The secret behind successful addiction busting.
Change is much easier than you think…
I didn’t envisage reviewing non-fiction books here, but this happened to be the first book I read after setting up this blog, and I can’t see why I should leave it out. The authors appear to have the credentials in psychology, research, and counselling services, but more to the point, what they preach makes a lot of sense.
Addiction fascinates me, mostly because I have a son with a serious addiction problem, but also because I see various degrees of addiction in myself and everyone I know very well. To quote from this book
…anything pleasurable (even if it might not be an obvious candidate for addiction) can become addictive if it is done compulsively in the desperate search for a lift of mood.
Most of us err on the side of liking and indulging in something on a regular basis, but can manage without our drug or action of choice if we have to. I guess we have habits, and habits can be very good. So what turns a habit into an addiction?
I have long held the belief that some people are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted to certain substances. Many people enjoy alcohol, without becoming alcoholics. or exercise, without becoming anorexic, and so on, but a predisposition doesn’t mean it has to happen. To me, the big question is why so many of these addictive substances are used by our society in the first place. As an ex smoker, I’d have to say that I doubt anyone really enjoys their first cigarette, but once the addiction kicks in, it makes us believe we enjoy them.
In this book, I gained a deeper understanding about humans, and how we are wired to experiment, take risks, and push boundaries.
To go into more detail, first let me explain a little about ‘human givens’. They are the basic needs we are born with, those that help us live successful and fulfilled lives. At the most basic level, we all need food, water, warmth, and shelter from the elements, but as human beings, we have emotional needs that are crucial for our well-being as well. Needs such as security, volition, attention, privacy, self-esteem, a sense of purpose, and a connection to others.
When any of these needs are unmet, we tend to suffer from a form of mental distress, and will seek out some way to relieve that distress. For the lucky among us, it could be as simple as a piece of chocolate, a drink, or a walk that will make us feel better enough to find a positive way to satisfy our missing need.
But the unlucky get caught up in the highs they get from their action or substance, which usually results in adding to their list of unmet needs. Those with severe addictions often lose their jobs, friends, family, and homes.
The beauty of this book is the way everything is explained in a simple, readable way, and it deals with common addictions that don’t severely disrupt lives, such as smoking, coffee, and food, right through to the extreme addictions. I liked the way it referred to sufferers as people with addictions, rather than addicts, effectively equalising rather than demonising them. It also doesn’t advocate the twelve step program, which is the predominant solution offered to those with severe addictions. This book gives ownership of the problem to the person with the addiction, offering tips on how to give up their addiction, beginning with exercises like listing the negative affects their addiction has had on their lives, and then listing what they would gain if they didn’t have the addiction. It sounds too easy – right? And that’s the shocking news – it doesn’t have to be hard!
I related to their explanations of why I began smoking, but even better, armed with that information and their step by step guide to giving up, I imagine stopping would have been far simpler than I made it when I did eventually quit.
An important part of the process is for the sufferer to find healthy ways to meet any unmet needs, which can include therapy, and the writers don’t reject medical help with those substances that could create severe physical withdrawal symptoms.
I think they do make some solid arguments against the established myths of addiction and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a fresh look at the problem, especially if you’re a family member or friend of someone with an addiction. or a person with an addiction who would like to regain control of your life.