Whether it’s alcohol or social media, if you have battled with addiction for any number of years, you know that it’s not enough to just stop. Stopping is relatively easy. The hard part is not to start again.
Bill Wilson, a co-founder of AA, saw thousands of people quit drinking after “working the 12-step program.” But he noticed over time that many of them eventually replaced their old addiction with a new one.
Why do we keep relapsing?
“How often have some of us begun to drink in this nonchalant way, and after the third or fourth, pounded on the bar and said to ourselves, “For God’s sake, how did I ever get started again?’”
AA’s Big Book, page 24.
Why do we keep relapsing? According to Bill Wilson, an addict will remain an addict as long as they believe in their power.
We go back to our self-destructive behavior because we believe that through it we can control things.
For example, I fall into passive aggression and start pouting every time I feel offended because I believe that this will induce the other person to meet my needs.
The reason I fall into workaholism again and again is because I believe that through overperforming I can control how much I get in life.
The reason I reach out for this next piece of chocolate against my better judgment is because I believe I can control my mood from outside in.
There is a simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety. Brene Brown, the world-famous shame and vulnerability guru, described it very well in Oprah Winfrey’s show when speaking of the inner workings of shame:
Destructive emotions feed on secrecy, silence, and judgment. Reversing this pattern involves:
Breaking the secrecy.
Getting empathy from someone who will not judge you.
A workable solution for anxiety is surprisingly counterintuitive
After struggling with anxiety for about 30 years, I finally found something that works. As of today, I have not been anxious for over a year — which is surprising, given the circumstances I have been through.
My first anxiety attack came at 21 when I was a senior in college — many years ago. It came totally out of the blue — it must have been triggered by a train of thought, which I totally didn’t notice. And it felt so bad, I had to excuse myself and go out to breathe it away.
Since then I would get it every once in a while — and always out of the blue. Trying to “figure it out” never helped. In fact, it made it worse. I couldn’t trace it to any external cause.
Of course, I did a bunch of things to get rid of it — consulted psychologists, exercised, memorized the Bible, read tons of books on self-help, philosophy, and religion. It helped… sort of…until the next attack.