“Change is due to ‘want’ power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.” – George A. Sheehan, writer
“She’s sober right now …. But, she wants a different approach…!”
Olivia’s husband, Oscar, called me from his hotel. He was in Toronto for work and was worried about her. When I asked for details, he said she was on another drinking binge but this one was different. Apparently she had been through the local detox centre several times over the years but with no lasting impact.
Oscar then added, “There is something different about this time. She’s sober right now and seems more committed to getting her life under her control. But, she wants a different approach that’s more effective. I found you on the internet and wondered how soon you could see her.”
We scheduled an appointment for the next day and Oscar said he would call back to confirm her commitment to attend. However, when he called back, about 30 minutes later, he said she was drunk again and he couldn’t confirm she would attend.
“… alcoholism is often related to an unresolved relationship with a parental figure.”
I asked Oscar to tell Olivia three things. First, I asked him to tell her that in my professional experience, alcoholism is often related to an unresolved relationship with a parental figure. Second, if she was committed to learning and getting her life under her control, I could help her. And third, I would leave that time open for her.
To my surprise, Olivia appeared the next day, and on time. She was of average height and looked like she had just crawled out of bed. She had short, auburn, hair and deep green eyes that carried a sparkle in them. She was dressed in wrinkled, work out gear and smelled of Listerine (an attempt perhaps to cover up the smell of alcohol). As she filled out the service registration forms, her hand shook slightly. But, she seemed determined and persisted with the task.
Olivia was in the real estate business. She had her own franchise with seven salespeople. She apologized profusely for her appearance saying in her business this would not be acceptable. She looked and sounded hung over…but determined to be there and get her life back. And, she said as much in the next few minutes.
When I asked her what made her decide to come to her appointment, she said with a slight smile,
“…I’m so tired of all these well intentioned…telling me I got a disease!”
“Oh! That’s your fault! When Oscar told me what you said about drunks, like me having issues with a parent, I immediately thought of my mother. Then, I figured maybe you could really help me.”
Then she added, as an afterthought, “I’m so tired of all these well intentioned professionals and do gooders telling me I got a disease!”
“So, you don’t subscribe to that belief?” I asked.
“There is a part of me that knows if I can find a big enough why for not drinking, I will do something else instead. A friend told me just the other day about how her father stopped drinking the day he was fired. And, I heard about a woman who, when she developed a health challenge, breast cancer I think, she took control of her eating addiction.”
“Olivia, you display a lot of wisdom about addictions. I think you are quite correct that any addiction can be changed with the right motivator. As has been said, when the why is important enough, the how will take care of itself. But, what is your why?”
“I guess that’s the reason I’m here, Ken.”
“No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions.” – Patrick J. Kennedy, politician
“We don’t actually get rid of addictions, we transform them…”
“There is another important idea which could assist you with your situation. We don’t actually get rid of addictions, we transform them or change them into some other more healthy addiction in keeping with the law of energy conservation. For example, many people who use Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) successfully switch their addiction to smoking, food or friendships. Others may use spirituality, parenting or their work as their new addiction.”
“Why is that important?” she asked, distracted by the concept.
“It is really important for two reasons. First, it reminds us the addiction is a learning tool and so serves a purpose and you are just achieving the same purpose in a new, more healthy way with a new tool. And, second, it enables you to maintain your self esteem in the process of moving from one addiction to the other, thereby increasing your probability of a success transformation. We all use addictions to learn and survive, from air at our birth to love at our death.” I said.
“Are you suggesting to me that my drinking has been useful to me and I should not be beating myself up about it?” she asked, her face filled with disbelief.
“Olivia, you are sitting in my office telling me about it. This indicates to me your addiction has helped you survive so far; your addiction has contributed to having a spouse who cares about you; and, your addiction has contributed to you running a successful business. What is happening now is you are tabulating only the costs of it. And, you have decided it needs to be transformed into something more acceptable to your values.”
“I suppose that’s true. But what a price to pay!” she replied.
“I have a writing addiction.” – Prince, musician
“I really don’t care how you feel!”
“What you are doing by coming here is deciding to change the form of your addiction to align it with your higher values and give you a longer future.” I said.
“That is a strange way to put it, Ken. But, I guess that’s true, too!” Olivia said, with some insight emerging in her eyes.
“If you are committed to changing your current addiction from alcohol to something else that respects your highest values, then I can help you. But, it will demand you be willing to learn some new ways of understanding your past and present. And, perhaps the best place to start Olivia, is your perception of your mother. Does this approach interest you?”
“Yes, it does, Ken! But how soon will I start to feel better?”
“That’s another very important point of this approach you need to be very aware of, Olivia. I really don’t care how you feel! We will not be focusing on feelings. It tends to slow down learning. So, I will not ask you how you feel. I will be asking you how you think! When you start taking control how you think, it will give you control of how you feel. Do you understand what I have just said?” I asked her carefully to emphasize the importance of this idea.
“Do you mean feelings are bad or a waste of time?”
“I actually do feel a little better, already!”
“No, not at all! Your feelings are a measure of how effective you are being purposeful and living according to your highest values. They are to be respected. But, they can only be changed by changing our thinking…and that will be our focus. You will feel better as you become more aware of living closer to your highest values.”
“So, I can expect to start feeling better eventually….?” she asked hesitantly.
“Has what you have learned so far today changed how you feel?” I asked.
Olivia paused a minute.
“Learning my addiction isn’t only bad, learning my addiction is a learning tool, and learning my addiction can be changed to a more healthy one have helped me see a future for myself. I didn’t see that before I came here, today. I actually do feel a little better, already!”
“Olivia, we are going to do three things. First, you are going to clean up any distorted perceptions you carry of your past, starting with your mother. Second, you’re going to broaden your perception of yourself so you can recognize what you already have within you and around you. And third, you’re going to transform your addiction from alcohol to something more respectful of your highest values. Are you ready to begin?”
“Am I ever!” Olivia replied.
“Anything that you can become obsessed with, and you do so much that you don’t do the things you need to do with family, friends, school, job – that can be an addiction. And texting absolutely can qualify.” – Dale Archer, psychologist
Until Next time…
Now you know each of us is an addict in many forms. And your addictions are important learning tools for your future. Addictions are an efficient way of dealing with your illusions with your current level of awareness. Your addictions have been instrumental to your survival. Once you find the two sides to your addiction, you can transform it into some other addiction closer to your highest values!
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Our next seminar is entitled, “How to Bring balance to Life and Purpose to Work!” It will be on Saturday, January 28th, 2017. Details are available at www.kenpiercepsychologist.com
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
Further information: www.kenpiercepsychologist.com