So I got this message on facebook a couple of days ago. "I know I haven't talked to you in like forever but I just had a quick question for you- this whole addiction thing is it really going to be a life long battle? Or like is it ever gonna get any easier"
So my negative mind says to me today for the first time ever "Maybe I should
go back to my old business of being a corporate headhunter. This work in
schools has never worked out financially for the 4 years I have been doing
it. Maybe it is time to just go back to doing what I know I can make money
Two hours later I am sitting in a coffee shop finally taking the time to
really read a letter I received from a school I was at a few months ago. I
was too busy trying to make money to really FEEL this letter when it first came
in last month.
I try my best to not promote here on my blog but posting this just feels
right. This letter makes clear to me that God wants me to keep going with my
mission in the schools. Thank you God. And thank you Karen
Berezowski and the students of Northumberland Regional High School, Westville,
November 14th, 2010
Please find enclosed some of the feedback from our students after they
completed the Power of Choice Program. You may use it as you like!
They have decided to continue meeting, and it is due in part to the
connections they feel with the members of the group. It is a place where
they feel safe to chat about their challenges and successes.
You made a difference in the lives of our students and for me. We
appreciate the time you took to come down to our school and share your
experiences. We learn from others. You took the time to listen,
share and be honest. Thank you for that.
We look forward to hearing about your continued growth and
accomplishments. When you return to Nova Scotia, keep some space open for
a return to NRHS. We would love to reconnect with you.
Here is the text from the anonymous notes from students that were included in
Karen’s letter to me!
“I feel so much better about myself and I have managed to make friends.
We are actually going to continue the meetings because we all enjoy the
meetings, and support“
“I thought that this was a huge help in reducing my habit, I made me aware
that what I’m doing has to stop and how much I was actually doing it. I
remember one week I was up to 22 times in one day. Now I’ve reduced so
much, through the week I don’t do it at all, and sometimes on the weekend I only
do it once. Thank you so much for introducing this program to our
school. We all really apresiate it” (that is how he/she spelled
“Even though my habits haven’t improved, I still feel better about myself
because I’m able to keep my promises. Even if this is over I’m going to
keep trying to improve my habits until they’re gone.”
“Over the past 5 weeks I have been feeling better than every odd day I feel
sick most of the time but now I’m better” (that is the exact words from the
student – sorry)
“I have almost quit my bad habit. I am down to like once a day.
This group has helped me a lot. So I just wanted to say thanks.”
Each and every one of us needs to feel good, free, powerful and happy. That
desire is built into us as human beings. But if we can’t get that from inside
ourselves – from living into our possibilities and growing into our true
potential – then we need to find it somewhere else. So we look outside of
ourselves for something to make us feel better. This isn’t wrong; it’s just
So what makes us feel good? It depends on the person. Perhaps we get that
good feeling when we take a drink, eat some sweets or junk food, or go shopping.
Or we get a rush inside from video games, movies, concerts or porn. It might
come when we work overtime and somebody praises us for it. Or when someone
attractive flirts with us, so we get involved with them. Any one of these might
‘fill the gap’ we feel inside, so we do it more often.
Then again, maybe our discomfort, disappointment or pain inside is more
serious, so we turn to something stronger to take it away. A happy hour most
afternoons. A prescription painkiller that gets used in ever-increasing amounts.
An ‘illicit’ drug of choice to make us feel uplifted or high. Or maybe we spend
more and more money on clothes, shoes, electronics, gambling or trips, anything
to take our mind off how we really feel inside. “It’s just for now. I can
control it,” we say to ourselves. And maybe it is.
But for many of us, our ‘muscles of choice’ have been severely weakened over
the years. We’ve given away our power so often that now “feeling better” is the
top priority, and what’s “best for us” comes in second. As a result, stopping
the behaviour that gives us those temporary good feelings doesn’t seem so easy
any more. So little by little, we do it more, and more.
For a time, our behaviour is serving us. It’s giving us those good feelings
we want and need. But at some point we start to feel differently about it. Maybe
we’re doing it so much that we don’t like the consequences, or we’re feeling bad
because we seem to be losing control. So a part of us no longer wants it. Yet we
do it again anyway, because we still want those good feelings it gives us. After
that, we feel worse and tell ourselves to stop. But craving those good feelings,
we do it again. And the cycle continues.
Somewhere along the way, we begin shaming or beating ourselves up for our
behaviour. “Why do I keep doing this to myself? There must be something wrong
with me!” And we think that if we could just shame, punish, force or control
ourselves enough, we will stop. But as I’ve said, that thinking actually has the
opposite effect. It makes us feel worse. Now we really need a way out of
our discomfort, so we do our habit even more. And our struggle continues.
Giving It Energy
At this point we’re giving a lot of mental and emotional energy to our habit
– both positive, because we want it, and negative, because we don’t. But either
way we’re giving it more power. The more we think about doing it or not doing
it, the more we want to do it.
We’re also reinforcing our inner belief that something is wrong with us. We
feel guilty about doing our behaviour, but powerless to change. Our ‘bad habits’
now seem to have control over us. And little by little, this ‘locks in’ the
problem’ even deeper.
Even if we are somehow able to change our habit at this stage and replace it
with something ‘better or less damaging,’ the cycle will continue. Why? Because
it’s not the behaviour that’s causing the problem. It’s our feelings of shame,
fear and guilt, and our belief that we are powerless, that are driving the
process. So we will continue to need some kind of habit, substance or behaviour
to block those feelings and make ourselves feel better, however temporarily.
And that’s when our ‘unwanted habit’ becomes an addiction. We have actually
turned it into that by our obsessive and negative thinking.
Is there some habit or behaviour that keeps coming to mind as you’re reading
this? Don’t make yourself guilty for it. Just ask yourself if it might be
something you want to change...
I am so excited and profoundly grateful for my experience with the members of www.stinkin-thinkin.com which has resulted in the creation of my vision for a truly inclusive treatment centre for any and all unwanted habits, compulsions and addictions.
I received the following quote of the day from a subscription I have to Abraham-Hicks, creators of the Law of Attraction.
"....the reason you feel bad [when others judge you] is because you are judging them
about their judging."
Obviously came at the perfect time! Thanks God for reminding me not to take things so seriously.
On December 16th, I posted a video blog here entitled "A passionate
alternative to AA and 12 Step" where I encourage people to explore a website
A member of stinkin-thinkin found my video - enjoyed it
- and then posted it on their site (see http://stinkin-thinkin.com/2010/12/16/paths-and-bridges/ )
The comments on their site in response to my video have
been extreme. Despite the number of positive comments, I allowed myself to be
crushed by the negative ones, so much so that I retreated from putting up
more video's for nearly a week. The below video's are my unattractive,
imperfect attempt to explain what I went through.
Please note that the below video's will make no sense unless you have
first seen the single video and comments to that video
on this page first http://stinkin-thinkin.com/2010/12/16/paths-and-bridges/
How Do We Make Ourselves Feel Better?
When we believe something is wrong with us or that we’re ‘not enough,’ it
hurts inside. It provokes feelings of unhappiness, emptiness and lack. Thoughts
and beliefs that we’re bad or guilty for some reason, even though we don’t know
why. We then begin to doubt ourselves and our value. And believing that we’re
not as good as others, we may start to feel separate, alone and unsafe.
Instead of making ourselves feel better by doing the work necessary to
restore integrity in our lives - being true to our real selves – accepting our
thoughts and feelings, making empowered choices and growing into the magnificent
lives that I believe we are destined for – we instead turn to the easier softer
way – accepting substitutes outside of ourselves.
Here are some glimpses of what that might look like:
- If we’re feeling empty, we may try to ‘fill ourselves up’ through food,
drink, entertainment or activity.
- If we think we’re not good enough, we may try to be ‘enough’ by working
harder or trying to be “the best” at whatever we’re doing.
- If we don’t believe we have value, we may try to prove our worth through
over-performing or trying to attract the praise of others.
- If we see ourselves as weak or vulnerable, we may try to suppress our
feelings and emotions, such as tears, anger, tenderness or love. (As a result,
we might become tougher and more aggressive, or shut down and become tight and
- If we’re afraid of being “wrong,” we may do everything we can not to make
mistakes, be right or be perfect.
- If we believe we’re not lovable, we may compromise ourselves to do things
to get what we think is love, acceptance or esteem from others.
In the short term, all of these seem like perfectly natural solutions to fill
the gaps we feel inside. But in the long term, they actually perpetuate our
problems – because we haven’t dealt with how we think and feel inside.
Seeing Others as the Problem
When we believe we’re not enough or something’s wrong with us, we also begin
to compensate by choosing new thoughts to make us feel safe and okay. So we say
things to ourselves like: “I didn’t do anything wrong; they did it to me.” Or,
“There’s nothing I can do. Other people are the source of my problem.” And
that’s where our victim thinking begins. The purpose of these thoughts is to
stop us from feeling guilty – by putting responsibility onto others and stopping
us from looking inside, because that would be too painful. However, this
thinking also stop us from seeing the real source of our bad feelings.
I once heard a church minister state that this blaming mentality started with
Adam and Eve. Not that this is the truth or not but I loved the
perspective. He said that when God asked him why he ate of the tree of
knowledge, Adam blamed both God and Eve, saying something like “it was because
of this woman you gave me”. Implying of course that it was god’s fault for
giving Adam the woman.
To make ourselves feel better, we may then start seeing ourselves as superior
to others. We become the ‘heroes,’ or the ‘innocent’ ones, the ones who are
doing our best – while we tell ourselves that others aren’t. “If only other
people cared more or tried harder, the world would be a better place,” we think
to ourselves. Or we may go the other way. We may start to see ourselves as
inferior and feel sorry for ourselves. Thoughts of being hard done by or ‘poor
me’ start to grow within us. The purpose of these thoughts is to make us feel
okay by having “reasons” for our problems, and to elicit sympathy or caring from
others. But in the end, both approaches keep us small, and result in a constant
feeling of discomfort which we are driven to escape.
We’ll also try to ‘protect’ ourselves by judging and criticizing others. This
makes us feel better by seeing others as the source of our problems. However,
eventually this turns into CHRONIC blaming and complaining about people – a key
trait of all addicts that I’ve known (including myself). And step by step, we
come to see ourselves as victims, not responsible for our life.
Each and every one of these behaviours is a logical response to not feeling
good enough. But with each of these ‘choices,’ we are actually burying or
forgetting our true self. We use them to make ourselves feel safe, instead of
growing. To mask our real thoughts and feelings, instead of being honest. To
hide, instead of being seen. And eventually, we start to forget how we really
feel and what we really want inside.
Relating through Co-Dependence
Many of these behaviours are characteristics of a specific kind of addiction
called “codependence.” I’ve heard experts state that co-dependence is an
addiction beneath all addictions. In other words, when you take away the
drugs, alcohol, or the sex, or whatever the predominant addiction appears to be,
you are left with a co-dependent. Let me describe what that means in terms
of our unwanted habits, compulsions or addictions.
When we live and act in ways that are not fully ‘true’ for us, we attract
people with similar patterns and characteristics. We then relate to each other
in ‘co-dependent’ and unhealthy ways, because our behaviour is coming from our
mutual ‘not enoughness’ rather than our real or true selves.
As we do this, a negative spiral sets in. Inside, we don’t seem to have that
‘spark’ anymore. Our well being is increasingly dependent on other people and
things. We feel like we have less and less control over our lives. So we begin
making more and more “safe” choices, instead of growing and taking risks. We
blame others for our circumstances or when bad things happen, because it seems
like ‘they’ are doing it to us. And we frequently turn to behaviours, substances
and habits to fill ourselves up or make ourselves feel better. This is why
co-dependence could possibly be one of the possible causes of all addictions and
Over the years, I had been taught that addiction was caused by some
combination of heredity, genetics, environmental, social and family upbringing,
"God's will", ADD, other mental disorders, chemical imbalances, serotonin or
dopamine levels, and all sorts of other things. Those were what I deeply
believed. And I blamed every one of them, at one time or another, for what I
experienced in my life. But what I eventually noticed was that those beliefs
only served to keep me (and others) trapped as victims to our behaviours – and
powerless to a disease or habit that we ultimately believed we had no part in
Again, please don't misunderstand me. I am not saying that all those other
models of what causes addiction are not incredibly useful for some people. Heck,
they worked for me for a time. But after coming to understand habits and
addictions at a deeper level, what I now see is that such a message is not a
beneficial one for many people. In fact, it can even be destructive for some,
especially kids. And it wasn’t helping me to end the other kinds of addictions
and habits I was experiencing.
What I’ve discovered is that the ‘choice’ approach is both more universal and
more effective for (not all) but many people. By integrating the common elements
of other successful programs, it’s useful for any and all behaviours, from the
‘softer’ unwanted habits to the hard core addictions. It cuts across different
beliefs, faiths and cultures. And it’s a message that’s helping both kids and
adults experience actual results, often in far less time.
This isn’t to say that it’s “the” answer or the “only” answer. It’s just the
best wisdom I’ve come up with so far. And that is, what causes all unwanted
habits, compulsive behaviours and addictions, and the remedy for eliminating
these problems, are one and the same: Ourselves and our choices. And that’s why
I call it the Power of Choice.
Here are my passionate thoughts on www.stinkin-thinkin.com , a
community based website that is filled with posts and viewpoints that question
the AA and 12 step addiction recovery paradigm.