When it comes to making any type of behaviour change, whether you are coming out of an addictive lifestyle, or trying to change an obsessive or compulsive coping mechanism, its important to start from the ground, and build a solid foundation. In order to understand why that is, let's try looking at things from a metaphorical perspective, just for a moment. If you're trying to build a structure with any type of significance, something that you want to last for a long time, it has to begin with a solid foundation underneath it. If not, things are going to come crashing down at the first sign of trouble. This need for a sturdy, solid, structural foundation is not only the case in the world of architectural construction, but also, 100 percent true when you are trying to initiate any kind of behaviour change.

In my opinion, in the work that we are trying to do, this starts with the creation of your own unique recovery lifestyle and today we are going to talk about what it takes to set this foundation up and give you some tips about the things you can do to make it as strong as you possibly can. This is an absolutely essential thing to do before you start to delve into healing the emotionally vulnerable child at the core of your personality system, which, lets face it, is ultimately the work that most of us want to get into. Someone once said to me, “In life, you will always achieve what your lifestyle has you set up to achieve” which is something that not only took me a while to understand, but a lot of work to accept. What this is basically trying to tell me is that if you want to achieve something, you have to take actions that line up with the direction you want to go and recognize the things you’re doing that sabotage the goals you are setting. For example, if I want to stop drinking alcohol, and I am hanging out in bars, with people who drink all the time, doing things that revolve around the use of alcoholic beverages, then the chances of me successfully changing my behaviour patters are pretty slim.

Making behavioural changes is hard. I am pretty sure that most of the things you do have been part of the way you cope with life for a really long time. So, if you want to break a behavioural cycle, you have to look at what you are currently doing and recognize that it’s completely counterproductive to what you want to achieve. Remember, when we are trying to make any kind of behaviour change, particularly when we are talking about working with addictive and compulsive coping mechanisms, we have to start from the understanding that these behaviours are the solution to the problem and not the problem itself. Yes, these behaviours have created problems for you, that goes without saying, and they’ve probably caused a lot of problems for the people close to you too. However, at the risk of repeating myself, over and over again, we have to begin the journey of change by understanding the fundamental principle that the behaviours you think are your problem, the thing you decided to reach out to get support for, are in fact the solution you are using for the problems in your life, and not the problem itself.

This may sound like a bit of a confusing concept at first, particularly if you are used to the traditional way of working with addiction these days that’s typically offered in most agencies, residential treatment facilities, and counselling services in your area. This common style of treatment, that is intended to promote behavioural change, is what I personally call symptom management, and it is designed to focus only on your addictive, or compulsive behaviours and concentrate specifically on getting rid of the thoughts and feelings associated with using the substance or process you have identified as your “problem.” It spends all of the time trying to teach you that your thoughts are wrong, and that you have to get rid of these thoughts in order to truly be “in recovery.” It promotes a belief that there is something wrong with you, in some cases medically, and we have to remove this parasite from your system in order to make you change. In my opinion, this is absolute bullshit, and this method of treatment is fundamentally flawed, for a number of different reasons. I know this to be true because I have personally been on the receiving end of this approach and believe me when I tell you that it simply didn’t work.

In fact, for me, the only thing this outlook does is feed the constantly revolving door, that takes people in and out of medically minded treatment programs, that so many people seem to get stuck in these days. It keeps people trapped in the feelings of guilt and shame associated with not being able to comply with this way of doing things, and these are the feelings that strike at the core of the addictive lifestyle in the first place, so no wonder people can’t seem to make the changes they are trying to make, when they are constantly shamed for not being able to make them. At the end of the day, “Symptom Management” will do exactly what it says on the box, manage your symptoms, and even if you experience a certain degree of success with this approach, its usually only capable of being this way for short periods of time. For me, it seemed like this didn’t work because there was a part of me that was trying really hard to hold off the beast of addictive and compulsive behaviours that was pushing and pushing, trying to draw my attention to its own particular point of view. It was trying to convince me that I had a problem that it had the solution for, and this was the only way I HAD to cope with the pain I experienced in my life.

As I am sure you can imagine, after a certain amount of time, it was only natural that the arm I was using to keep this beast at bay got tired, and therefore, I was no longer able to keep these thoughts and feelings away. I would quickly fall back into my old behaviours, coping in this “maladaptive” way that everyone was telling me I had to stop doing, causing my system to fill with the emotions I was trying to avoid in the first place. We have to understand that the behaviours we are trying to change are simply the thing that we’ve created as a coping mechanism for the real problem issues that we generally try to keep hidden beneath the surface level presentation that we want everyone else to see. Once we accept that this is how it is, we can begin to build an understanding for the unmet need that’s being met by your use of this coping behaviour. We do this by building awareness for the stories we are reacting too, and the parts of our personality that are reacting to these stories. With this new understanding, we can actually go to work on what the real problem is, which often results in the unhealthy solution, the one we have been using for an extended period of time, no longer being needed.

Deciding to work on any of the real problems, the stuff that’s going on away from the surface level B.S. that we usually get caught up in, is emotionally challenging work to do. Therefore, it’s important to build a solid foundation from which to do this work. In my world, I call this the creation of your own Recovery Lifestyle and without this fundamental piece of the puzzle, delving into the actual problem is like poking at the proverbial bear which can blow up in your face pretty quickly, creating nothing but internal and external chaos in your life. This usually results in your desire to escape from the reality you have created being pushed to the forefront of your behavioural process. If there is no foundation for the work you want to do, its pretty common that your thoughts of using your preferred method of escape, will automatically go through the roof, all because of the emotional triggers that you’re now delving into.

Sometimes, when you’re doing this work, it can even feel like the coping mechanisms that you normally go to are permanently activated, causing a constant urge to escape from your current creation of reality. These automatic reactions are often referred to as part of your “fight or flight” response, which is something we will get into in more detail later on, but when this internal early warning system is activated, your desire to escape from “reality” increases dramatically. Which, for those of us who have addictive and compulsive coping mechanisms, can lead to extremely catastrophic consequences. Before we open up this proverbial can of worms, we have to put a few things in place to build a foundation for the development of your own unique version of a healthy recovery lifestyle, which we hope will become the Life you Want to Live as you move along your journey.


Continue Reading



Snapshot 863Snapshot 859Snapshot 862Snapshot 860