The one thing that all addictions have in common is the thoughtlessness of the habit. In other words, we seem to be acting on automatic pilot. Once we have made the decision to eat the chocolate cake, drink the glass of wine, buy another pair of shoes, we have lost control over what happens next. Before making the decision we may have an internal argument with ourselves over whether we should or shouldn’t have that drink when we get home from work, but after we have decided that we will go ahead, nothing will stop us carrying out our addictive act. It is making the decision that is important because this is the point of no return. Or is it?
To help overcome this compulsion that takes over us once we have made the decision that we are going to drink that glass of wine, we need something that puts the brakes on and creates a space between the decision to act and the action. We need to do this mindfully, not mindlessly by becoming aware of the whole process. Thinking about the addiction, the cravings, deciding to go ahead and then taking action. Many times, when people have decided to act out their addiction they do it very quickly, almost afraid that their thinking brain will be able to stop them getting what they want.
Exercise to Deal with Addiction Cravings
So, here is a little exercise that I suggest you do which will help you stop acting on impulse and give you the time to go inside yourself and ask your inner wisdom “Is this what I really want?” “Is this what I really need right now?” The reason we don’t do this is because we already know the answer, but if you are sick and tired or feeling sick and tired then maybe you might like to give this a little try.
Simply close your eyes, and ask yourself a question, “on a scale of 1 – 10 how much do I want do this?” Then clench your two hands into fists and hold them very tight, so that you become aware of the sensations in your hands, and perhaps you can feel the nails against your palms. Feel your thumbs wrapping over your fingers. Grip them as tight as you can and concentrate on the feelings in your hands and then follow that sensation up your arms and allow it flow through your body. Keep holding tightly and notice all the sensations that you feel in your body. When you are ready unclench you fists, but keep your eyes closed and allow the feeling of relaxation to spread through your body, soothing and calming all your muscles and your mind. Once you feel relaxed, open your eyes and listen for the answer to your question. How much do I want this, on a scale of 1 – 10. You can repeat this process as often as necessary.
If you still decide that you want to go ahead and act out your addiction, then do it mindfully, do not rush, focus on the effects and feelings in your body. Do not do it while doing anything else. If it is eating chocolate, then eat the chocolate slowly and do nothing else, do not watch TV, do not flick through your I-phone, do not read a book or play a computer game. Just keep focused on the act and notice the feelings in your body. The next time you want to have chocolate, repeat the whole process, starting with clenching your fists.
The point of this exercise it to stop you carrying out your addictive habits mindlessly and retrain your brain to take these actions from an unconscious act back into the conscious mind where we then have the power to make judgements and decisions.
The way to deal with the mind is not to attempt to change it, but to become an impartial compassionate observer of it. By quietly observing what is going on in the mind, we allow ourselves over time to take back control and let go of habitual actions. Going into battle with your mind will never resolve anything. Just observe consciously without adding any further meaning.
Please remember that addiction is not your fault, so don’t beat yourself up if you are trying to overcome an addiction. Once you can understand how the mind works, then you will see how to overcome any addiction.