The central theme behind every addictive behavior is the ‘’I can’t do without it’’ mentality. Whether it is voiced out or even acknowledged, it is what keeps the addiction going. For most people, it is largely an unconscious thing and for some, it is the excuse they hold on to in order to continue in the addictive behavior or to console them when they fail to resist the urge to return to the behavior.
It is largely a defeatist attitude, and that is one way your body is going to betray you. When the urges come or when the withdrawal symptoms appear, your body is literarily telling you that it needs that drug or that behavior and that it can’t do without it. That is the physical part, often termed ‘physical dependence’. Another form is the preoccupation with the addictive behavior or substance. You cannot focus on any other thing and even when you are trying, intrusive thoughts of the addiction keep distracting you. That is the psychological part, termed ‘psychological dependence’.
Dealing with the physical dependence is hard, it often involves pain as the body learns to do without the substance and it is often the focus of the detoxification program in drug rehabilitation centers. However, the distress from the psychological dependence is more. It is subtle, sometimes not easily identified and often lasts longer than the physical dependence. Dealing with this is the key to staying sober.
Your mind tells you that you can’t do without your addiction and it manifests in restlessness, loss of concentration and repetitive intrusive thoughts and flashbacks of the ‘high’ from indulging in your addiction. That is the hardest war an addict has to fight. It is what determines whether or not he/she will return to the behavior.
It can cause a relapse even after several months or even years of sobriety. In drug addiction treatment centers, an addict is monitored monthly for two years, and if sobriety is maintained, the addict is then discharged from medical treatment, though attendance at self-help groups is still encouraged. It is believed that if an addict can maintain sobriety for two years, he/she would have mastered the act of dealing with the urges and will have built up his life to an extent that he/she would have a lot to lose by returning to the addictive behavior and thus make it difficult to slide back.
Scientific studies show however that the percentage of people maintaining sobriety after five years of drug rehabilitation is very small. This shows that even after mastering the urges, there is still a chance for relapse. The reason is not far-fetched, most addicts still believe that they cannot do without the behavior and even though they fight the urges because they now have something worth fighting for, they eventually lose the battle at some point. The underlying cause is the defeatist attitude of ‘’I can’t do without it’’
Let’s hear from victor
“I had gone for one year without indulging in masturbation on two different occasions and still found myself doing it after a year. On each occasion I was devastated. It had not been easy staying sober but it had become easier gradually to not give in to the urges but the battle was still ongoing. I will find myself wondering if I really could be free from masturbating. There are days when I would think of stimulating myself just to be sure that I could resist.
A part of me was still desirous of the pleasurable feelings that I get from masturbation and I was worried if I would ever find the act totally repulsive. So when finally, I went back, I told myself that I couldn’t really be free. If after one year I was still not strong enough to not be able to say no, then it was not likely that I was ever going to be able to fully resist. I asked myself what the point in practicing abstinence was.
From then on, I stopped trying and just gave in to the urges whenever they come. I reveled in the pleasures and when the guilt comes, I simply push it to the back of my mind. I developed a thick skin to that part of me that was berating me and I didn’t mind the self-loathing.
‘After all, I had tried’, I told myself. ‘I just can’t do it’.
I was in that state for many months before the guilt could not be suppressed anymore. I couldn’t hide from myself and the feelings of self-loathing any longer.
‘You can do better than this’ I heard my mind whisper to me, ‘You can try again’.
I decided to try again and it was harder than the last time. My body was screaming and I was going crazy from not masturbating. ‘You can’t do this, you are not strong enough, and you will eventually give in’, my mind screamed repeatedly.
Some days I could ignore the voices in my head and those were good days. Dry days. On some other days the urges will be so strong that I believed the voices in my head and I told myself that I was not strong enough to fight myself, because that was what it was- a war against my own body. On those days I lost. I masturbated. And I felt powerless and weak and dirty. Horrible days.
It took me a while to discover the pattern. On days when I believed that I was weak and powerless, I eventually lost the battle. On days I told myself that I could do this, I won and felt good. That was when I discovered the secret of winning, the “I can” attitude.
It has not been easy employing this attitude I must confess. It goes against all the way I had been wired for years. I have to unlearn the defeatist attitude of ‘I can’t do this’ and learn the new one ‘I can!’ but I am trying and taking it one day at a time.’’