So how exactly does one overcome addiction?
The most common mistake that we tend to make when trying to quit whenever it is that we’re addicted to is that we try to quit cold turkey. We say alright I swear from this moment on I will no longer smoke; I will no longer look at pornography, I will never look for another quick fix.
Whatever it is, the vast majority of people often find themselves relapsing, giving in and starting back at square one. Why does it seem so impossible? Well, the answer lies in an experiment they conducted in the seventies. So during the 70’s scientists put rats in cages with two sources of water, regular water and water spiked with cocaine. They observe that these rats would eventually get hooked on the cocaine water to the point where they keep drinking it until the overdosed and died.
A couple of years later, another group of scientists conducted a study where instead of putting rats into cages by themselves, they put them into an entirely different environment. They call it the rat park. Rat Park had tons of space. There were tons of things that rats love; grass, toys and most importantly of all there were other rats. And at rat park, they had the same water setup, regular water and water spiked with cocaine.
To their surprise, not one mouse died from cocaine overdose, and for the most part, the rats ignored the cocaine spiked water. They even went as far as getting rats addicted to cocaine beforehand in secluded cages for over a month and then moving them into rat park.
In these cases, all the rats who were addicted to cocaine would stop drinking the cocaine spiked water over time. They overcame their addiction with ease.
So what does this mean? Well, this implies that addiction is something that occurs when there are no other consistent sources of happiness in your environment. So if you’re the type of person who has little friends, stays in his mother’s basement all day with absolutely no goals with terrible food addiction, well I’m sorry to break it to you but you’re going to have a near-impossible time getting over your pornography addiction or your food addiction or your alcohol addiction, because you’re basically in the human version of a lonely rat cage.
So if you want to overcome addiction you have to somehow find a better environment to live in. You have to find the human version of Rat Park. Otherwise, you are just going to fail over and over again.
So where do you start? Well, there are three areas of your life that you need to work on. These three areas will provide you with enough happiness to move you out of your lonely cage and into the human version of Rat Park.
1. Engage Deep Human Bonding
A recent study found that forty-eight percent of Americans have only one person they can speak to about important matters. I’m sure most of you guys do have some friends however if you take a step back and look at these relationships how many of them can you say are truly deep and meaningful. Do you guys talk about deep, important matters, ways to help each other improve or do you talk about what happened in the game last night or about the latest episode of whatever TV show you watch? Most people nowadays have acquaintances, not friends
So how exactly do you get real friends and build real bonds? Well, you have to work on your social skills and learn how to hold deeper conversations.
Number two is to focus less time on social media and instead concentrate on interacting with people in real life. By following these two steps, you’ll see a drastic improvement of deep bonds you have with others.
2. Do Meaningful Work.
Seventy percent of US employees now report being miserable with the work they do. You don’t see these numbers in places like Google or Tesla.
Why is that?
Well, it’s because the majority of work the typical American has to do is monotonous. It’s pushing papers or entering data and taking orders from someone else. There little to no emotional connection with the work they do.
Now does this mean you have to quit your job to overcome addiction?
Not necessarily. But, what you do need is something that you find meaningful. This could be community service, this could be posting your art or your music online, this could be writing that book you always wanted to write. You need to ask yourself what are some things that you hold paramount and start doing them. If your work has a meaning, then it becomes a consistent source of pleasure in your life.
3. Sculpt Yourself
Are we going to be sculpting statues? Well no. When I say sculpting, I mean the act of working on yourself. Sculpting yourself. The reason I chose the word to sculpt instead of improving yourself, is because well it’s going to be uncomfortable, it’s going to hurt. It’s only afterward that the happiness settles in. For example, going to the gym during your workout, you put under tons of uncomfortable stress. But afterward, you feel like the king of the world.
Improving yourself in any way follows a similar pattern. Working on your social skills by approaching random strangers or resisting an urge to eat ice cream on a hot summer day are all forms of sculpting. You’re sacrificing your current desires to sculpt a better future. Even the smallest improvement will help. By working on these three areas, you can slowly introduce yourself into a better cage.
Let’s say you used to work for yourself for a month; you started going to the gym, you started hanging out with some friends, you started a little project that you’re passionate about. You may not be in rat park yet, but you’re definitely in a much better cage. and what you’ll find is that you’ll notice that there is naturally less of an urge to indulge in your gambling addiction or pornography addiction or your food addiction and since you indulge in it less you’ll have an easier time improving on these three areas, so you end up working out more, hanging out more and working on your projects more.
Slowly and surely this positive feedback loop brings you out of addiction you finally get to the point where you’ve built yourself a version of your very own rat park, and you don’t even bother looking at the bottom or looking for pornography or looking for the next fix because. Why run away from reality when the reality is so awesome.