2020 marks 14 years since I got off drugs. For the 10 years prior, I put everything I could into my system from street drugs to pharmaceuticals (not legally prescribed, of course).
What kept me addicted to drugs for 10 years?
Well, a lot of things. But I spent the better part of those 10 years not completely convinced I had a problem.
I had a full-time job, plenty of friendships, was playing in a band, writing songs, basically having the time of my life and drugs were just there to make things better (or worse, depending on your point of view).
It didn’t matter that my loved ones were encouraging me to change. I didn’t have a problem.
It didn’t matter that I reached a point where I had to be high all day long to make it through a work shift. I didn’t have a problem.
It didn’t matter that my drug use became so pervasive that I had to deal drugs just to afford the habit (my paycheck couldn’t do it all). I didn’t have a problem.
My problem occurred when I started neglecting my mortgage to pay for my drugs. That problem eventually affected my father and his credit score because he co-signed on my house with me. THAT was my problem.
It was one thing to have a drug addiction. It was another thing for others to suffer as a result of it. When that other person became my father, I knew something had to give.
There are many beliefs associating abuse of food/drink and how it can be similar to drug use. Similar parts of the brain are affected, cravings and urges creep in, and when you have no other coping skills to help you with stress or boredom, your cope becomes the food (or drug, in my case).
If 2020 has shown us anything (and it’s shown us a lot) it’s that many of us need better coping skills and outlets for our stress.
Which makes this whole conversation about “change” really difficult.
Last year, I got back into therapy. My life, while mostly pretty fantastic, was not going the direction I felt it needed to be in. I have a lot more to write about this in the future, so I’ll take a slightly different angle on change with you today.
Recently, I was speaking with my therapist and, sometimes, when I’m at a loss speaking about my own personal problems, I just pick his brain about concepts relating to change.
You see, I’m in therapy to get better. I want a better life for myself and my own set of coping skills when I’m under stress were not helping me achieve that.
I was recently speaking about this topic on two of my more recent podcast episodes. One with one of my clients, Erin, and the other with internationally renowned coach, Dan John. I highly recommend you check both of them out so you can hear about change from the viewpoint of the client (Erin) and from the viewpoint of a coach (Dan).
This was even something I brought up recently within our closed community on Facebook.
I told my therapist that within the field of health/wellness/nutrition coaching, there is a belief that if you have a set of behaviors that you feel you need to change, you should start with the one that provides the least amount of resistance in your life. This way, you can tackle something “easy” to develop confidence and consistency with it and then stack that with the next behavior until you have the momentum and results you’re looking for.
He agreed that this certainly was a path one could travel to improve their health.
He also offered another path: that sometimes people need to tackle the most difficult behavior first. The theory being that if they can accomplish the hardest thing first, everything after is easier by comparison.
There is a common statement that I hear with weight loss clients, male and female, and I asked my therapist more pointedly how he responds when he hears this:
“I know what I need to do, I just have to do it”
He offered five reasons which I am re-purposing in my own words strictly for the goal of weight loss.
1) They don’t want to do it. Which is why change has not been implemented up to this point. The “want” is not strong enough.
2) They don’t actually know how to do it. Applied to weight loss, are you in a caloric deficit, do you know how to get in a deficit and are you doing the appropriate/right amounts of exercise?
3) There is a fear of change. Change disrupts the status quo. It disrupts friendships, marriages, social gatherings, the workplace, etc. Weight loss, done responsibly, requires a lot of change and not everyone is mentally prepared to do it.
4) There is a fear of success. I actually had to probe deeper on this. Why would someone fear success? His response: Some people fear the ability to keep up the success they’ve had. I’ll offer my client, Don, as an example. Since his weight loss has been so dramatic so far, what if he started to second guess himself and start (unconsciously) sabotaging himself because he knows a lot of eyes are on him to succeed? Some people short circuit and revert back to old behaviors.
5) They don’t give credit to their barriers. It’s easy to blame certain boogeymen for an inability to lose weight: Oh, it must be my metabolism. Oh, it must be sugar. Oh, it must be “insert demonized thingamabob here”. When the reality is things like: your food environment is out of control, you married a saboteur, your sleep habits suck, and you haven’t found more productive ways to handle your stress. Pinpoint those barriers first, THEN revel in your success.
Circling back to me and giving up drugs, I struggled with two of those factors for sure: 1) I didn’t want to give them up and 3) I had a fear of change. I had spent so many years with drugs as a part of my life, my recreation, what I felt inspired me to write better songs, and what gave me a stress outlet that I wasn’t sure how I could function without them.
Once I learned what life was like without drugs to get me through, I had something I had long forgotten how to appreciate: clarity.
Come to find out, I didn’t need drugs to sleep better, feel better, relieve stress or write songs. What I needed was a more focused mind so I could prioritize my life and my finances again. While giving up drugs was “easy” in execution, it took time to develop the self-confidence that I could actually live a normal life again.
True to the theory, giving up drugs also cost me friendships. Many of my friends at the time were still users and I had to split myself further from them socially (and geographically) so I could clean my slate with less temptation.
If you’re struggling, there’s a lot listed above that may be worth your consideration. Change comes at a cost. Not everyone is willing to pay the price.
However, marking my 14th year clean, I can promise you that change is worth it.
“We Make Great People Greater”