There are many protocols and programs out there for recovery. Many are familiar with the 12 step program, and pretty much every rehab/bootcamp has their own unique style.
CS too has its own unique style with its gamified accountability program. But to be honest, all these programs won’t help much if you’re not truly serious from the core of your heart. I’ve seen many (myself included) that stay on track during the program (during the war) but relapse soon after the program is over. Why does this happen? why does it happen when we were so serious about recovering during the program but end up throwing it all away in the face of temptation and start over?
I believe that it’s due to the lack of change in the mindsets that lead to a complete transformation in personality.
Say you’re an alcohol addict, you’ve realized that you’re finally ready to quit drinking, you enlist for the No Alcohol war and you do your best to abstain for 49 days. Once the war is over, you’re once again faced with temptations, but this time you’ve got no accountability of the war. You might succeed in evading the urges for a few days but eventually, you give in. You regret giving in, so you start over, enlist for another war, but realize that the pattern occurs again…
I’ve spent over 8 years trapped in a similar pattern. It took me 8 years to finally connect the dots and realize the mindsets that I needed to have to finally break free. Here are some of the core insights I’ve gained from my journey and from the journey of long-term recoverers:
1) Once an addict always an addict
Moderation never works, you’ve got to go all in. You might think that indulging in your addiction once a week is alright, but it never works, even if you’ve abstained for months or even years. Once you invoke your lust (or craving for sense desire), your lower level consciousness gets triggered and gains power over your higher level conciseness that has been keeping you on track this whole time. You must have noticed that your personality changes when you give in to your urges. Therefore, always be mindful of the two separate personalities within you and always listen to your higher consciousness.
This mindset also keeps your fearful, and humble. Cockiness or overconfidence will lead to your downfall because you’ll “challenge" yourself by indulging in micro-compromises thinking that you’re “strong enough to handle it”. You’re weak, and always will be for the rest of your life!. Life will aways throw a curve ball at you for which you were never prepared for. But realizing that will make you wise enough to avoid unnecessary risks even after years of abstinence.
2) The best or nothing
I know that’s Mercedes’s slogan, but it’s a great mindset to have for addiction recovery, and for life in general. Imagine yourself as the ideal addiction destroyer, how would you take on this journey of recovery for the rest of your life?
I’d imagine you’d stay far far away from any possible tempting situation. If you’re recovering from alcoholism, you’d stop hanging out with your friends who drink (especially if they’re the kind that would peer pressure you), you’d never keep any alcoholic drinks in your home etc. If you’re recovering from PMO, you’d delete all porn and porn substitutes from your devices, you’d never even fantasize let alone peek.
In order to recover, you’ve got to have that extreme mindset. It might seem like an overkill but it’s always the micro-compromises that leads to an eventual relapse.
Make a list of all the micro compromises you like to make, is it fantasizing? Is it viewing tempting content on social media? etc. Once you have that list ready, make damn sure to stay away from them for the rest of your life.
3) Seek Spiritual wisdom and Self-Mastery
We all have so many sense desires that we work so hard to fulfill. Every time a desire gets fulfilled, we either move on to fulfill some other sense desire or we invoke greed to fulfill more of the same desire (like an addiction). The problem with such desires is that it comes with sufferings because when desires aren’t met, it invokes negative emotions like anger, frustration, sadness or depression and the happiness we do get from sense gratification is only brief like commercial breaks. Sense desire fulfillment is a just a never ending cycle of hunger. Instead, it’s better to achieve self-mastery first so you can unlock your higher consciousness, and then you’ll be wise enough to know when and how to indulge in such sense desires. This is what it means to become conquered self.
Many of us also pursue Self-Improvement with the intention of fulfilling some or the other ego or sense gratification. For example, maybe you workout hard at the gym regularly thinking that you’re doing it for health reasons but could it be that you’re also doing it to look attractive (attractive based on societal standards) in the mirror so you can attract the opposite sex to fulfill your unmet sensual desires? or to post a pic on social media for validation from your peers? Maybe you work hard at your career so that you could make lots of money to fulfill you materialistic desires of having a big house, a few sports cars and other fancy things or to feel superior to other individuals?
If so, then this is not true self-improvement. Sure, it’s better to do something to improve your life than do nothing and waste away your life, but self-improvement for the sake of social validation is like a child seeking appreciation from his parents for going to the toilet for the first time.
You’re an adult now, you don’t need such petty/childish validation to do the right thing. True self-improvement entails transcendence of such worldly desires, true discipline is doing the right thing when no one is acknowledging or appreciating you for your actions.
Sense Desires are fleeting mainly because it invokes hedonic adaptation and upward comparisons.
Hedonic Adaptation - the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. So whether you win the noble prize or face a challenging situation, the feeling of happiness derived from pleasure or the feeling of suffering from hardships is only brief. After a few days/weeks, you’ll reach status quo/baseline state of wellbeing.
Upward Comparison - when we compare ourselves with those who we believe are better than us. These upward comparisons often focus on the desire to improve our current level of ability. We might compare ourselves to someone better off and look for ways that we can also achieve similar results. Thus, every time you fulfill a desire or achieve a goal, due to the upward comparison mindset, you soon realize how much more is still lacking in your life and therefore you still get back to that state of dissatisfaction/envy/frustration.
The hedonic adaptation and upward comparison put you in a cycle of always chasing desires and never truly satisfied and grateful for the way your life is currently. Addictions are mainly a result of seeking instant sense gratification to move fast on that hedonic treadmill but doing so results in a progressive reduction of status quo/baseline state of wellbeing.
Thus to get out of this cycle, you’ve got to pursue the spiritual path of self-mastery and inner peace. I’ll talk about how you can do this in a different post. In short, just do your duty and ignore the fruits of labor. This is definitely easier said than done because it is arguably the toughest path of self-improvement and transcendence. To learn more check out Buddhism and the Bhagavad Gita. You don’t need to be religious or believe in god to be spiritual.
4) Transition form Selfish desires to Selfless Service
The spiritually mature individual will do things for the benefit of others. Of course, it is important to take care of your basic needs first, but you know that you don’t need much to have a happy and fulfilling life. So many of us want the celebrity lifestyle, excess money, excess materialistic things, excess entertainment/stimulation, fame, etc, such desires are selfish desires that will soon lead to stress, depression, and a lower wellbeing. There is a reason why many celebrities end up committing suicide.
Your addictions are also a consequence of your selfish desires. Your addiction serves cheap happiness only to you, and on top of that you end up becoming mentally weak and depressed. As a result, you’re not at your best to even take care of yourself let alone others.
Many long-term abstainers have noticed how they become more focused, energetic, and happier during their journey to recovery. This makes them more productive, and selfless. I too have noticed that I laugh more at silly things, help out my parents and friends more often, more likely to work on becoming a better person, and have more positive energy to share with those around me.
It just goes to show that when you are at your best, your existence becomes a gift to the world. Eventually, you’ll realize that true happiness comes from becoming a pure-hearted person that makes other people happy. So destroy your addictions and achieve self-mastery, not for yourself, but for the sake of making this world a better place, your life will also get better as a side-effect.