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Use Pain and Pressure to Overcome Addiction and Bad Habits

 A man raisng his both arm, showcasing his personal victory

It's hard to quit bad habits like drinking, smoking, overeating, taking drugs, and phone addiction. Even if you've decided to go cold turkey, there's always the devil's whispering. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide on effectively overcoming addiction and bad habits.

Understanding the Need to Quit

Identifying the "Why?"

The first step to overcoming addiction is to create leverage. Ask yourself the question: Why do you want to quit this bad habit or overcome addiction? Write down the reasons you want to quit it. Perhaps, for the sake of your health, you want to quit drinking or smoking, but why is that?

Go deeper to understand the reason behind your desire to quit. Maybe the deeper reason is to improve your health so you can live longer for your children. Having a reason to quit habits or addiction will help you, especially when things get tough.

How Will It Affect Your Life If You Don't Quit Now?

Ask yourself: If you don't quit a particular habit or addiction, how will it affect your financial stability, your physical health, your mental well-being, and your personal relationships in the future? 

Consider the long-term repercussions it could have on your life. 

Take someone who overeats as an example:

  • Physically, this habit could lead to severe obesity, a condition that not only impacts their health but might also affect how they perceive their own attractiveness.

  • Mentally, the cycle of self-sabotage that often accompanies overeating can spiral into poor mental health issues, such as depression.

  • Financially, they not only become broke by spending most of their income on food, but due to being depressed, they lose the drive to succeed. 

  • In Relationships, the strain of these combined factors could potentially lead to breakdowns in personal connections. For instance, a partner may feel compelled to leave if the situation becomes untenable.

This is the stark reality and potential risk of succumbing to the habit of overeating. The outcome is miserable, isn't it? Don't allow yourself to fall into this trap. 

By fully comprehending the future impact of your current addiction or habit on various aspects of your life—financial, mental, physical, and relational—you can create a powerful leverage to push yourself toward change.

The Pressure and Pain of Addiction

The reason people repeat bad habits is that they receive pressure from doing them. This keeps people going back to addiction and repeating it over and over again. For some, repeating an addiction provides an escape from pain.

For example, those who drink or overeat not only experience pressure while doing it but also use it as a way to escape daily stress. This is why so many people have some kind of addiction or bad habit.

If you have an addiction, figure out what you are trying to escape, and what your pain is. Once you identify the pain you are trying to escape by engaging in your addiction, you need to replace that pain with the pain of not quitting it. If you don't have a specific pain and you're just getting addicted to instant gratification, create pain. I'll explain in the next two sections.

Harnessing the Power of Pain

We Tend to Avoid Pain More Than Seek Pressure

If the pain is tremendous and we can't endure that situation anymore, we instinctively avoid that pain to prevent experiencing it again, more than actively seeking pressure. Many successful people have undergone tremendous pain to ensure they never have to experience it again.

Take Tony Robbins, one of the world's famous motivational speakers and bestselling authors, for example. In his early years, he had an encounter with alcohol that shaped his perspective. He had only drank alcohol only once in his life. What happened to him?

Learning from the Successful Case of Not Drinking Alcohol

When Tony was around 9 or 10 years old, he noticed his father enjoying a beer and appearing happy. This observation led young Tony to form a simple equation in his mind: beer = happiness. Curious, he asked his mother if he could also have a beer, citing his father's apparent joy.

Of course, his mother refused. What kind of parent would allow their young child to drink alcohol? However, she realized, that if she just denied and finished the conversation there. He might get alcohol somewhere and start drinking shortly.

With a mother's wisdom, she offered a unique compromise. "Sure, you can try beer, but you have to drink it just like your father does."

Tony asked, "What does that mean?"

His mother replied, "You have to drink six cans of beer."

Full of confidence, Tony boasted, "Sure, of course, I can."

He opened up the first can and sipped the first time. It was far from the pleasant experience he had imagined. Despite wanting to stop after that first sip, since he told his mother that he could drink 6 cans, he couldn't back down.

After forcing down the first can, he claimed he was full, but his mother gently reminded him, "There are five more to go."

By the time he was halfway through the third or fourth can, he felt terribly ill. I'm sure you can guess what happened next. Tony became sick and vomited all over the table, overwhelmed by the noxious smell.

From that day on, Tony developed a new association: alcohol = pain and trauma. This pivotal childhood experience made him avoid alcohol at all costs.

Use Pain to Overcome Addiction

I'm not suggesting you go to such extremes (and certainly not with children, as it's super dangerous), but creating tremendous pain that you never want to happen again or associating that pain with a particular habit can be a powerful tool to overcome addiction.

For instance, many people successfully lose weight after being extremely obese because they've experienced the pain of others making fun of their appearance and want to avoid that hurtful experience again.

How to Create Pain to Quit Addiction?

Let's be honest: Is it possible to create tremendous pain that you never want to happen or experience again? While repeating an addiction until you feel life-threatening danger is effective, it's not recommended due to the risk of losing your life.

Method to Create Tremendous Pain

One method I've come up with is to financially commit to someone if you don't achieve your goal. Imagine visiting that 'annoying friend' (or perhaps not even a friend) and telling them that you've decided to quit a particular habit or addiction for the next 30 days. Promise to give them $100 (or more) if you fail, and ask them to text or call you after 30 days if you succeed.

Just imagine the scenario: if you fail, this 'annoying friend' will not only be happy to receive money from you but may also mock you, possibly spreading the episode to others. The thought alone is painful, and if it were to happen, you'd be motivated to ensure it never going to happen again. Of course, you could choose to lie to them, but by doing so, you'd be violating your own commitment and losing something more important to you.

Implementing a Reward System

The Importance of Rewards

The truth is, it's challenging to stay on track, especially when you commit to quitting for the rest of your life. Many people find themselves returning to old habits or addictions after successfully abstaining for years. But, implementing a reward system can make your journey easier.

Reward yourself each time you achieve a small goal. This will trick your brain into associating the achievement with pleasure, replacing the need for instant gratification.

Here's how to do it.

  • Set Incremental Goals: Start with small, achievable goals. For example, reward yourself after the first week of quitting an addiction or after losing a kilogram.

  • Immediate Rewards: Choose healthy rewards and give them to yourself promptly after achieving your goal. This creates a positive association in your brain between success and gratification.

  • Escalate Your Goals: As you achieve each goal, make the next one slightly more challenging. This helps to prevent complacency and encourages continuous improvement.

  • Vary Your Rewards: Don't always reward yourself at the same level of achievement. This keeps the reward system dynamic and your motivation high.

Raising the Standards

Over time, increase the difficulty of your goals and vary the intensity of the rewards. This method, often used by dolphin trainers, can help you stay motivated and committed to your goal of quitting addiction.

  • Observing Behaviors: Trainers reinforce specific behaviors, like a dolphin jumping, with a reward (such as fish).

  • Avoiding Constant Reinforcement: If trainers provided fish after every single jump, dolphins might not be motivated to jump higher or refine their skills.

  • Raising Standards: By only rewarding the dolphin when it jumps higher, trainers encourage the dolphin to understand which behaviors earn rewards.

In your journey, keep lifting the bar for your achievements and reward yourself accordingly. Remember to opt for healthy rewards—such as purchasing new clothes or enjoying a meal at a health-conscious restaurant—instead of indulging in unhealthy rewards that could derail your progress.

In Conclusion

Overcoming addiction is no easy feat. However, understanding our natural tendency to avoid pain and implementing effective strategies like creating pain and setting up a reward system can pave the way for successful recovery. Remember, the journey may be challenging, but the outcome will be worth it.


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