Isolate The Desirable Elements Of Your Addiction

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As an addict, and we mean compulsive dependence on anything not just a chemical substance, if you’re unable to recognize all of the desirable, wanted effects, past and present, of the entity you’re addicted to you’re never going to be able to quit.

This sounds counterintuitive of course. It would seem that the best way to beat an addiction would be to isolate all the detrimental aspects, to understand in no uncertain terms the connection between your addiction and the destructive consequences that follow. Cut the object of addiction out of your life and all those destructive consequences will disappear, which should be enough motivation to quit.

There’s no question that isolating the detrimental aspects is powerful and necessary but it’s not enough on its own. If you don’t bring the desirable, wanted aspects of your addiciton into conscious awareness what will happen is that on your path of recovery you’ll frequently go back and indulge despite your best efforts to stay away. You won’t really be able to explain to yourself or anyone else how or why you falter. You’re well aware of the destructive consequences so what gives?

The reason you’ll keep faltering is that while you won’t be fully aware of all of the positively reinforcing features of going back to your addiction they exist for you nonetheless and they exert a powerful pull on your behavior. Contingencies of reinforcement that have led to those positively reinforcing consequences in the past simply need to align in your environment and boom, you’re back into your old habit before you know what hit you.

You’ve got to address the ambivalence, the simultaneous conflicting feelings, the wanted and the unwanted elements, if you want to move forward and leave your addiction behind. You can’t focus exclusively on the negative. Only by bringing the positive, wanted aspects of your addiction into conscious awareness can you start to notice in the moment how the felt lack of one of those positive, wanted aspects is what is compelling you to indulge. And then you put yourself in a much better position to decide of your own accord that this wanted aspect isn’t enough to balance out the unwanted consequence that always follow. Seeing the good and realizing it’s not good enough is a much better option than fooling yourself into believing the good doesn’t exist.