When we have an addiction to something, whether it is shopping, gambling, smoking, alcohol or any other activity, we spend a great many of our waking hours thinking about our addiction, and as an addict the chances are you will take your thoughts very seriously. Usually we start from the early morning when we wake with feelings of guilt; we then have to fighting the cravings during the day until we finally make that decision to smoke that cigarette or have that glass of wine. During the actual act of smoking or drinking, you may even have thoughts around whether you will have just have one more or have I had enough, and then the guilt begins again.
It is reckoned that the average human being has about 64,000 thoughts a day. 64,000 different thoughts that float into our minds and out again, unless we chose to dwell on them they will be gone as quickly as they arrive. As a person becomes more and more addicted their focus of attention starts to shrink and a large percentage of those 64,000 thoughts will be around their addictive behaviour, the guilt, the fantasies, the cravings. All the thoughts leading up to the decision to act out your addiction and all the thoughts after.
We are training our brains to become addicted to our addiction by thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Addicts take their thoughts very seriously and will dwell on them for long periods of time, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Thinking about a problem in an unhelpful way will not help solve it. Deep down you already know the answer, you already know what action you need to take. Thinking about it over and over again in your mind will not solve the problem.
The thoughts that enter our mind continually, have no meaning attached to them until we ourselves add that meaning. So, why not try changing your self talk and refusing to enter into a discussion with your mind when it wants to talk about addiction. After all, you have probably had the same conversation with your self a thousand times and on a daily basis.
When you wake up in the morning with the feelings of guilt, instead of spending the next hour beating yourself up, swearing you will never do it again, which really stinks as a strategy for helping with addiction, why not try doing nothing. Just let the thought come, and let it go without attaching any meaning to it or adding any dialogue.
Your thought says “I can’t believe you drank that bottle of wine last night; you swore you wouldn’t, and you have work today, now you are going to feel awful”
You “That’s interesting, can I have the next thought please?
Your thought says “you swore you would never drink again, and here you are feeling awful, why do you do this to yourself”
You “Not interested, next thought please?”
Hopefully the next thought will be about something completely different and random, but if not keep going until your mind moves on and the next thought is nothing to do with your addiction. Remember, you have 64,000 thoughts to get through every day, and you want to change that percentage from 80% of them being thoughts around your addiction to none of them being thoughts around your addiction.
Keep doing this exercise during the day and every time an unhelpful thought comes into your mind. If you want you can add some humour to lighten your mood by imagining the thought said in the voice of a cartoon character. When the cravings arrive, just acknowledge that you are aware of them and let them go. You know it is only the body’s way of reminding you that you have a habit.
When you act out your habit don’t dwell on it, and don’t get annoyed with yourself after, just let those thoughts come and let them go. Don’t attached any meaning to them. After all what’s done is done, beating yourself up will not undo anything. Shrug and move on to the next thought.
I am not saying that being addicted is not a serious problem, I know that the consequences of any addiction can be serious if it leads to health problems, financial problems or relationship problems, however the solution to the problem will not be found in unhelpful thinking, and repeating the same thoughts day in and day out will only reinforce the problems. To find the solution stop overthinking, stop arguing with yourself and let you mind settle down.
“At the centre of your being
You have the answer.
You know who you are,
And you know what you want.”