Do you have an addiction? Have you become dependant on a substance – such as alcohol or cocaine just to get you through the day? Or what about behavioural addictions like gambling or compulsive sex or shopping? Has this spiralled out of control?
I’ve treated hundreds of people with addiction problems over the last two decades and on this page we’re going to look at the main reasons people get addicted and how hypnosis can help you find freedom.
The ideas here come from my clinical training, research, and experience in using hypnosis to help you conquer addiction and regain control of your life.
I hope you find them helpful…
What drives your addiction?
One of the first questions I’ll ask someone who is seeking my help for an addiction problem is this…
What are you hoping to get from indulging in that substance or behaviour? What are you hoping the drink/drug/addictive behaviour will give you?
The answers usually fall into just two categories: either you’re trying to escape from something (a painful emotion, for instance) or you’re hoping the drug will move you towards something (such as a blissful state of consciousness). Most drugs don’t do this.
So, are you running away or toward something? What are you trying to achieve?
It reminds me of this quote from James Thurber…
Changing state: an inbuilt need and resource
Of course, humans have been experimenting with ways to feel better for millennia. We seem to have an inbuilt need to change how we feel or expand our consciousness in some way. And the ability to do so is natural.
Trouble is, when it comes to addiction, we lose touch with this natural ability and become dependant on external means – the drink, the drugs, the gambling – to make us feel better. But the truth is, of course, most of the time the addictive behaviour actually ends up making you feel worse.
Why does addiction promise so much but nearly always fail to deliver? How is it that you indulge with hope and expectation only to feel dreadful afterwards?
The answer lies in how our brain processes memories of addiction…
How addiction distorts reality
When you see someone pouring a drink or lighting up, or if you yourself have a craving for a line of coke or a glass of wine, your brain gets really busy. Immediately – on a subconscious level – it dives into its memory storeroom to figure out what the drug has done for you in the past.
That memory storeroom contains a filing cabinet that is littered with the amazing highs you’ve had and all the ways the drug has seemingly helped you deal with difficult emotions and situations. There are also memories of how miserable you’ve always felt when you’ve tried to quit the drug in the past.
Reviewing these memories, the brain assumes the drug must be a good thing: You feel great when you take it and feel downright miserable when you try to quit!
Once the brain has reviewed these memories and made the assumption that indulging is a good thing to do, it sends a powerful message up to your conscious mind that says, “Do it now, go on…have another drink, another line…it’ll make you feel better just like all those times in the past…”
And it laces this message with dopamine – a powerful brain stimulant that compels you to take action. You feel an overwhelming urge and before you know it you’re snorting that coke up your snout again.
But here’s the thing…
The memories that the brain retrieves from the memory storeroom are distorted. They only tell half the story. The urge to indulge is driven by faulty expectations because the brain fails to see all those times when you didn’t feel euphoric. Indeed, all those times when indulging in the drug made you feel utterly terrible.
Thus, cravings – and addiction itself – is a powerful, illusory trance state, driven by a false expectation that it will change your mood for the better. Ultimately, of course, it changes it for the worse.
The first step to conquering addiction
So, the first thing in your overcoming addiction is to challenge the expectations about what the drug or behaviour gives you…
Does it really lead to wonderful highs or are you just running away? Is it really the best way to deal with tough situations or uncomfortable emotions, considering how rubbish you feel afterwards? Are you expanding your consciousness and evolving as a human being or just dumbing down?
Surely there must be a better way?
Can you cope without the drink or drug?
Before we even consider what this better way might be, let’s assess how addicted or dependent you really are. It’s time for a reality check, something you might have been putting off for years.
Read through the list below to find out if you are dependent…
Dependence can be defined as…
- A preoccupation with the drug or behaviour – you think about it more and more and can’t wait for the next opportunity to indulge
- Unintentional overuse – you end up drinking more than you said you would or spending another £100 on the horses when you’d promised not to
- Tolerance – as you drink/drug more often you need more of the drug to get the same effects
- Having a sense of relief from using the drug/ carrying out the addictive behaviour. In time, this develops into dependency: you rely on the drug (or the addictive behaviour) to give you the relief
- Withdrawal afterwards (which is nearly always the opposite of the drug’s effect). An immense high is nearly always followed by a deep low. You can end up in a ‘withdrawal trance’, locked into your emotions and wanting to hide under the duvet
Entering the wheel of change
You must have wondered to yourself, how the hell did I end up like this? After all, nobody makes a conscious choice to become addicted; it creeps up on you insidiously then takes over your whole life.
But the question itself points to something important…
It suggests that you are on the ‘wheel of change’: you’re entering the ‘contemplation stage’ by wondering and becoming curious. You’re wanting to do something about it…
Research shows that most people who successfully stop addictive behaviours have been round the ‘wheel of change’ several times and that relapses are not failures but stepping stones to eventual success.
But in order to answer that question (how did I end up like this?) we need to address something fundamental to our wellbeing and vital in the battle against addiction…
How unmet emotional needs raise your risk of addiction
Every human being comes into the world with an in-built set of needs: the need for connection to others, the need for attention, the need for safety and security, the need for a sense of belonging, the need for meaning, and so on. This continues throughout life.
When it comes to conquering addiction, one of the things to identify are unmet emotional needs.
Unmet needs raise stress levels, putting the more primitive ‘survival’ brain in charge. We end up seeing things only from a black and white perspective, devoid of the ability to see a bigger picture.
But when emotional needs are met you remove the vulnerability to addiction. You’re able to think clearly and use your resources better so that you can see through the illusions of addiction.
Not only that, but by meeting your emotional needs and using your skills and abilities correctly, the brain releases endorphins, helping you feel good naturally. And this is one of the game changers when it comes to your finding freedom from addiction.
When you acquire a new skill or gain a higher level of competence in something you feel a natural buzz, a natural high. Learning new things and developing competences are important emotional needs.
But when addiction takes over the brain decides it needn’t bother with natural highs anymore. What’s the point of enjoying beautiful music, or listening to bird song, or delighting in a country walk, or learning a new skill or even making love when you can feel good just by snorting powder up your nose?
RELATED CONTENT: find out if you have unmet emotional needs that may be fuelling your addiction
If you’re feeling unsafe and insecure, have no sense of control in your life, feel disconnected from other people, are not learning new things, have no sense of belonging or that your life has no meaning or purpose, it’s all too easy to escape in to the haze of addiction.
This was starkly pointed out in a fascinating psychology experiment…
So, the moral of the story is that when needs are met – especially the need for real connection to other people – addiction melts away like an ice cube in the sun.
Reaching the ultimate high
I want to take things one step further in your quest for freedom from addiction…
If you’ve ever attended an AA meeting you’ll know about the ‘spiritual’ aspect of the 12-step program. Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, emphasised the need for a connection to something greater than oneself.
Much of the 12-step program he developed has strong leanings toward a ‘higher power’ and was influenced by his own mystical experiences. (1)
A genuine, direct experience of ‘unity consciousness’ is the highest high you can ever experience.
Indeed, throughout the 1950s much research was carried out on the use of LSD to treat alcoholism and it was found that many participants who had a ‘spiritual’ experience whilst on the drug went on to conquer their drink problems. (2)
The thing is that the mystical state of Oneness takes you out of the confines of ego-consciousness (which controls addiction) and into soul-consciousness. This is the ‘higher power’ that Bill Wilson refers to. And this itself is another important need: the need to feel a connection to something bigger than oneself.
At this point addiction loses its meaning. When you can see and truly feel that it is a pointless activity – which pales in comparison to a genuine high – it loses its hold over you.
Developing resourcefulness and responsibility
But rather than waiting and hoping for a life-changing experience of unity consciousness (which may well never happen), there is something you can do right now to begin the journey toward freedom…
No matter what has happened in the past that might have fuelled your descent into addiction, you have done it to yourself. You are the one who’s taken the drugs, drank the alcohol, lost all that money through gambling.
There are people all over the world who have gone through similar situations as yourself and not developed addictions. How come? How do they cope with difficulties? What skills are they using to stave off addiction? How are they still getting their needs met?
Though it’s a harsh reality, it’s a major step toward freedom when you can take full responsibility for your actions.
The Existentialists tell us that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. When you can take full responsibility for your actions and choices there is nobody else to blame. Freedom comes through this.
Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialist Philosopher
And one aspect of taking responsibility for your life is the responsibility to develop and use your resources better. It is part of the human evolutionary journey.
So, as well as having emotional needs, we all have in-built resources which we can use to meet those needs. (3)
Some of the in-built resources include…
- The ability to build rapport, empathise and connect with others
- A conscious, rational mind that can question emotions, analyse and plan
- An imagination, which enables us to problem solve more creatively and objectively and envisage a better future
- An Observing Self — that part of us that can step back, be more objective and be aware of itself as a unique centre of awareness, free from intellect, emotion and conditioning
Unfortunately, one of the reasons for addiction is an under-development of some of these resources. Perhaps you were never shown how to really connect with others? Perhaps you habitually misuse your imagination by worrying (which can lead to depression)?
Seeing the reality of addiction
The Observing Self is that part of you that can step back from cravings and urges, can step out of powerful emotions and expectations and see a bigger picture.
Free from the distorted expectations of addiction, you can see what the drink or drug is really doing to you. And when you can see this – and feel -the powerful accompanying emotions such as guilt, disgust and shame, you start reprogramming your associations to the drug.
And ‘feel’ is the keyword there because logic doesn’t cure addiction. It is the power of the guilt, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, loss, grief, pain, sorrow and suffering caused by addiction that compels you to break free.
It is not willpower that helps you overcome addiction, but disgust and revulsion.
When you truly feel those powerful emotions you won’t want to indulge anymore. It is the power of emotion that steers you in a new direction. And this is where hypnosis plays a vital roles in your recovery…
How hypnosis can help you break free from addiction
In the hypnotic state those emotions can really hit home. When you imagine worst case scenarios of continued drug use a powerful message is sent deep into your subconscious mind. And it’s this that gives you the impetus to change.
When your subconscious truly registers where the addiction can lead to (or soon will do if you continue to indulge) it will do everything it can to help you change direction.
Remember, the prime objective of your subconscious mind is to ensure your survival. When it registers the real danger of addiction you’re well on your way to freedom.
But hypnosis doesn’t stop there…
In hypnosis (and what we’re really talking about is the REM state – nature’s optimal programming state which I talk more about in my free ebook) you can mentally rehearse taking ‘the road to freedom’ by visualising…
- Successfully dealing with moments of temptation – this helps set up a new response in your brain
- Find better, healthier, ways to meet your emotional needs – when needs are met you don’t need addiction
- Use and/or develop your resources – when you develop and use resources you have the skills to deal with difficult situations and enjoy life much more
- And once again anticipate the joy of natural highs – when you switch on the brain’s capacity for natural highs you don’t need false highs anymore.
This mental rehearsal – done in the REM state – lays down the template in your subconscious mind, helping you negotiate the challenges of life in much better and healthier ways, free of the need for drink, drugs, gambling, shopping or whatever your addiction used to be.
The first step to freedom
If you’re ready to break free from addiction – and you must be serious otherwise you wouldn’t have read all this – take advantage of my Free Discovery Session.
Or check out the Hypnosis Downloads that may serve as your first step to freedom from addiction.
The world is waiting for you. Don’t let freedom slip from your grasp this time!
(1) The development of Alcoholics Anonymous – http://www.dubgrp.com/content/william-james-bill-wilson-and-development-alcoholics-anonymous-aa
(2) LSD treatment for alcoholism 1950-1970 https://academic.oup.com/shm/article-abstract/19/2/313/2259116
(3) For more on inbuilt resources https://www.hgi.org.uk/human-givens/introduction/what-are-human-givens