How to Break Free from Addiction for Good — a Surprising Discovery by Bill Wilson

How to break free from addiction for good?

Brain full of addictions
Image from Pixabay

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.

I believe in my own power. I am God.

The gates of hell “closed on him with a clang”

The AA Big Book tells of an American businessman who, after trying to give up drinking for years, went to Europe to get consultations from a famous psychiatrist Dr. Jung.

He finished his treatment with unusual confidence. His physical and mental condition were unusually good. Above all, he believed he had acquired such a profound knowledge of the inner workings of his mind and its hidden springs that relapse was unthinkable. Nevertheless, he was drunk in a short time.

(AA’s Big Book, page 26)

Going back to his doctor, he asked why he couldn’t recover. He begged him to tell the whole truth and he got it. In the doctor’s judgment, he WAS UTTERLY HOPELESS.

Dr. Jung advised that he should “place himself under lock and key or hire a bodyguard if he expected to live long.”

The doctor said: “You have the mind of a chronic alcoholic. I have never seen one single case recover, where that state of mind existed to the extent that it does in you.’’ Our friend felt as though the gates of hell had closed on him with a clang.

(AA’s Big Book, page 27).

The end is the beginning

This man is free now; he is alive and well. He doesn’t need to lock himself or have a bodyguard. He can go anywhere he wants to as long as he is willing to maintain one simple attitude. “I am powerless.”

When he heard that he was hopeless he had a profound spiritual transformation which, according to the founders of AA, is THE ONLY SOLUTION.

What happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

A long time ago, in the Garden of Eden, the serpent told Adam and Eve: “Take it and eat it. You will be like gods.”

At that moment, we became control freaks. The reason I am reaching out and taking this fruit again and again is because I believe that this time it will give me what I want. It never does. But I still believe that it will.

What will break this cycle of insanity?

The clang of the gates of hell. This is the “metanoia” I am looking for. Sooner or later, lightning strikes me on the Damascus road, and I wake up, saying: “I can’t do it anymore.” This is a new beginning. The resurrection.

This is what a lot of people in the 12-step programs lack — the conviction that I am not God. That I need to let go and trust.

Centuries later, a humble man told his followers in the upper room: “Take it and eat it so you won’t be Gods anymore.” And then he went to the Garden and relinquished all power.

The only way out of addiction that works

How to break free from addiction for good? The only way to break any addiction is to relinquish power. As long as I believe that I am in control, it’s a hopeless business.

There is a solution…We saw that it really worked in others, and we had come to believe in the hopelessness and futility of life as we had been living it… We have found much of heaven, and we have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence of which we had not even dreamed.

AA’s Big Book, page 25.

What is this “fourth dimension” mentioned in AA Big Book?

The fourth dimension is a state of mind in which I believe that there is a Power greater than myself. For a control freak to accept that there’s a Power greater than me is like jumping out of the plane without a parachute.

I don’t actually need to obsess about my statistics and how well my articles perform. I am not God. I can just focus on enjoying the writing process. I can die to my desire to be successful. I can jump off this plane and fall into the “fourth dimension.”

I can actually skip this piece of chocolate even though it feels like a little death. I don’t need to fill myself up from outside in. There is a Power greater than me that will fill me up.

I don’t need to stonewall this person, hoping they will second-guess my thoughts and meet my needs. I can’t control other people. I have no power here. There is a greater Power at work. I can let go and trust.

When you slip, go back to the beginning

It would be a lie for me to say that I am completely free of my addictions. I still relapse to the “I am God” belief almost every day. And it’s ok. I forgive myself. It’s not about perfection but about going back to the beginning again and again.

What is the beginning? The clang of the gates of hell. The “I can’t do it anymore.” I am powerless. This is the only way because it’s the end of me.

The gates into the fourth dimension open every time I hear the clang of the gates of hell. If I listen and take the leap of faith, I am rocketed into the life that I never dreamed of.

A Simple 10-minute Practice That Undercuts the Root of Anxiety

Green forest and a trail

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:

“To grow exponentially, shame absolutely needs three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Shame cannot survive two things: being spoken and being met with empathy.”

Destructive emotions feed on secrecy, silence, and judgment. Reversing this pattern involves:

  1. Breaking the secrecy.
  2. Speaking up.
  3. 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.

Little did I know that the solution is totally non-rational.

A simple practice to alleviate anxiety which has nothing to do with thinking

About a year ago, I made friends with a few guys who were doing a simple 10-minute practice as part of their recovery program (in AA). The goal of the practice was to relieve 4 basic human emotions — selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.

When I heard the word “fear,” I cringed. A simple practice to alleviate fear? It sounded too good to be true.

You see, I had been studying philosophy, religion, and psychology for 30 years. I had been a voracious reader of anything from Dante to Melody Beattie, and you are telling me I will find a solution in a few simple steps?

A year into it, I have no skepticism left. It works. The surprising lesson is that overcoming anxiety is not a matter of thinking. You cannot “think yourself out of any problem.” Since anxiety is not rational, the solution for anxiety is also not rational. It lies above and beyond thinking.

We have never been reasoned into anxiety

“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”

Jonathan Swift

Our anxious states are not a result of reasoning. None of us have developed an anxious mind by consciously thinking about reasons to be anxious. The anxious mind is formed as a result of a certain way of living. As Richard Rohr put it:

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”

Just as our wounds come in a non-rational way — through a certain way of living — so also recovery comes non-rationally, through a certain way of living. We start “doing things” in a new way, and gradually our old way of thinking gives way to a new one.

I grew up with active alcoholism in my family, and my mom left when I was in my first year of college. By that time, my anxious mind was full-fledged with this hidden message: “You are on your own. There’s no one you can trust.”

This subconscious message was fertile ground for anxiety. When I was able to conjure up a belief that I was God, fully controlling my little universe, I felt great. When something threatened my faith in my omnipotence, I would panic.

What must have been happening in my mind

It is not so easy to realize that anxiety is non-rational. Whatever is the message that feeds it, it’s entirely subconscious. I don’t see it, and I am not aware of it. It plays in my mind again and again, but it always flies under my conscious radar.

Turns out, it needs secrecy to survive. When I start seeing it, it loosens its grip. The more conscious I become of my unconsciousness, the less power anxiety has over me.

There is nothing to “understand.” All I need to do is to repeat a few simple steps as best I can.

4 steps for reducing anxiety

There’s nothing magical about them. It’s a simple 10-minute practice that undercuts the root of anxiety. The only purpose of this practice is to shine the light of consciousness on the dark areas of the mind.

Light is the most powerful thing in the universe. The way out of darkness is to turn on the light. These 4 steps help you to become aware of the mental records that run your life.

That’s all. You don’t fight anything, you don’t resist anything. What you resist, persists. The goal is to see.

  1. Ask yourself the following questions: “Right here, right now is there any selfishness in me?” “Right here, right now is there any dishonesty in me?” “Right here, right now is there any resentment in me?” “Right here, right now is there any fear in me?”
  2. Pause for 10 seconds after each question, listening carefully to what is going on inside you.
  3. Ask whatever Higher Power you have to remove the feeling.
  4. Share how you feel with at least one trusted friend (a SAFE person in your life).

How the non-anxious brain is formed

Anxiety was planted into my subconscious by a certain way of living. There is a hidden destructive message running in my mind like a broken record. But I don’t see this message.

When I break the secrecy and speak up about how I feel, I slowly become aware of this hidden record. My record says: “You are on your own. You must control everything. You must be god.”

When I become conscious of this hidden message, I gradually realize that it’s false. No, I am not omnipotent. No, I don’t wield absolute power in my little world. There’s a Higher Power greater than me. I can let go of my need to control.

The only way out of unconsciousness is to grow in consciousness. Unconsciousness cannot survive the light.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.”

Mirtle tree and the sky

Loneliness – Social Media Exploits Your Need of Validation

According to G.K. Chesterton, truth is often paradoxical. It’s hard to believe that the problem of loneliness is actually rooted in too much interaction.

But this is what Sean Parker’s uncanny insight seems to suggest. Sean Parker is the founding president of Facebook. He explained in an interview why it’s so hard to resist the impulse to constantly check your social media – even while you are driving.

He shared how social media gradually hook you up.

“When Facebook was getting going, I had these people who would come up to me and they would say, ‘I’m not on social media.’ And I would say, ‘OK. You know, you will be.’” Now that this prediction is more than fulfilled, the question is even more intriguing.

Social Media AddictionSocial Media Addiction Engineering

How did they do it?

Sean explains that the founders used basic human psychology – our need for approval. Social media are nothing but a social-validation feedback loop.

It works like this – the moment you contribute some content and people like it, share it or comment on it, you get a little dopamine hit. This makes you want to contribute more content, which, in turn, gives you another hit.

You want more likes and comments. We all like to be liked (who knew?) – and social media provides that.

This fact is not easy to swallow – social media work because we are seeking validation. When we feel lonely, cut off, isolated, we want to get rid of this feeling at all costs. But does “interaction” on social media actually help us solve the problem of loneliness?

Far from it. Of course, we will temporarily feel “high.” Like a shot of whisky, it will medicate the distressing feeling of loneliness for a while. But when its tranquilizing effects wear off, we will feel even emptier than before, craving for more validation.

More likes, more comments, more shares. Our inner void will be growing and gradually become a gaping hole, an insatiable inner monster that gets hungrier with every attempt to feed it. Continue reading “Loneliness – Social Media Exploits Your Need of Validation”