Here is how to truly outsmart your alcoholism or your addiction to drugs or anything else:
Go ask for help.
That’s it. That is how you outsmart the addiction. Go ask another human being to help you with it. Period.
Any other answer to this question is going to be wrong. Anything else means that you are still trying to figure out how to overcome your own denial, which doesn’t even make sense. Any other answer means that you are trying to use your own mind to conquer your diseased thinking.
Addiction is a disease of the brain. Addiction tells is that we are unique, that we are different, that we are not wired like all of these other addicts and alcoholics are. We are special because we are the one person on the planet that truly loves drugs and alcohol as much as we do. All of these recovering addicts and alcoholics must not really love the buzz as much as we do, otherwise they would still be self medicating like we are, right? We are the one true addict in this world. Everyone else is just faking it.
That is how our mind works when it is trying to reason through our addiction and make sense of it.
Or we create limits for ourselves in order to try to control our intake. We switch from liquor to beer and think that is a solution to our problem of blacking out and losing control on a regular basis. To an addict or alcoholic, switching from one drug to another–or from one form of a drug to another–is a viable solution. This is madness.
You cannot outsmart your addiction using your own thinking. That doesn’t even make sense. The broken thinking is the addiction. That’s the whole problem. Our thought process is screwed up and it is wired for destruction. You cannot heal your life by using an addictive mind to fix it.
So the way to outsmart your addiction is completely counter-intuitive. Instead of thinking harder and harder about how to beat it, you have to take a step back and remove yourself from the problem in a way. This is what they mean when they say “give yourself a break” and surrender.
Because up until this point you have been carrying the whole burden of figuring out how to navigate your life, your sanity, and your drug intake. It has all been on your shoulders and you have been responsible for all of it.
Think of your brain power in two categories: You have the part that figures out the plan, and then you have this other part that executes the plan.
You have the problem solving part of your brain, and then you have the part that executes. The thinker and the doer.
One part can come up with a solution, and then the other part can execute a solution.
It just so happens that the problem of alcoholism or drug addiction is so big and so complicated and so difficult that one human brain, no matter how smart and powerful that brain may be, cannot fully do both things. It cannot find a solution and also execute that solution.
The truth is that your brain has the capacity to do one of these two things. Every alcoholic or drug addict can, in fact, devise a solution that would keep them clean and sober. However, after using that brain power to get to that conclusion, they have nothing left to execute their plan with. All of the willpower that existed with which to execute a plan had to be used up in order to create it in the first place.
Now you might be wondering: Is this really true? Are we limited in willpower after we use up our brain to create a solution for ourselves?
I would answer that with: Look around the world and draw your own conclusion. Look at successful people in addiction recovery and ask them this question: “Did you have any help, or did you just figure out recovery all by yourself?”
If you ask a dozen people that question I believe you will get at the real truth: No one can both figure out recovery and also execute on it. It is too much.
Therefore, to get back to the point, the only way to truly outsmart your addiction is to completely outsource the part where you figure out what to do in order to beat it.
Why? Because if you don’t have to worry about the plan for recovery, then you can dedicate 100 percent of your energy into executing a plan.
It is just that simple. Don’t waste any mental energy or time on figuring out how to recover. It’s not necessary. Others have already figured out recovery and they can guide you through it quite easily. All you have to do is to show up and do what they tell you to do.
Who is “they,” you ask? The people at inpatient treatment, the therapist, the sponsor in AA or NA, and the peers in recovery.
Here it is in a nutshell: Stop taking your own advice, and listen only to those who can guide you in your recovery.
In other words: Get out of your own way. Stop making decisions entirely.
Furthermore, I would argue that you should make a firm commitment to yourself, that you will not make any real decisions within the first year of your sobriety. Period.
You make an agreement with yourself that you no longer get to decide anything of significance at all! Period. Just remove yourself from the responsibility of decision making. Hang your life over to AA, to rehab, to sponsors, to therapists, to your peers in recovery.
That’s it. That is how you outsmart addiction.
I know that this is the solution because I did this exactly as described here over 16 years ago. I made this agreement with myself that I would not make any of my own decisions for the first year, that I would outsource all of my decisions to the people I trusted, and I would see where that got me.
And before that first year was over I was amazed. It was like I had discovered a magic trick that actually worked! My life just kept getting better and better.
This is the real secret of recovery.
Hand your life over those you trust, hand your decisions over to therapists and sponsors and people with significant clean time, and watch as your life begins to get better and better and better. It truly is amazing.
But in order to do this, you have to let go and you have to trust. You have make that leap of faith that says “I don’t know if these people really have my happiness in mind, I don’t know if they have my best interest in mind, but I am going to trust them anyway because when I make my own decisions I just screw things up and become miserable.” And then you let go and you actually start taking advice, and your life gets better and better every day.