing a peak urge or thoughts of relapse. It will not be so easy then. But it can be done if you constantly practice this method.
Acknowledge Your Success to Yourself and Others
You must acquire the habit of rewarding your even smallest successes with a "pat on the back." There is an abundance of evidence that supports the value of positive reinforcement. YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS IS JUST AS EASILY CONDITIONED TO SUCCEED AS IT IS TO FAIL. Up to now you have been conditioning it to fail and to believe that success is not really possible. Persons who are successful are that way because they acknowledge their success to themselves and others. They don't acknowledge success because they are successful. They are successful because they acknowledge their successes. You must come to understand this and acquire this habit. Remember, however, you must always tell the truth to your subconscious. Make sure you are successful when you reward yourself.
Success ExerciseClose your eyes and relax. Think of a success you had today. Maybe it was feeling good or having fun for a moment without chemical assistance, or maybe picking up this handbook. Maybe you overcame an urge, and even though the urge may have returned, that "overcoming" was a success. You cannot change the fact of it or deny that it was a success.
Now begin the process of mastery of success. Acknowledge your successes over and over again in your mind. Say to yourself, "I was truly successful. There is no denying that." Say it again and again. Look for more successes. You are probably not very good at even recognizing what success looks like. Just keep looking and learning about it. Keep saying to yourself that you are just as able to be successful in healing as anyone else. This is an important strategy for winning the war.
Reason With YourselfMake a daily habit of considering the dollar costs and social costs of your addiction. Sit down and make a list in this handbook of the costs and the things you don't like about your addiction. Make sure you have read and understood the Introduction to this handbook. Now read Appendix 14.
If you are recovering from alcohol addiction, try drinking six or seven or eight glasses of water a day. When you drink alcohol what you are drinking is mostly water! Beer is 95% water, wine is 90% water, and most whiskeys are 60% water. So when you are drinking a lot you are also drinking a lot of water. This suggestion applies to any type of healing, especially from overeating, but also from drug use. Water detoxes the body. By the way, like wine, the body itself is nearly 90% water.
Your Personal Healing Plan
Now let's get into the business of planning for the lengthening of your healing and the shortening of your relapse. Remember, this is a "business you own yourself," so you are allowed to have fun while doing it. Successful business start-ups are done according to a plan that usually involves a series of goals to be achieved by certain dates. Business plans also usually include a step by step series of actions that are intended to result in reaching goals. In Appendix 5 you will find a blank form to fill with healing exercises and fun. Now begin to complete it. Mark with a pencil things you need to do to enhance your healing. Plan some activities such as play or volunteer work at the times you are most likely to relapse. At first this will be difficult, but as time passes you will know when distraction is most needed. Plan "sober activities" in the evenings and avoid being alone. Try to figure out the steps necessary for the goals included in the healing plan. Be patient with yourself. "Beating yourself on the head makes you weaker."
Should You Go To A Meeting?
There is only one way to find out: go and see. Check out one or two or more the groups that apply to you in Appendix 19. If you think they are not for you, you need to think carefully to determine if you are simply afraid to go, and if it is true that you can "do it yourself." And since you cannot do it yourself you must create your own support group.
Hypoglycemia"Another aspect of malnutrition which is widely misunderstood and overlooked is hypoglycemia, or chronic low blood sugar. This condition, which is prevalent in both early and late-stage [dependent persons], is usually caused by diseases or disorders in the liver or endocrine glands which affect the body's ability to store and release blood sugar or glucose. Dependent persons have various malfunctions in liver enzyme activities which may result in a decreased ability to convert glycogen into glucose. A malfunction in the activity of the endocrine glands may also be involved.
"When the blood sugar drops to abnormally low levels, the dependent person experiences symptoms of fatigue, headache, sleepiness, forgetfulness, inability to do little or nothing to enlighten their patients. Without an adjustment in the sugar intake, the feelings of depression and anxiety may continue indefinitely, and one may never escape the desire for a drink to relieve 'psychological' symptoms." (From Under the Influence by Milan & Ketcham, Bantam Books, 1981.) This leads us to the next topic.
The mineral Chromium has been known since the 1960's to improve the way we break down and utilize sugar. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the government agency responsible for monitoring our nutrition, reports that 90% of us live on a diet that is deficient in Chromium. The result of this is that we do not properly digest sugar, and we do not properly utilize it at the level of each cell in our body. Addiction can be intimately tied up with blood sugar level.
Chromium Picolinate is the U.S.D.A.'s invention. They have the patent on it. Taking it regulates your blood sugar level and can result in more energy available to you. Other benefits include weight loss, cholesterol reduction, better muscle building when you exercise, and, possibly, BETTER MOODS. Go to a health food store, buy some, and take it every day. This essential nutrient may do you a lot of good. The present writers have witnessed positive benefits for many of those who take it. Chromium Picolinate is not recommended for persons with diabetes.
If there is any activity for which the fun factor and chromium have consequences, it is physical exercise. People work very hard when they exercise, yet they have fun, Go for a walk right now, even if only for a short distance. Say to yourself, "This is fun." Promise yourself that you will try to get involved in a game of softball or a walkathon, or some other outdoor group activity. Never let age be an excuse not to play. By the way, chromium enhances the muscle building effects of exercise.
Recognize The Warning Signs of Relapse
The "Shotgun" Approach
Try as many strategies and tactics as you can in your personal battles. Outside perhaps of a total religious breakthrough, no one single path is THE way. Go to a few self-help meetings. Read some healing books. Read Appendix Appendix 19 right now if you are serious about your healing.
The Value of the 'Twilight State' of Mind
As we go to sleep we pass through a state of mind known as the "Twilight State." During this time thoughts and feelings pass by in a fleeting manner as you gradually "step down the ladder" to sleep. Many animals sleep only in this state.
While going to sleep you can do many things to improve your healing skills. Complete some of the exercises in this chapter while on your way to sleep tonight. Think about what you've learned so far.
Acknowledge your successes. Try to recall going to sleep as a child. Try to recreate those Twilight States now. As you go to sleep tonight, recreate this state full of its feelings and experiences.
NOW GO BACK AND READ THE PARAGRAPH HEADINGS IN THIS CHAPTER. THEN READ THE HEADINGS IN CHAPTER 1. THEN PUT THIS HANDBOOK DOWN FOR A DAY. ON THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW START READING CHAPTER THREE.
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© 2003 by danmahony.com