There was a time when walking into the wilderness would have been unthinkable without bringing an ample supply of beer. Well, things have changed. I’ve been dry for quite a while, leaving this addiction behind. But there are others, and we all have them—cigarettes, excessive caffeine, workoholism, hours of television or Internet surfing—all the unhealthy or unproductive pursuits that don’t add to our growth or regeneration. In fact, they get in the way of our growth, production, and happiness.
So here are a few thoughts about addiction.
1) Be of service
One friend tells the story of complaining about his life years ago to his uncle. “I’ve got just the thing,” replied his uncle. “I’ll come pick you up.” And when he did–he drove them straight to the Rescue Mission, where they served food to homeless people all day.
Need help? Want to solve your problems? Go help someone else. It works. Instead of continuing to revisit your own mind racing in circles, break the pattern in a positive direction.
2) Stop trying to do everything by yourself.
Learn to ask for help. I don’t care that you don’t need it. Ask anyway. It’s foolish to insist on handling everything alone, and you’re not as good at it as you think. It’s also more fun to do things with other people.
I know. You’re a loner. You’re not good with other people. And you’re the ten millionth person I’ve heard say that. Get over it. I too suffered from terminal uniqueness. Trust me—you’re going to like this better.
Let other people get to know you. You’re a wonderful person–but not as special and unique as you think. Stop setting yourself apart, and join with these people. You’ll learn to love it.
3) Replace old habits with new ones.
Right now–don’t think about orange juice! Oops, too late…that’s the problem with trying NOT to do something. Now, instead of orange juice, think of cranberry juice…much easier, yes? Do the same with habits.
If you usually have a cigarette with that first cup of coffee, plan ahead of time what you’re going to have with your coffee from now on (make it sustainable). If you usually have a drink after dinner, decide what you’re going to have after dinner instead. If you usually get a pint of ice cream when you’re having a rough day, figure out what you can have ready instead. And keep at it–it takes 21 days to change a habit, and in the case of psychological dependency, perhaps much longer. But it gets easier with time.
And time takes time.
But don’t try to just stop–change. If nothing changes…nothing changes.
4) Avoid people, places and things.
If that convenience store you stop at every day has a worn path to the scratch off tickets, shop somewhere else. If the supermarket aisles show the trail you’ve well-traveled to the beer displays, change stores. If the route you take home every day goes right by where you usually buy cigarettes, take a different route to and from work. Change.
If you’re trying to stop drinking, smoking, gambling, over-eating, or any other addiction, stop hanging out with the people who do those things. Don’t hang out where those things happen– “You don’t go to a whore house to hear the piano music,” as the saying goes. You are just flirting with trouble. Don’t.
And lose the things you associate with those addictions, whatever they are. Change.
It will get easier the further away you get.
5) The Rule of Three
I went through a lot of pain before I realized this. I call it the Rule of Three:
*I won’t feel this bad in three hours (usually two).
*Things won’t look this bad in three days.
*This situation will look very different in three weeks.
*Things will be completely different in three months.
*You can’t even imagine where you’ll be in three years.
Doubt it? Think back to how you were feeling three months ago, three weeks ago, three days ago, three hours ago. Emotions change quickly–we only treat them like the present one will last forever. It won’t. Ride it out, knowing all will be well shortly. And it will.
6) Have a daily spiritual program.
Make sure it’s daily, and inviolate. Let this be your touchstone each day, a way to focus and renew your energies in a positive and productive way. Daily readings are a popular way to do this, along with prayer and meditation, but whatever way works for you, whatever way is most meaningful to you day by day, is what you should organize your life around, day by day.
Ask for help. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, don’t try to go through life without aligning yourself with God/Universe/Nature/Tao/Higher Power/Creator/Great Spirit or whatever other term you prefer. Be part of the whole, and let that whole govern your part in it.
At the end of the day, say “Thank you.” There is tremendous power–and solace–in gratitude. Use that power, daily.
7) One more thing….
Addiction comes from fear. Nothing logical about it–our addictions, whatever they are, serve purely emotional ends, and not in logical (i.e., not in healthy) ways. It’s a denial parading as a solution. But like all lies, it comes from fear. Truth needs no lie.
Imagine that first cigarette–eyes watering, mouth burning, the urgent cough, feeling nauseous…and then deciding to do it again. That’s not the rational mind at work. Or dropping dollar after dollar on the lottery, because, “Hey, you never know!” Yes you do. When the odds of winning are one in millions, and the odds of being struck by lightning are one in a million–hey, have you ever run in terror of lightning because “Hey, you never know”? Or did you ever wonder where all the money for that gorgeous casino come from? This isn’t hope–it’s desperation.
To counter fear, choose love. Why do we baulk at love? Why is happiness too great a price to pay? Nothing logical about that either. To counter darkness, turn on the light. Rationalizing the dark will never make it light. Love yourself. Love your fellow humans. Love your current situation, even if it seems there’s not that much to love. Love. Face your fears with love.
They will run.
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Join the “Wilderness Hike” list.
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October 2012 is a series of daily posts about “A Wilderness Hike,” taking readers through the healing of wilderness experience and glimpses of my work at Kwan Yin Healing and of my book, “Getting Unstuck.”
You can read the series from the start via the links here:
Oct. 1: A Wilderness Hike
Oct. 2: The Sixth Hour
Oct. 3: Snowy Mountain
Oct. 4: Letting Go of Baggage–the Wilderness Way
Oct. 5: “Bear” the Thought
Oct. 6: Mountain. Buddha. Impermanence.
Oct. 7: The Rewards of Rain
Oct. 8: Finding the Keys
Oct. 9: “I’d love to, but times are bad.”
Oct. 10: Attracting the Law of Attraction
Oct. 11: We are not our thoughts
Oct. 12: Honesty, Forgiveness, Healing
Oct. 13: Getting Unstuck: Feeling Overwhelmed
Oct. 14: Money is remarkably easy to come by, if that’s all you want.
Oct. 15: To be Time Rich, Learn to Be
Oct. 16: Changing Thoughts for Changing Work
Oct. 17: Finding and Sharing your Gifts
Oct. 18: Do you want to be the boss? Be sure you want to run the show.
Oct. 19: Finding jobs within jobs
Oct. 20: Bright Mountain Dream
Oct. 21: Escape the Wilderness of Addictions
Oct. 22: The Importance of Spiritual Direction
Oct. 23: In Search of Enlightenment
Oct. 24: Relationship Thoughts from the Wilderness
Oct. 25: We learn in realtionships
Oct. 26: Chrysalis
Oct. 27: Self-Healing, part 1
Oct. 28: Self-Healing, part 2: Time for a new perspective
Oct. 29: Dix Mountain
Oct. 30: The Mist-Filled Path
Oct. 31: From Wilderness to Wondrousness