Below is an excerpt from “Sarah’s Story”, featured in in my book “Addiction and Choice”, which you can download for free though this site.
Acceptance, Love, and the Power of Choice
“When Sarah came to see me, she was really down on herself. “I can’t stop thinking about cutting, Scott. I just can’t stop thinking about it,” she said desperately. So I began taking her through some of the principles I’ve described in this book, and how to apply them to her life. We talked about her judgments and self-talk around cutting. About the power of her thoughts, and why giving more energy to “trying not to” was actually making her do it more. And how she could try looking at “what’s right” in her behavior and life, instead of always seeing what’s wrong.
For several years I had been consciously training myself to see what was “right” in each person’s behavior. Therefore, when we met I began by seeing her as perfect, whole and complete, choosing to see that whatever she was doing was in some way good.
At one point I even said, quite sincerely, “Sarah, what’s wrong with cutting? It’s your body.Yes, you are cutting yourself. But other people do weird stuff too. We all do stuff. And there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with it.” We spent almost an hour talking about just that one belief…
What Impact Did It Have?
Two days later, Sarah called me all excited and said: “Scott, I’ve stopped cutting!” She was ecstatic. When she told me what had happened since we met, I asked if I could record our conversation so as to share some of these experiences in her own words. Here are a few of the things she said:
“Self harm is something I’ve struggled with my whole life, particularly with cutting or self mutilation. Even during my most rigorous addiction recovery programs, it’s never been something I’ve been able to master until I worked with you. The last few nights have been the first time in six months that I haven’t really struggled with a strong craving and desire to cut myself. In fact, the idea didn’t even cross my mind.
When you said that we are ‘restless, irritable and discontented’ when we don’t have a future to live into, that really connected. I’ve always wondered why we feel that way. Then suddenly I realized it’s because we are without a vision. My strongest cravings to self-injure are in what I call the ‘dead times’ in my life; times when I’m on a break from school or some other significant activity in my life. When I don’t have that vision active for myself, that’s when my cravings come back.
As I listened to you talk about this, it was like a spiritual resonance. Suddenly my spirit said, ‘Yes, of course. That’s it. You’re without vision for your life.’ And I felt peace. It wasn’t just my spirit; it was my mind too. It made rational sense. I don’t have to sacrifice anything here by trusting in an outside power. It all comes from within.
During our time together, I saw what my deeper vision is and that I haven’t been allowing myself to live it, because I didn’t feel empowered enough to do that. Something in me shifted, and I’ve now made a decision that I can act on it instead of living somebody else’s dream. This is what really broke my addiction – understanding my need to live my vision.
I’ve always condemned myself for my self-mutilation. ‘This is bad and wrong. I shouldn’t be doing it. I don’t want to do it.’ Those thoughts are going through my head all the time and it had become a monster that bound me. What I came to see is that there is ‘nothing wrong’ here; I can stop making myself wrong for what I’ve been doing. At first, that seemed counter-intuitive to me. But when I made the decision to just accept and open up to it, that there really is nothing ‘wrong’ with what I’m doing, it completely diffused the power it had over me. And all of a sudden I was free from it.”