Overcoming long-standing habits requires concentrated effort, patience and persistence. Those who succeed learn to break their pace down into small increments—taking things not just a day at a time, but sometimes almost a thought at a time. One person shares this insight when the addict inside tries to take over and return him to using drugs: “When I have that thought, I get scared to death. I get scared that I even entertained that thought. It’s then that I know I have to play it out and go to work on myself right then and there.”
The practice of “playing it out” has proven to be a particularly effective way of conquering bad habits and fighting addictive behaviors. One recovering addict describes the hard reality he deals with like this: “I know I am only one thought away from falling back into my old ways. I know myself well enough that, within a day, I could be right back into my ugly life—my past life of drugs and alcohol. Just by acting out on one stupid thought.”
In those moments when recovering addicts are struck with the urge to give everything up for that one fleeting momentary “high,” they learn to “Play it Out.” In other words, they do not just play the movie up to the “moment of pleasure” and then stop, pretending that the high is the end of the story. They continue on to consider the aftermath, consequences, and fall-out that inevitably result once the high is gone. We’ve all seen the beer commercials that only show the fun moments in the bar when the guy meets the good-looking girl. What they don’t show is the scene an hour later, when the guy turns into a sluggish bore with slurred speech, or the scenes after that—the vomiting, the morning-after hangover, and decline of the guy’s virile physique into the always-attractive beer belly accompanied by the eventual cirrhosis of the liver.
Recovering addicts know they can fall into the trap of the “short pleasure-trip story,” and they learn to counter that trap by playing their movies out to their full end. “When I am tempted to relapse,” says one man, “I have to stop and think, ‘Okay, this might feel good for an hour or so, but what’s going to happen after? The fear and paranoia will come back. I’m going to feel guilty and like I let everybody down, including myself. Then I am going to have to talk to my wife and admit it, and that’s going to be painful. And, if I don’t do that, then I’ll be hiding out and being a liar again. When I look at all I will have to go through after I binge, it scares me, and I can see that it’s not worth it.” Then, in another classic example of redirection, he adds, “On the other hand, when I picture how great I will feel about myself when I have resisted the temptation, and I can look my wife in the eye without any guilt or deception because I refused to give into the short term high, it gives me the strength I need to stay clean.”
Our ability to step out of our thinking to look back into our thinking to consider the consequences and outcomes of any thought or pattern of thought is a truly remarkable asset. The consummate truth of life is that we alter our destiny by altering our thoughts.
"In the end, some of your greatest pains become your greatest strengths."
"Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph."