The following article, Overcoming An Addiction Doesn’t Have To Be Difficult, was first published on Flag And Cross.
Moving on from an addiction can be easy, but it takes a shift in your wants to make that change happen. I realize that using the word easy when discussing addiction might sound dismissive of people’s struggles. Make no mistake, I know that feeling addicted can be scary and demoralizing. I too once felt hopeless; my daily drinking took its toll in my life. But moving past addictions is normal and most people succeed in overcoming their destructive habits just as I did. Surprisingly more than 9 out of 10 heavy substance users and drinkers moderate to non problematic levels or abstain for good. Yes, people almost always age-out of their addictions, and that is good news! But here is better news – you don’t need to wait to age out; you can stop or moderate successfully right now.
What Makes People “Addicted?”
What keeps people tied to a drinking or drug habit are the perceived benefits, usefulness, and the perceived need they see in using them. As long as these perceptions of benefits exist in your mind, you will continue to crave substances. As soon as you challenge those benefits and see that substances cannot provide the benefits you thought they did, the desire goes away. (We cover this topic in great detail in our book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap in Chapters 17 through 20.) You won’t want something that can’t serve you in some way. Remember, you are motivated by what will provide you happiness, satisfaction and benefits. With little to no benefits, there will be little to no drive or perceived need to continue use. The first key to moving on is to devalue your almost religious belief in the magical powers and mystical benefits you believe drugs and alcohol contain. Once this fiction is out of the way, your world will naturally open up to new opportunities that no longer include heavy use.
The Bicycle Analogy – A Tale of Moving On
When I was a young boy, like millions of others across the globe, I learned to ride a bike. On my eighth birthday I was ready for a full size model. I got a red, 20” Murray with a banana seat. I remember picking it up with my older sister and Aunt from Boardman’s Outlet Store that bright summer day. I can still remember the smell of the red paint when I ripped open the box to assemble it in the garage. The reason this memory stays with me is the sense of freedom that bike gave me which was immensely important to me at the time. Also, I finally had something unique and new that the other neighborhood kids didn’t have at the time – to me it was a status symbol and an attention getter.
I rode that bike for years. I rode it until nearly every part was wore out and replaced at least once, sometimes twice. Eventually I upgraded to a lightweight BMX race bike called a Hutch Pro Raider. This one had even more advantages and became my second companion in my life’s travels far and wide.
Then something happened – I turned sixteen and got my driver’s license.
The day I got my license I drove my dad’s white Dodge pickup to my girlfriend’s house. I had that same sense of freedom I had 8 years prior with that red Murray, but this time it was more significant and profound. I left the driveway on that first drive, and my gaze became fixated on the horizon like never before. I love to drive. I love road trips. I love exploring and the mechanics of it all. Like moving on from a drinking or drug habit, I never really thought about my bicycle again. As a matter of fact, I left that expensive Hutch Pro Raider that was my entire world just months prior in a friend’s shed and never went back to get it. I have no idea where it went or who got it. I had simply moved on.
But here is the big point I want to make clear here:
No Connective Tissue – This is Important
When I got in that truck for my first independent foray down the road, I didn’t have to tell myself, “I’m going to drive this truck to replace my bicycle!” Neither did I say, “I need to get my license so I no longer crave my bike!” Nope, those thoughts never entered my mind. Life moved forward, I naturally grew as a person, got my license and never looked at the bike again. It was effortless because I wasn’t trying to convince myself not to ride the bike.
Had this NOT been effortless, then that would have been a clear indicator that the benefits of the bike still outweighed the benefits of the truck. They didn’t, so there was no back and forth in my mind, no need to actively distract myself from the bicycle by getting in the truck and emotionally escaping from the bike’s pull. There was no mental or emotional connective tissue to making the decision to drive away in that truck, no feelings of being deprived of my bicycle, no looking back trying to escape.
Don’t you think it would be weird to get in a car or truck specifically to not ride a bike? Of course it would. Make no mistake, it’s just as strange to try to replace a drug habit with hobbies and avocations as a means to mentally run away from the thing you still want to do. So in the final analysis, the only way you can move on to new hobbies and avocations and lifestyle, is to first put a stake in the heart of your beliefs that drugs and alcohol provide more benefits than those other things.
This is why so many people who once qualified as “addicted” to substances, no longer are – they moved on! This is why there is no need for support or recovery efforts when you truly move on. You’re not running away, depriving yourself of something you still perceive as a need. You’re not protecting yourself by isolating in 12 step meetings and therapy. You’re not battling an addiction. In the same way, I didn’t get in that truck to run from my bike.
Again, you do not force yourself to replace your substance use habit unless you still see benefits in using them. And should there still be a belief in the benefits and need to use substances, no replacement will be sufficient to counter that perceived need. You might attempt to replace your use with working out, yoga, holistic lifestyles, therapy, sober coaches, a change in scenery, AA sponsors, 12 step meetings, support groups, etc., but if the perceived need or benefits for substances still exists in your mind, you’ll eventually give in to what you really desire – the perceived benefits of that use. I could have the nicest Cadillac ever made sitting in my driveway, but if the bike continued to be the center of my freedom, that beautiful car would rot where it sat. Moving on from a drug habit means you’ve critically challenged the benefits of use and found those benefits and perceived need aren’t valid anymore. Then you can move on effortlessly.
If you or someone you love are ready to break free from the addiction and recovery trap and move on, call us at 888-424-2626.
For more information about The Freedom Model go to TheFreedomModel.org
Mr. Mark Scheeren is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the St. Jude Retreat, as is co-author of The Freedom Model for Addictions, Escape the Treatment and Recovery Trap, the original Non-12-Step approach for people who struggle with serious substance use issues. Mr. Scheeren and his staff of Researchers and Instructors have helped many thousands find permanent solutions to their drug and alcohol problems.
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