A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

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binocular
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A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:10 pm

Greetings.

There's a lot of threads about addiction, and people are usually advised to quit, cold turkey, go to rehab etc. And accused of making excuses if they don't do so.

But I think what this kind of advice, albeit well-meaning, is missing is that in order to be able to give up an addiction (or change any bad habit for that matter), one has to have something to look forward to in life.

Quitting an addiction means running away from danger; but it doesn't already mean that one is running to safety.
Which is why merely quitting can't work, and people with problematic behaviors need more than just quit those behaviors.

Garrib
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by Garrib » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:16 pm

Agreed...if someone isn't able to muster any hope for the future, and see a better way ahead, it is extremely difficult to give up any addiction because it basically feels like you're throwing away one of your only sources of comfort in the world, and you're not likely to get anything in return!

(Of course, this isn't really true - you do get something in return, just as a natural consequence. But this is not always easy to see when in the throes of addiction.)

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bodom
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by bodom » Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:30 pm

Unfortunately for an addict and alcoholic it is a life or death situation. There is no cutting back or reducing use. You either stop taking the chemicals that are causing problems in your life or you continue to make excuses why you can't stop and gradually lose everything. Recovery cannot begin until one stops using the addictive substance. This is first and foremost. Most need medical intervention. I was one of those. The famous mantra of every addict is "I will quit tomorrow." For most tomorrow never comes and they will continue to drink themselves into the grave. If you don't drink you can't get drunk. If nothing changes nothing changes.
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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Sam Vara
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:20 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:10 pm
Greetings.

There's a lot of threads about addiction, and people are usually advised to quit, cold turkey, go to rehab etc. And accused of making excuses if they don't do so.

But I think what this kind of advice, albeit well-meaning, is missing is that in order to be able to give up an addiction (or change any bad habit for that matter), one has to have something to look forward to in life.

Quitting an addiction means running away from danger; but it doesn't already mean that one is running to safety.
Which is why merely quitting can't work, and people with problematic behaviors need more than just quit those behaviors.
Good post. The thoughts you have provoked in me so far are a bit contradictory!

On the one hand, I agree that quitting an addiction doesn't mean that one is running to safety; one often takes up another adiction in order to compensate or as the means of quitting. And the tendency (anusaya) to addiction may remain as an underlying propensity despite the addictive behaviour stopping.

On the other hand, I'm uneasy with the idea that there is more to the problem than dealing with problematic behaviours. If we cease those behaviours in body, speech, and mind, might that not simply liberate us and finish the task? Are there ever any problems that are not problematic behaviours?

binocular
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:38 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:20 pm
On the other hand, I'm uneasy with the idea that there is more to the problem than dealing with problematic behaviours. If we cease those behaviours in body, speech, and mind, might that not simply liberate us and finish the task?
In Buddhism, they sometimes say that one actually has to have two parallel determinations:
1. eliminate the bad
and
2. develop the good;
and that doing just one or the other doesn't help.
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:20 pm
On the other hand, I'm uneasy with the idea that there is more to the problem than dealing with problematic behaviours. If we cease those behaviours in body, speech, and mind, might that not simply liberate us and finish the task?
I think popular psychology teaches that -- that in order to get well and do well in life, all that is necessary to do is to eliminate the bad habits, the bad behaviors, and that once this is done, there will emerge a new, hopeful, happy, capable person. There's the idea that if it weren't for the bad habits, we'd be perfect human beings. Which seems to hail back to the Christian idea that man in stained by sin, and that all that is necessary for man to be whole and holy, is to be washed of that sin.

But I don't think it works like that. For example, if someone is a drug addict with no work qualification, they can quit the drugs, but still be a person who has no work qualification. Granted, quitting drugs may make it easier for them to get the work qualification. But I see no reason to think that merely quitting drugs will automatically make them motivated to pursue a work qualification (or to know what type of work qualification to pursue).
A person can be miserable and see no point in life while they take drugs, and still be miserable and see no point in life after they have quit drugs. For such a person, quitting the drugs doesn't seem to make any difference.

binocular
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:44 pm

bodom wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 5:30 pm
Unfortunately for an addict and alcoholic it is a life or death situation. There is no cutting back or reducing use. You either stop taking the chemicals that are causing problems in your life or you continue to make excuses why you can't stop and gradually lose everything. Recovery cannot begin until one stops using the addictive substance. This is first and foremost. Most need medical intervention. I was one of those. The famous mantra of every addict is "I will quit tomorrow." For most tomorrow never comes and they will continue to drink themselves into the grave. If you don't drink you can't get drunk. If nothing changes nothing changes.
This seems to take for granted that life (any life) is worth living and that one must do everything in one's power to continue living.

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bodom
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by bodom » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:54 pm

binocular wrote:This seems to take for granted that life (any life) is worth living and that one must do everything in one's power to continue living.
I was under the impression that this thread is for those people who want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction and what they can do about it.

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

dharmacorps
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by dharmacorps » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:27 pm

bodom wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:54 pm
binocular wrote:This seems to take for granted that life (any life) is worth living and that one must do everything in one's power to continue living.
I was under the impression that this thread is for those people who want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction and what they can do about it.

:namaste:
Exactly. Thats what the dhamma is for. That's what AA is for. It is to help with living.

If one doesn't think life is worth living, then that is probably depression or nihilism, or both. It is fine if one wants to/holds those perspectives then that is their choice. Raining negativity and disparagement on those trying to help others to live, and live free of addiction and suffering, is also a choice.

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Sam Vara
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:51 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:38 pm

In Buddhism, they sometimes say that one actually has to have two parallel determinations:
1. eliminate the bad
and
2. develop the good;
and that doing just one or the other doesn't help.
Ah, yes, I agree.
I think popular psychology teaches that -- that in order to get well and do well in life, all that is necessary to do is to eliminate the bad habits, the bad behaviors, and that once this is done, there will emerge a new, hopeful, happy, capable person. There's the idea that if it weren't for the bad habits, we'd be perfect human beings. Which seems to hail back to the Christian idea that man in stained by sin, and that all that is necessary for man to be whole and holy, is to be washed of that sin.

But I don't think it works like that. For example, if someone is a drug addict with no work qualification, they can quit the drugs, but still be a person who has no work qualification. Granted, quitting drugs may make it easier for them to get the work qualification. But I see no reason to think that merely quitting drugs will automatically make them motivated to pursue a work qualification (or to know what type of work qualification to pursue).
A person can be miserable and see no point in life while they take drugs, and still be miserable and see no point in life after they have quit drugs. For such a person, quitting the drugs doesn't seem to make any difference.
Again, I agree with the general direction of the argument here, but maybe this is about turning the "bad" self into a "good" one rather than the goal of the dhamma, which seems to be about transcending both good and bad types of self and achieving liberation from the necessity of sustaining either. Is the Christian idea of being stained by sin all that different in this respect from the Buddhist idea of ignorance (avijja)? It is often presented in the suttas as if it were the root of all evil. I would think that if one has quit drugs and is still miserable and sees no point in life, then one is still subject to the fabricated desire that one sees the world as misery and pointlessness; that is where one's mind averts to, whereas before it averted to the experience of the drug. Maybe the same sickness but with different symptoms.

binocular
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:35 pm

bodom wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:54 pm
I was under the impression that this thread is for those people who want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction and what they can do about it.
How does one want to want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction?

I think this is what many addicts are struggling with.

binocular
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:36 pm

dharmacorps wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:27 pm
If one doesn't think life is worth living, then that is probably depression or nihilism, or both. It is fine if one wants to/holds those perspectives then that is their choice. Raining negativity and disparagement on those trying to help others to live, and live free of addiction and suffering, is also a choice.
I find it sad to gloss over the key issue like this.

I also find it sad that all you see in my posts is "raining negativity and disparagement".

I was once in a SMART recovery group. I had some doubts and questions about their approach; I think they glossed over and took for granted precisely those things that I think would need to be addressed in detail. Their approach didn't seem like it could help me at all. I expressed my concerns. The leader of the group told me that I am not allowed to ask questions about their methodology, and that if I will continue to do so, I will have to leave.
So, frankly, they struck me as yet another clique, not as a group actually intent on helping people.
Last edited by binocular on Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bodom
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by bodom » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:42 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:35 pm
bodom wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:54 pm
I was under the impression that this thread is for those people who want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction and what they can do about it.
How does one want to want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction?

I think this is what many addicts are struggling with.
No addict wants to stop using. They just want to be able to use there drug of choice without the consequences that go with it. That is the denial of the addict. That this time will be different. The belief that they will one day be able to use responsibly. This is the great delusion of every addict, that next time will be different. I did this for 20 years. I had to hit my rock bottom. I had to suffer enough before I realized what my life had become and admit that I couldn't live this way anymore. Everyone has there rock bottom. Unfortunately some die before they do. You hit bottom when you stop digging.

:namaste:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

binocular
Posts: 5453
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:47 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:51 pm
Again, I agree with the general direction of the argument here, but maybe this is about turning the "bad" self into a "good" one rather than the goal of the dhamma, which seems to be about transcending both good and bad types of self and achieving liberation from the necessity of sustaining either.
Sure, but the Path is said to be a gradual one, and that mundane right view comes first.
Is the Christian idea of being stained by sin all that different in this respect from the Buddhist idea of ignorance (avijja)?
Perhaps in a Mahayana view.
I would think that if one has quit drugs and is still miserable and sees no point in life, then one is still subject to the fabricated desire that one sees the world as misery and pointlessness; that is where one's mind averts to, whereas before it averted to the experience of the drug. Maybe the same sickness but with different symptoms.
Agreed. And hence quitting drugs isn't necessarily a solution.
The actual problem may be how to overcome the pessimism or nihilism. Some say they are a choice. It's not clear how a view is simply a choice, as if one could choose and switch views like socks.

I hold two grudges against the recovery movement: one is that they don't teach one how to love life; and the other is that they resent to be requested to teach one how to love life.

binocular
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by binocular » Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:52 pm

bodom wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:42 pm
No addict wants to stop using. They just want to be able to use there drug of choice without the consequences that go with it. That is the denial of the addict. That this time will be different. The belief that they will one day be able to use responsibly. This is the great delusion of every addict, that next time will be different. I did this for 20 years. I had to hit my rock bottom. I had to suffer enough before I realized what my life had become and admit that I couldn't live this way anymore. Everyone has there rock bottom. Unfortunately some die before they do. You hit bottom when you stop digging.
If no more analysis of this topic is possible than this, and the problem has to be solved on such an intuitive, non-verbal level, by luck or sheer will, then ... that's horrible, a hopeless prospect.
Still, you have provided no answer to my question -- How does one want to want to live a life free from the suffering of addiction?

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Sam Vara
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Re: A thought on advice about quitting addictions and bad habits

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 09, 2017 9:05 pm

binocular wrote:
Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:47 pm
Sure, but the Path is said to be a gradual one, and that mundane right view comes first.
Yes, there is also the point that the path might not appear all that appealing to one gripped by addiction. There are some problems that we need to sort out first. My teacher says that we need to alleviate some of the obvious suffering in order to stop flailing around and become stable enough to practice.

Perhaps in a Mahayana view.
Is Theravada any different in this? Please explain a bit more.

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