Addiction and Willpower

I recently overcame my addiction for alcohol and nicotine. I attended two Easyway Clinics in a week, and I have no impulse to touch either alcohol or cigarettes again. But just how did these fine folk at Alan Carr’s Easyway bend my thinking towards lacking any urge to touch these horrible drugs again. Not only that, but how did they make me feel pity for people who were going out to get hammered on a Friday/Saturday night, and for those that have to spark up once an hour to feed that craving nicotine monster…

I would recommend the clinics to anyone who wants to get control of their addictions. (be sure to use promotional code: NOSTIGMA to receive £50 off). It is wonderful to be free from having to feed that addictive part of me.

I would like a clinic that deals with the addiction to seek others approval and validation. That would free people from the feeling of being stigmatised against because of their mental illness. I would imagine such a clinic to discuss making any mental illness part of who you are and accepting that seeking help and understanding from others starts with that exact same search for help and understanding from yourself. Your illness is part of who you are, your identity. Since I’ve realised this, I have been able to accept fully who I am and continue the life long journey of discovering who it is that I am. My illness is partly my light and guide. I embrace it… 

The point is that all addiction to drugs like nicotine and alcohol are a spell to create addiction, not one to prevent you from stopping. Hollywood glamourises drink and cigarettes as a cool thing to do and kids are told that it is cool to smoke and drink. Think back to that first beer or cigarette that you tried. It was disgusting, right? However, that is the one that got you hooked.

I won’t divulge the secrets of how Easyway untangles the spell created to keep you craving, but I will once again endorse their method.

There was an interesting comparison made to one of my favourite movies – The Shawshank Redemption. The two main characters in this film are Red, played by Morgan Freeman and Andy Dufresne, played by Tim Robbins. 

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – SEPTEMBER 23, 2004: Morgan Freeman at the 10th Anniversary Screening of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ held at the AMPAS in Beverly Hills, USA on September 23, 2004.

In the film Red has a significant fear of being on the outside. He has the equivalent of a fear of drinking. Andy, however, has a fear of the inside. Like an alcoholic, he fears what will happen if he can’t have a drink. 

It relates to the relentless advertising campaigns the alcohol companies have around the world. These campaigns fill us with the idea that we are incomplete and then once we’re convinced we are missing something they tell us what to fill it with. Frosty cold beer on an advertising board as we drive past tells us that we’re incomplete without something cold on a hot day and we can fill that void with a cold beer. What a load of nonsense. But don’t be fooled… it is nonsense that works!!

The battle we face with addiction as human beings is the contention we have with our reptilian or beast brain. This part of your brain cannot tell the difference between physical needs, like food and oxygen and physical withdrawal. The beast brain looks for immediate reward in the form of a hit of dopamine for the brain (First Steps Recovery, n.d.). This is good if we are in a burning desert and want to get to water but it can hijack our healthy intention as, as explained, the beast brain fails to recognise the difference between physical needs and physical withdrawal. We, therefore, lie vulnerable to addiction if we cannot learn to recognise our addictive voice and realise that we don’t have to trust it. 

But, why do I want to get control of addictions?

The Marshmallow Test was an experiment on self-control. Children were given one marshmallow and given the option as to whether they wanted to eat it right away or wait up to 20 minutes on their own (with just a single marshmallow for company) and be given another marshmallow for waiting and saving the first one.

The test was one of self-control and showed how readily we could control that addictive part of us. 

The interesting results from the experiment showed that children who went the longest in waiting for the delayed gratification of an extra marshmallow went on to do better in their SATs scored, have better social and cognitive function in adolescence. Furthermore:

“At age 27-32, those who had waited longer during the Marshmallow Test in preschool had a lower body mass index and a better sense of self-worth, pursued their goals more effectively, and coped more adaptively with frustration and stress. At midlife, those who could consistently wait (“high delay”), versus those who couldn’t (“low delay”), were characterized by distinctively different brain scans in areas linked to addictions and obesity.” (Mischel, 2014).

The video below shows the same experiment, later conducted on adults.

It begs the question, can willpower and self-control be taught? The research shows that it can, and it also shows that it is extremely worthwhile. 

The intelligent want self-control; children want candy. – Rumi

“I believe the best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control” (McGonigal, 2013). Distraction is a key point. People who are distracted are more likely to lose willpower and self control. It is important, therefore, to have boundaries. Don’t allow your phone to bleep at you every other second with email, text, app alerts that do little but distract you from your goals.

Science is also discovering that willpower is a matter of physiology, not psychology. Willpower is a temporary state of mind that gives you the strength and calm to override your impulses. (McGonigal, 2013).

If you wish to learn how to harness your willpower and gain more self-control, we fully endorse THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT, by Kelly McGonigal. It’s an easy read and is structured like a university course, where you can read each chapter (equivalent to a lecture), one step at a time.

The Putting Stigma to Shame team wish you well in your pursuit of a greater willpower and self-control. We hope that you can give the addict the boot!! 🙂

REFERENCES

First Steps Recovery. (n.d.). The Lizard Brain and Addiction – First Steps Recovery. [online] Available at: https://www.firststepsrecovery.com/lizard-brain-addiction/ [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019]. 

Lesley, K. (2014). The Triune or “Lizard” Brain and Addiction. [online] HealthyPlace. Available at: https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2014/10/the-triune-brain-and-addiction [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019]. 

McGonigal, K. (2013). The willpower instinct. New York: Avery.

Mischel, W. (2014). The Marshmallow Test: Mastering self-control. New York, NY, US: Little, Brown and Co.

Troncale, J. (2014). Your Lizard Brain. [online] Psychology Today. Available at: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/where-addiction-meets-your-brain/201404/your-lizard-brain [Accessed 16 Jun. 2019].

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