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Itchy and Scratchy

Addiction is widespread and new addictions keep arising, like internet, shopping, or selfies. What can you do if you struggle with one of these?

One of the most effective ways to combat addiction is to change your environment.

The best evidence for this came from US soldiers after the Vietnam War. Many of them had become addicted to heroin, but when they came home most were able to stop using. Heroin is a very difficult addiction to kick, so that’s a big success story. Partly it was because the army provided good support and monitoring, but the biggest factor was that the environment changed. Back home in America, it was much harder to get access to drugs, it was less acceptable to use, and mostly the psychological trauma of the war was over.

That’s why it is important to focus on social changes, not just on biological ones. Specialists now suggest addicts begin by changing their circle of friends or rearranging their house: anything that breaks up your routine can prevent you falling into old habits.

Then look at your inner environment. Addiction is like scratching a wound: the more you scratch the more it itches or gets infected. If you can experience the itch and hold back on the scratching, it starts to heal. Wounds release histamine, which helps the healing but also causes the itch. Scratching releases more of it. Put off the scratching and the itch will start to fade.

That vital gap between thought and action is where we learn to pause and make choices. It’s not the itch, it’s the thoughts about the itch. The deepest addiction we have is to our thoughts.

“If a flower is wilting, you change the environment in which it is growing, not the flower.”

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