This video is in response to an email I received today "A friend of mine is dealing with an alcoholic father. I know there isn't much you can do for his father since he's not the one reaching out, but I figured you might be able to give him some power on how to deal/cope with his father. I'm hoping you can help him in any way possible."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Three Firms Sponsor Life-Changing Event For 1,000 Peterborough, Ontario Students
Peterborough, Ontario - 30 April, 2013 - Secondary school children from the Adam Scott Secondary School in Peterborough will receive 3 Choice School Programs from Scott Gallagher, President of Power of Choice Education Inc.
The cost of the program has been covered by Nelro of Edmonton, Alberta; by Freedom 55 of Peterborough, Ontario; and by HabitMaster.com of Toronto, Ontario
In the morning, the "Power Of Choice" keynote will be given to 1,000 students from grades 7 and up. This address is sponsored by Freedom 55.
100-300 students who wish to go deeper into Habit Mastery will then attend the hour-long Habit Master seminar and Q&A session. This portion is sponsored by HabitMaster.com.
Finally, between 20-30 students will participate in the Team Leadership Habit Mastery Program. This is a 3-hour program, followed by 4 weeks of follow-up with Mr. Gallagher, that helps students and three teachers perpetuate what they've learned about in the seminar. This portion of the program is sponsored by Nelro Flooring.
HabitMaster.Com is a company that helps individuals and organizations create Habits of Success.
Freedom 55 Financial of Peterborough, Ontario helps clients reach their financial security goals with solid financial security planning.
Nelro Services Ltd. of Edmonton, Alberta is Canada's premier provider of quality floor coverings.
40 Wickstead Way
Click here for an article about the impact our program has on kids http://www.powerofchoice.org/teen-habits.html
Going Beyond “Right and Wrong”
One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that, in the field of addictions, there is a huge emphasis on “who’s right and who’s wrong”, and this causes a lot of conflict, anger and even fighting among us. (Perhaps your experience has been similar.)
So what do we disagree on? Without wanting to be facetious, one could say almost everything. From “addiction is a disease” to addiction isn’t a disease. Some people swear by the 12 steps (as the only method of treatment) and just as many who swear at them. There are disagreements about how much choice we have; whether you can deal with several addictions at the same time (part of my reason for starting All Addictions Anonymous); what substances or behaviors are actually addictions; what the differences between addictions and bad habits are; and even, who is an “addict” at all.
When I was in early “recovery”, I would go to 12 step meetings and judge people as being either moderate drinkers, hard drinkers or “real alcoholics”. I took pride in convincing you I was a “real hardcore” alcoholic/addict, saying things like, “You’re not addicted. Let me tell you about being addicted!” and then share my worst (or best) war stories to convince you of how I was different from you. I was making others right or wrong, and separating my patterns of addiction from those of others – and I hurt many people by doing this. Looking back, I see the way I treated some people as being abusive. I could not see it at the time. I was blinded by my arrogance – thinking my way was the only real right way – and if you did not agree, I judged you as being in denial.
What Actually Is an “Addiction?”
The medical “bible” on addictions that I referred to in the last section, called the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition), includes only a small number of substances – essentially alcohol, drugs and nicotine – in its list. To be factual, it doesn’t even use the word “addictions” at all, but rather refers to “substance abuse” and “substance dependence.” The next proposed edition (DSM-5) does use the term addiction, but the list is still quite small. For example, gambling is the only “behavioral addiction” that will be included; issues like sex and Internet use were considered, but have not yet been accepted. So the medical way of looking at addictions is a slowly developing process.
But what about the large number of other “addiction-like” conditions that people are experiencing? For example, consider eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Many people I know believe these are addictions; however, the professional community does not. Instead, it calls them “mental health disorders.” Then there is the “addiction movement” itself, where the term addiction is used for a wide range of issues from overeating to codependency to criminal behavior. In fact, if you do an Internet search on 12-step groups, there are more than 100 different types of fellowships. So who is really “right” about what is “actually an addiction?”
What Does “Our Ability to Stop” Mean?
Another key aspect for determining what is an addiction is our ability or inability to stop – something I’ve also used in my definition. But who can really determine that for certain? And when we say “stop,” do we mean “stay stopped?” This concept gets us into all kinds of debates.
For example, if our brain chemistry shows we are dependent on a drug or behavior, does that mean we are unable to stop using it? Experience shows that that’s not always the case. Or, if we do find a way to stop a behavior, how long do we need to stay stopped for it to not be considered an addiction? What is the line between “I can’t stop” and “if I had enough motivation, I would stop?” Or when we do discover new ways to stop – as people continually are – does that mean that they (or we) didn’t have an addiction in the first place? Or are they all in denial, headed for relapse because they did not stop in the way we think is “The Right Way.”
I think you can see the difficulties here, and why there’s so much disagreement among those who have been working for years, if not most of their life, to understand addictions, what causes them and how to treat them.
Now I’m not saying that it’s wrong to disagree. We all see things differently, and this process can help us learn from different perspectives. But the problem comes when we focus most of our energy trying to prove our rightness over others. What’s more, communications among us often get quite heated, even abusive. People like Stanton Peele, for example, were attacked when they disagreed with the 12 Step and disease model.
So what’s my point? Well, to put it as gently – yet as bluntly – as I can, our Addiction to “being right” isn’t working. It’s actually hurting us. People who have “addictions” – and people who don’t – are confused about what to do. It’s blocking our willingness to see the value of each other’s perspective. It’s creating conflict, divisions and differences among people working in the same field. It’s creating fear among those who have problems and want help, as a recent email I received showed all too clearly:
In understanding additions, I often see such differing – and heated – discussions online when looking at weight-loss books, or even listening to the media. Some people say that obese people just eat too much; others say there’s [sic] psychological or spiritual reasons for weight problems. It hurts when I’ve struggled so long, and people, very cruelly and judgmentally, say all I need to do is eat less. – Tracey B.
What I’ve come to believe is that our conflicts are not only getting in the way of helping people but they might possibly be what is fueling our secondary addictions and stopping us from being fully free. And that’s why I’ve moved away from “who’s right and who’s wrong” to “we are ALL right,” and to begin looking for what we have in common.
Suppose we were to put our paradigms aside for a moment, and looked for what’s effective among all approaches? Regardless of how we define addiction or what caused these “unwanted habits” originally, what practices are we using that are actually effective in helping people reduce or prevent them? That’s what I’m committed to teaching and learning more about, so as to bring us together in our shared search for what works.
One of my dreams is to create a residential Power of Choice Wellness Centre, that embraces, offers, and custom-creates programs that welcome all view-points on “addiction”, while teaching - and demonstrating through how our staff treats people in reality - the fundamental principle that no path is superior, and all viewpoints are equally valid.
If that sounds altruistic, maybe it is. But it’s not just to be “nice” or kind to each other (though that certainly wouldn’t hurt). It’s about being willing to see the impact and cost that our conflicts and arguing are having on invalidating people. And it’s about finding the common patterns, issues, practices and solutions that can help anyone deal with any, and all, addictive or unwanted behaviors."
From the book, Addiction & Choice by Scott Gallagher
How do I know what they are?
Because I asked. I've spoken to thousands of students across the U.S. and Canada about unwanted habits & addictions. Each participant was asked: "What habits(s) do you most want to stop or reduce in your life right now?" Now I realize this data is not scientific and that even the word "Addictions" is subjective but still, the answers were startling.
A group of 265 students (Grades 7-12) anonymously listed 92 different destructive habits with which they were struggling - a total of 1031 times! This means that each child had an average of four habits from which they wanted FREEDOM.
Who Are These Kids and Where Do They Come From?
For only 265 kids to self-identify 1031 bad habits and addictions seems incredible. Yet there was nothing unusual about the type of schools these kids came from and the communities they lived in - high-end private schools to low-to-high income public schools.
These weren't your typical "at-risk" students, referred by school officials, guidance counselors or parents. And for school staff, it was an eye opener. Many had been unaware of how many students were suffering in silence, and willing to ask for help. School educators were stunned to hear of the multitude of behaviors kids felt they were addicted to.
How do we reach these Kids?
Although speaking in schools is a small part of the totality of all the work I do, I have done enough to know that trying to scare students out of experimenting with inappropriate, dangerous or illegal activities is not the most effective approach.
That's why I use my personal story of "bad" habits and addictions in a different way -- as a way of connecting my own challenges, pain and choices with theirs, and how I found freedom, so as to inspire those in pain (or just simply committed to changing their life) to attend my Habit Mastery workshop and 28-day follow-up program that I teach and create on the same day as my keynote. (You can find out more details about that school program here http://www.powerofchoice.org/school-programs.html )
What I've discovered is that kids relate to this. Yes, many are alienated or angry. Those who may not have "serious" behaviors and addictions, are often just as afraid - and desperate for a way out - as those that are dealing with more destructive addictions and life circumstances. But when someone is honest and direct with them - not trying to manipulate or fix them - and has practical answers to the problems they're facing, they are ready to listen.
How Much "Choice" Do We Really Have?
What I've recognized and teach educators and kids (both educators and kids self-select themselves in participating in my habit replacement program because the habits and addictions people are dealing with are not disclosed ) in my workshops, is that being a victim is a choice. Yes, we may have been "victimized" and experienced bad things in our lives. But how we look at, and interpret the meaning of those events, is a choice that has always been available to us to create and recreate for ourselves!
As a teenager, my choices led me to become and stay addicted to numerous behaviors and substances - constantly fighting one of them, only to find another one pop-up in it's place. By getting to the root - and transforming the habitual thinking patterns that were driving my bad habits, compulsions and addictions, and becoming responsible for the thought and behavior decisions I had made, I am now able to live free from ALL Addictions, rather than as a victim of my past. Speaking of "All Addictions", although I do not teach the 12 step model in schools - or within my Habit Master coaching practice catering high-net worth individuals - I am the founder (and an inactive member) of - All Addictions Anonymous - which you can find out more about by visiting this link www.alladdictionsanonymous.com
Applying this in our Schools
What I want parents, teachers and students to know, is that they have this same choice. My Habit Mastery programs help participants shift their attention and energy away from the seemingly hopeless nature of their "bad habits," and redirect it towards developing positive and empowering commitments.
We focus on their power to choose, to support others, and to be supported by a community and buddy system, while stopping or reducing their "bad habits" until they get to abstinence (if that is what they choose).
This message encourages and enables young people to make far more change than any threats or negative statistics could ever do. And the results are consistently miraculous which you can see for yourself by clicking here.
What Kids are Dealing with: the Full List
As promised, here is the full list of unwanted habits, behaviors, or addictions (and the number of times each was reported) as listed by 265 of the students who took part in my workshop and 28-day Habit Mastery program. Of these students, 182 were females, 76 were male and 7 did not specify.
1. Junk Food - 109
2. Internet/Computer - 103
3. Marijuana and/or Hash - 92
4. Alcohol - 89
5. Tobacco - 85
6. Sugar or Candy - 79
7. Over eating - 69
8. Under eating or Anorexia - 69
9. Self harm - 48
10. S-e-x - 41
11. Bullying or abusing others - 38
12. Video games - 38
13. Lying - 29
14. Stealing - 17
15. Ecstasy (psychedelic drug) - 16
16. Nail biting - 14
17. Cocaine - 12
18. Laziness or lack of motivation - 12
19. Gambling - 11
20. Over spending/shopping - 9
21. Magic mushrooms - 8
22. Bulimia or purging - 6
23. Depression - 6
24. LSD - 6
25. Anger - 5
26. Involvement in abusive relationships - 5
27. Over sleeping - 5
28. Telephone usage - 5
29. Movies and television - 5
30. Bad attitude - 4
31. Being a victim or blaming others - 4
32. Caffeine - 4
33. Energy drinks - 4
34. Oxycottin (OxyContin) - 4
35. "Special K" - 4
36. Cursing - 3
37. Fighting with parents - 3
38. Over exercising - 3
39. Co-dependence or people pleasing - 3
40. P-o-r-n-ography - 3
41. Text messaging - 3
42. Pain killers - 3
43. 2-CB (psychedelic drug) - 2
44. Isolation or being alone - 2
45. Rudeness - 2
46. Complaining - 2
47. Diet pills - 2
48. DMT (psychedelic drug) - 2
49. Gossiping - 2
50. Masturbation - 2
51. Morphine - 2
52. Opiates - 2
53. Over working - 2
54. Percodan - 2
55. Pyromania - 2
56. Salvia (psychoactive drug) - 2
57. Stress - 2
58. Worrying - 2
59. Being abused - 1
60. Arguing - 1
61. Gang membership - 1
62. Tardiness - 1
63. Lip biting - 1
64. Self blame - 1
65. Burning self - 1
66. Chocolate - 1
67. Choking - 1
68. Cracking knuckles
69. Choosing bad friends - 1
70. Drinking blood - 1
71. DIPT (psychedelic drug) - 1
72. Fidgeting - 1
73. Fighting - 1
74. Forcing/manipulating others - 1
75. Hair pulling - 1
76. Harming animals - 1
77. Holding grudges - 1
78. I like to watch people get hurt - 1
79. Insomnia - 1
80. Making others feel sympathetic - 1
81. Manipulating others - 1
82. Methadone - 1
83. Negative thinking - 1
84. Opposition to authority - 1
85. Overactive - 1
86. Pain - 1
87. Panic Attacks - 1
88. Partying - 1
89. Suicidal thoughts - 1
90. Unspecified illicit drugs - 1
91. Valium - 1
92. Violent behavior - 1
Only 13 of these behaviors were listed on the original form. The other 79 were written in by students themselves using their own words to describe which "habits" they could not control - and which they wanted help to reduce or stop.
Yet even these numbers do not tell the whole story. For example:
1. In #11 -- Bullying, 38 kids came to the workshop for help with bullying behaviors they were unable Yet wanting to stop. That is what they came to my program for! However, elsewhere in the survey, 93 kids admitted to bullying others, while 58 students said that being bullied was a problem for them.
2. The number of students who experience compulsive or addictive habits is clearly much higher than those who made the choice to attend my follow-up Habit Mastery Programs. But to give you an idea on the percentage of kids wanting help, for every 50,000 students I've spoken to in a general assembly presentation, approximately 6000 choose to attend my one hour "How to Break a Bad Habit" Seminar.
Some of those 6000 students need more than just knowledge to break their bad "habit", so they are given a further level of support and commitment to consider. When given the opportunity to spend the entire school day participating and creating a 28-day "Habit Mastery Club" utilizing the power of teams, weekly group meetings and daily accountability, of the 6000, 2000 of them (1/3) take me up on my offer. Of course, many kids who were known in their school to have addictive habits did not attend, and many others are suffering in silence and too shy, self-conscious and anxious to participate in any sort of group program.
It took tremendous courage for kids with such behaviors to attend these workshops. But it is also a sign of how
much they want and need help -- and of the potential for change in our schools. Why? Because their choices affect others. The more we can help them overcome their unwanted habits & addictions, the more other students will see their success and come forward for solutions to theirs. And this in turn grows. I believe it is up to us, as adults, to teach and lead kids to take responsibility for their choices, and to offer them practical steps proven to produce positive results. And the best way to build the self-esteem of our youth - is to stop controlling them - and do it for ourselves!
As Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the World." I like to personalize his words for the work that I do by saying it like this: "Be the change you want to see in Others".
_You've got experience and wisdom that we could all benefit from. Please post any questions or challenges you are dealing with on the COMMUNITY page and I will definitely respond to them. And please feel free to jump in, correct, disagree and offer your suggestions to support others too!!
Please post any general comments on this article in one of the comments sections below.
I've observed that many people now use the word “addiction” very liberally. It’s something we see all over. When I do talks in schools, I hear kids talking about their addictions, regardless of what issue they have or how severe it may be. The same happens in our popular media, as celebrities talk about their addiction to this or that. It’s like the term “everyday addictions” – the idea is now being applied to almost any kind of behavior we’re having difficulty stopping. This can be very useful, because it’s normalizing the word – taking the morality out of it, making it something we can all identify with, and taking some of the shame and blame out of it. However, it also has its downside, because at times we are using it to avoid taking responsibility for our behaviors.
Sometimes what we have simply isn’t an addiction. However we hide behind the word because it implies that “there’s nothing we can do” or that change is beyond our control. And the real truth might be that we just don't accept ourselves for not being willing to change.
Used in this way, saying “I’m addicted” becomes an easy way out. And I’ve done that with different issues in my own life. I once believed I was addicted to junk food and drinking coffee. Yes, I had other ‘real’ addictions, so I thought it made sense to say that these were too. But what I didn’t understand then was that there was a pay-off to it. And the pay-off was, “I don’t have to be judged by others for admitting that I willingly choose to eat unhealthy food - or doing what I would need to do to break free of these eating habits.” Easier to just call it an addiction and get everybody to leave me alone - including my own mind.
I’ve observed that most of us have a core belief that something is fundamentally wrong with us at the deepest level. This belief can express itself in many different forms. We may believe that we're notgood enough, don't know enough or don't do enough. We might think that we don't deserve to have what we need. Or it could be the belief that we are unlovable or unacceptable, or that other people won't love and accept us for who we really are.
When we get to the root of our “bad” habits, compulsions and addictive behaviors, these are the kinds of beliefs that lie underneath them. This is why many of our attempts to break our habits are so ineffective. We try to change the behavior instead of dealing with what's going on inside. The same is true when we want to help others change their habits; we often try to "motivate" them in ways that actually make them feel worse, thereby reinforcing their thoughts and feelings of guilt or “not being enough.”
Paradoxically, even while believing we are 'not enough,' we can also be high achievers. We may hold the highest standards for ourselves, or always try to be the best at whatever we do. And it's this conflict within us that contributes to our gnawing feelings of discomfort, discontent or pain inside.
Arnold Washton, Ph.D., and Donna Boundy, M.S.W describes this problem perfectly in their book Willpower’s Not Enough: Recovering from Addictions of Every Kind;
Part of having an addictive “dis-ease” means that we hold certain contradictory beliefs that set the stage for inner conflict and struggle – such as believing simultaneously that we are not enough and that we should be perfect.”
[Thus] …A faulty belief system lies at the root of addiction. This belief system… embraces the idea that it is possible to be perfect, that the world should be limitless, that our image is more important than who we really are, that we are not enough, and that externals (people, drugs, and other things outside of ourselves) hold the “magic” solutions to life’s problems.
Our behaviors are just the symptom. The real problem is what's going on inside of us.