Most of these are essentially frameworks for overcoming bad habits, which is perfectly fine because an addiction is really just a deeply rooted bad habit.
An addiction is a bad habit that has become wired in your brain, as a response for relief when you feel a certain way, such as stressed, bored, or depressed. The problem is that when you work to overcome them your brain is working against you, not with you, in your struggle.
Without knowing this key piece of information most people get extremely frustrated, wondering what is wrong with them and why they can’t beat this addiction. The good news is that even though your brain is working against your mind in this struggle, your mind is much more powerful.
The Power of the Mind
There are several examples of crazy powerful ways that people have overcome their brain’s, and really overcome the odds of what anyone believed possible, strictly with their minds.
One such example is Connie, who lost control of half of her body after a stroke. Doctor’s told her she would never regain control of those parts.
However, Connie used the 4 Step Solution to be aware of her deceptive brain messages telling her she couldn’t do it, and to focus instead on taking positive little steps, consistently. To clarify, deceptive brain messages are things your brain tells you, which are not actually true, and which lead to self destructive activities. In Connie’s case these deceptive brain messages were telling her she couldn’t do it and leading her to not engage in physical therapy and want to isolate.
However, with her diligence and overpowering her deceptive brain messages, she eventually regained control of the half of her body she had lost by building new pathways in her brain. In a stroke the affected pathways are effectively dead, but neuroplasticity teaches us that it is indeed possible to build new pathways in the brain, even in extreme cases such as Connie’s.
Connie’s story is incredible and inspiring, and you can read more about it in the book, Stronger After Stroke.
The 4 Step Solution
So, now that we know what the mind is capable of, I’m going to introduce one more framework for overcoming addiction into the mix. This is called the 4-Step Solution. This framework comes from Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., and Rebecca Gladding, M.D., authors of You Are Not Your Brain.
To be clear, this is not a 12 Step Program. In fact, it has no relationship whatsoever to a 12 Step Program.
The 4 Step Solution is a practical framework rooted in self directed Neuroplasticity and honed by practitioner's with many case studies to support its application.
As one example it was studied at UCLA on OCD patients and found to be successful in allowing them to rewire their brains and overcome their bad habits. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
The 4 Step Solution consists of, you guessed it, 4 steps! They are Relabel, Reframe, Refocus, and Revalue. Let’s dissect them one by one.
Bad habits become automatic responses in our brains to deceptive brain messages. For example, when you’re stressed you might automatically reach for alcohol because that response is hardwired in your brain.
The first step is identifying this deceptive brain message and calling it what it really is. So instead of reaching for alcohol because you’re stressed, you stop and say to yourself, this is a deceptive brain message because I’m stressed, I don’t actually need alcohol.
Becoming aware of your thoughts and labeling them appropriately is a critical first step which builds the foundation for all the other steps.
Reframing is about changing your perspective of these thoughts and thinking about them in a brand new way. Where as before you might have thought: I’m stressed and I need a drink, you’re not going to think that way anymore.
Instead you want to say to yourself this is my brain, not me, and I don’t need to act on it. Begin to think of these impulses as unimportant and simply your brain trying to trick you.
By reframing these thoughts in your mind you will start to see them every time they happen and you won’t act on them since you know what is going on.
Refocusing is all about redirecting your attention on a positive mental process or activity, even as the deceptive brain message is tempting you. You cannot prevent the deceptive brain messages from happening, but you can control how you respond to them.
For example, when you’re stressed and want to drink you’ve Relabeled it as a deceptive brain message, Reframed it as coming from your brain and not you, and now you want to Refocus by going for a walk or calling a good friend instead of taking that drink.
By indulging your craving and taking the drink you might feel temporary relief but you are actually making the problem worse every time. Why worse? Because the more you feed these deceptive brain messages the stronger the pathways in your brain become.
To Refocus effectively you need to pick some positive mental or physical activities you can implement whether it be yoga, working out, meditating, calling friends, going for a walk, or any good habit. What you’re doing is effectively re-training your brain to stop indulging the bad habit and instead seek out these new positive habits when that urge arises in your brain.
This might sound simple but it really works. Brain scans and numerous case studies have confirmed that real changes in the brain take place and that this strategy is effective.
It will require persistence and diligence on your part. It’s like writing a book; all you have to do is write 1 page a day. It’s very easy but few people put in the work and stick with it.
Revaluing is about seeing the thoughts for what they truly are and dismissing them. As you implement the first three steps you are effectively becoming aware of the deceptive brain messages, thinking about them in a new way, and instead of reacting automatically to them you are refocusing on positive habits.
Now with this final step you are learning over time to see the deceptive brain message for what it really is and simply dismissing them, without needing to feed them or indulge them. You have effectively regained control over your brain using your mind.
Now that you know what the 4 Steps are let’s look at an example.
Let’s say Bob looks at porn when he feels anxious. Over time this has become an automatic response so whenever Bob feels anxious he looks at porn, almost instinctively.
Applying the 4 Step Solution, Bob has noticed the thought telling him to look at porn when anxiety strikes, and Relabels it as a deceptive brain message.
Then Bob Reframes what’s happening as he realizes he doesn’t need porn and these messages are his brain, not him. He has become aware of the deceptive brain messages and that he doesn’t have to respond to them.
Next, Bob implements Refocusing by now going for a walk or talking to a close friend when his anxiety arises. He acknowledges the deceptive brain messages, after all he can’t stop them from happening, but he choses to do a positive habit instead.
Finally, Bob Revalues his addiction by simply dismissing the deceptive brain messages when they arise because he knows they have no value, and are just his brain trying to trick him. Bob is aware of his brain’s activity and is in control of his addiction.
By implementing the 4 Step Solution Bob has effectively become aware of his deceptive brain messages, substituted his bad habit for good habits, and overcome his addiction. This process can be used for any bad habit or addiction, simply by applying it to different variables.
If you’d like to dive even deeper into the 4 Step Solution check out You Are Not Your Brain, it’s a great book and I would highly recommend it.
Now I’d like to issue a challenge. I challenge you to try the 4 Step Solution for one week and see if it works.
If it works, awesome, leave a comment sharing your experience and wisdom. If it doesn’t work for you, leave a comment and tell me why it didn’t work.
An important point to remember is that no matter what framework you implement for overcoming addiction, there is no easy solution. Overcoming your brain with your mind might be the most difficult thing you ever accomplish.
Taking Personal Responsibility
Ultimately, overcoming your addiction is up to you. People look at me and think that must be nice to have overcome your addiction and be porn free for one year.
But why would you think it was easy for me or anyone else for that matter? It didn’t come easily, I was hungry and I believed I could do it.
I had no program to follow and no one to help me. I worked my ass off reading every book I could get my hands on and taking bits and pieces from different strategies to formulate my own strategy to beat the addiction.
After I quit I had to face the demons I was running from such as failure to chase my dreams and a job I couldn’t stand. I went through the worst depression of my life.
But you know what, this has also been the best year of my life because I’m in control of my life now and no longer a slave to my brain. Overcoming addiction empowers you to stop escaping from your problems and make positive life changes.
No one is promising you this will be easy. What I am telling you is there are real solutions that work, if you are willing to get serious and spend time working on them.
I’m tired of hearing excuses from people like that’s great that it worked for you but it will never work for me. Or I’m just hopeless, I’ll never beat this addiction.
I have one piece of advice, if you want this to work then stop making fucking excuses. This is your life, own it.
This starts and ends with you. Are you ready to take responsibility for beating your addiction?
1. Download the free 3 page 4 Step Solution PDF to have a quick reference guide to this process.
2. Try the 4 Step Solution for 1 week and report back in the comments with your progress (good or bad).
3. Check out this article by Brian @ Reboot Blueprint which tangents nicely with the piece on personal responsibility.