Welcome to Overcoming Cravings
Self-control is possible for everyone. Temperance is a state of peace in which your physical desires and actions are in full agreement with your ideals. Living according to our ideals always brings us joy, and everyone can learn how to bring their actions into accord with their ideals through well-crafted practice.
The purpose of this website is to apply the wisdom and science of behavioral therapy to the challenge of overcoming addictive behaviors. In the modules that follow, you will learn step-by-step how to gain mastery over cravings, anxiety, and distraction. You will be introduced to cutting-edge research in neuroscience, psychology, physiology, and medicine. And you will find, along the way, many reasons for hope.
The purpose of behavioral therapy is to disrupt vicious cycles and to foster virtuous cycles. Behavioral therapy addresses the momentum that drives virtuous and vicious cycles of behavior alike. In vicious cycles, this momentum is the process of increasing automation as one escapes painful emotions; in virtuous cycles, it is the growth in a sense of meaning, mastery and enjoyment that comes from pursuing ideals. This module will help you to identify your ideals and to take the first steps toward living in accord with them.
Patience is the virtue that breaks all vicious cycles. By practicing patience, you will let yourself fully feel the discomfort of a craving whenever it gets triggered and — equally importantly — you will see cravings as precisely the opportunity you need to build virtuous cycles in the place of vicious ones. Patience means that you are willing to suffer the craving for the sake of your ideals.
At the core of cognitive therapy is the practice of reframing, which means deliberately training yourself to see trials as opportunities instead of as threats. Reframing changes how your brain works during the trial: you lose the tunnel vision formed by the craving, maintain your ability to make moral decisions, and keep a clear vision of your ideals at the forefront of your thoughts. You will be less impulsive as well as less distractible, which will make your cravings much easier to manage.
Your brain generates the sensation of craving only in order to let you know that it has identified an opportunity for pleasure. Paying full attention to the craving — being mindful of it, in a broad sense of the word — sends a “message received” signal that gradually turns off the craving without acting on it. The mindfulness and acceptance strategies discussed in this module are at the heart of all behavioral therapies for addictions.
Work sets the stage for success or failure in the struggle to master cravings. At its best, work embodies our highest ideals and sets us free from the control of impulses and distractions. At its worst, it lowers our threshold for giving in to distracting impulses, weakens our power of attention and trains us in mindless automation. This module will show you how to grow in self-control by working at your best.
Anxiety plays a role in every addiction. Cravings themselves cause anxiety, and people often seek addictive pleasures as a way of distracting themselves from feeling anxious or stressed. This module will show you how the same approach that allows you to understand and overcome cravings also can allow you to understand and overcome anxiety.
Despair occurs at the precise moment when people give up the struggle to resist their cravings. Despair also powerfully influences our way of understanding ourselves:losing hope of ever overcoming our addictions leads us to see ourselves as incapable of change. This module will show you how to strengthen the hope that can free you from the narratives of your past, make you eager to grow, and give you the energy to exercise patience when you need it most.
In addition to preparing our minds for change, through the psychological strategies of cognitive-behavioral therapy, we can also prepare our bodies.This module will explain how medications, while not necessary, can play a pivotal role in breaking vicious cycles, and how the right regimen of exercise can make cravings less troubling and boost self-control.
“Trying harder” is not a recipe for success. Making only vague resolutions to improve “next time” only paves the way for another defeat. You need a plan that can direct your effort as well as your resolutions, and that can be used to measure your progress, helping you to understand both how you set the stage for defeat the last time and how you can set the stage for victory the next time. This section translates all the concepts of the previous modules into one overarching plan for success.