Abstaining Around 'Them'

Abstaining around THEM.

Is it just me or do we all have that one person or group of people that we’ve just got no self-control around? You know, THEM. Those people whom, when around, you just can’t stay true to your own goals. Whether you are trying to lose weight, save money, or quit some other poison, you just can’t seem to stay in control around these fuckers! Forgive me if this is starting to sound like a rant, that’s only because it is. I’ll continue *clears throat*

It doesn’t matter whether THOSE PEOPLE are your friends, your family, your drug dealer, or even your own spouse. And it doesn’t matter if you are just trying to quit the sweeties, alcohol, gambling or if you are trying to quit cocaine because of a sudden onset of heart palpitations. Either way, they are just no fucking support! It’s almost as if they expect you to fail and are there to provide you with the goodies as soon as you inevitably do. Sometimes it almost feels like they do want you to fail, doesn’t it? You know, I believe that deep down, sometimes they actually do. Why though? They know how much you want to lose weight, why don’t they just stop suggesting fried chicken for lunch or dinner? They know you want to quit drugs because of the damage it’s causing you, so why are they still calling to ask if you want to go halves on an eight-ball? Why are they offering you a cigarette, a drink, a night out when you already told them you are broke? Who are these people and why are they so thoughtless? Could it be that our movement towards a “better version of ourselves” reminds them of how stuck they are? Maybe misery really does love company. Maybe they just know how happy those things makes us, and they can’t stand to see us struggle. I could list a hundred reasons right now but I just don’t have the time. I guess this is one for them and their therapist. The truth is, in the end, it hasn’t got anything to do with them. You are responsible for yourself and this is your journey. What are you going to do? Use them as an excuse to quit quitting? Fuck that and fuck them!

The million dollar question: How do we deal with these people?

There are many variables to this question so I think its best I begin with a disclaimer. Remember, this is just a 1400 word article, not therapy. If you’re at the early stages of recovering from a serious addiction, this is not a green light to put yourself into a vulnerable situation. When I quit class A, I didn’t even see THEM for eight months and even though I have had the odd pint with them, I still won’t go for a night out. There’s just no point in poking the beast.

One philosophy of the stoics is that, we alone are the masters of our destiny. We have no control over what other people do, we do however have control over what affect we will allow them to have over us. Basically, if something or someone is harmful to you and you have no way to change it, then you get the fuck out of there.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s continue with the assumption that you have already journeyed within, have done your soul searching and have decided that THEY are relatively harmless and do not need to be weeded out of your life.

In his brilliant book ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’, Ryan Holiday gives us an introduction to stoicism and an in depth lesson in the art of ‘making our obstacles, our way forward’. Finding an opportunity in every situation, even if the situation is undesired.

What opportunity could there possibly be in being around people who test my discipline? A massive one, actually. Whatever your vice is and however many things trigger you to want it, there are usually no more than three main triggers. By dealing with the big three triggers, the smaller ones become a lot more manageable. Sometimes they just dissolve away altogether. For smokers, the big three are usually; boredom, social, stress. For foodies it’s; boredom, stress, social. For cocaine users it’s; social, alcohol, boredom. You get the picture. Did you notice how many times ‘social’ popped up? It’s a major trigger for most addictions.

Most of us who are trying to abstain from something, see socialising as torture. Some people will even stop socialising altogether. “everyone’s going to be smoking and I’m just going to suffer”, “everyone’s going to be drinking and having fun except for me”, “what’s the point of going out for dinner when I can’t even eat anything?” Sound familiar? All sentences I myself, have uttered.

While in the early days of abstinence, we perceive these people as our weakness and a danger to our success. This couldn’t be further from the truth. They are our path to success! Rather than seeing being around them as a problem, I teach my clients to be excited for the opportunity to prove to themselves just how much control they actually have! Yes, you might have urges, yes, you might have cravings, but that’s ok. This is because your body is starving that thing. Embrace it, it’s a sign that you are winning!

You should know

Your “addict brain” is far more involved than you give it credit for. Where you judge yourself as weak or undisciplined around these people, it’s actually your “addict brain” being really calculated and manipulative. You know, there is actually a chance that THEY aren’t even doing anything different and the whole time it’s just your “addict brain” preparing you with an excuse to fall back on once you fail, so that you can fail. I mean, why should anyone else hinder your progress? If they want to smoke, eat cake or drink alcohol then why should it bother you? You have already made the decision to quit and have probably done so for some genuine reasons and after some serious thought. You have chosen a better quality of life for yourself and for your family. I promise you, in the end, It’s not you who will feel like you are missing out.

Breaking the social trigger

All you possibly have as a defence against your “addict brain”, is a little bit of conscious reasoning as to why you want to quit (Pffff!). Your addict brain will fire urges and cravings at you until you even lose control of this very reasoning! It will use your emotions, your senses, your memories and even your own subconscious against you, until you fold. Imagine that… seriously, imagine it. Think back to the last time your willpower failed you. What did your “addict brain” use against you to make you justify and rationalise folding? Was it sensory? A thought? A vision maybe, of a memory where you once had a great time doing that thing… Now imagine if you knew then, what you know now. If you caught your “addict brain” in the process of that little game of fuckery, how easily would you have been able to hold your space knowing the game it was playing? Now imagine you caught it in the act, stopped for a moment and then reminded yourself about that little bit of conscious reasoning that I “Pffff’d” at earlier…. That reasoning is not so little now, is it?

All of a sudden we begin to change our thinking from victim to victor. Our tacticts move from reactive to proactive. We change “everyone’s going to be smoking and I’m just going to suffer” to “everyone will be suffering smoking, except me” or “everyone’s going to be drinking and having fun except for me” to “everyone needs to drink to have fun, except for me” and “what’s the point of going out for dinner when I can’t even eat anything?” to “now I get to go out for dinner and explore new dishes that are more in harmony with my health goals”.

#Winning!

I hope you had as much fun reading this, as I did writing it. Writing this article reminded me of the shift in power that I experienced, once I discovered and begun applying this philosophy to my life – not just in my recovery from addiction but in life in general.

“Choose not to be harmed and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed and you haven’t been” Marcus Aurelius’

To find out more about me, my work or to talk with me, please feel free to get in touch.