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Application of the 3-S program to addiction

Addiction is quintessential mindlessness.
Recovery from any addiction requires becoming mindful.

No matter what you are addicted to, whether it be illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, or legal ones, such as nicotine, alcohol, or prescription drugs, or other habitual behaviors such as over-eating, compulsive sexual behavior, or gambling, your addictive behavior, and its network of addiction-associated perceptions, thoughts, and emotions, has become highly automated, proceeding mindlessly, seemingly without conscious awareness. Furthermore, your habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that culminate in access to your "drug-of-choice" (abbreviated Doc) have now become integral components of your Self-identity -- the self-schema, or mental construct, through which the world of your moment-by-moment experience is habitually filtered. For example, if you are addicted to nicotine through cigarette smoking, you are likely to think of yourself as -- "I am a smoker." This is because access to cigarettes (your Doc) is a requirement of your personal path through life. Just like the self-schemas you became aware of in 3-S Phase 1, the path of addiction (the Addict self-schema), because of its habitual use, has become a well-maintained, high-speed, multi-lane, superhighway -- fast, convenient, and readily accessed in a variety of contexts in daily life. There may be many reasons why this behavior became habitual over the years or months prior to your decision to enter this website (e.g., initial ignorance of its consequences perhaps, or maybe a genetic predisposition, a physical and/or psychological dependency, or a change in brain chemistry; any or all of these may be legitimate reasons). However, in the 3-S program, you will not concern yourself with the "why am I addicted" question. Rather, you will concern yourself with the more immediate question: "So, what do I do now?" Regardless of how you got to this point, you can begin the journey of recovery right here and now -- in this moment -- with a desire to experience and express your true nature and an eagerness to understand how your addiction creates a barrier to this goal.

In the 3-S program, individuals who suffer from addiction strive to make a shift from mindlessness to mindfulness; from suffering to relief from suffering. They become increasingly aware of the activation of their addict self-schema, and they choose to activate instead an alternate self-schema that is wholly incompatible with engaging in the addictive behavior. This self-schema is the Spiritual self-schema -- their personal Spiritual path -- that was developed, constructed, and made more readily accessible in 3-S Phase 2.

Drug of choice (the Doc)

We use the acronym 'Doc' for drug-of-choice in the 3-S program not only to save having to list various types of addictions, but because Doc is an apt acronym -- the Doc is indeed like having your own personal doctor (albeit a dishonorable one) who lives with you 24-hours a day and promises to provide relief from all your unpleasant, uncomfortable, painful sensations. Much of what we know about addiction suggests that addictive behavior is a form of self-medication, and that self-medication entails having an intense aversion to sensations that are experienced as unpleasant, and intense craving for sensations that are experienced as pleasant. Craving for and aversion to aspects of one's own inner experience become the focus of daily life. Regardless of what you are addicted to, and how it began, once you are addicted, your Doc promises you that you can end any unpleasant physical or emotional sensations, and you can feel good instead, if only you would smoke that cigarette, take that drink, shoot, snort, or smoke those drugs, eat that food, take that gamble, or have that sexual experience. Even in the face of evidence to the contrary, the Doc never wavers from proselytizing its 'truth' that here lies relief from your suffering.

What a powerful illusion!

It may seem to provide temporary relief, but even as it does so, it is laying down yet another paving stone on a habitually accessed path -- referred to here as the Addict self-schema -- that leads only to continued suffering. We begin our application of 3-S to addiction by outlining its basic premises. We will then provide a step-by-step description of the 3-S approach to changing addictive behaviors.

Basic Premises of the 3-S approach to the treatment of addiction

  1. The "self" is conceptualized as multifaceted and dynamic, and comprised of cognitive schemas -- i.e., highly automatized, hierarchically organized, systems of knowledge or beliefs about one's intentions and capacities stored in long-term memory that are linked to emotions and behaviors in an associate network.
  2. Activation of a self-schema provides rapid access to specific self-beliefs and the behavioral repertoire associated with those beliefs through automatized event scripts and action plans.
  3. Habitually activated self-schemas are readily accessed because they are finely detailed, well-rehearsed, and have numerous cognitive, emotional, and behavioral links.
  4. Addicted individuals habitually activate a well-elaborated and rehearsed Addict self-schema with its associated scripts and automatized action plans that culminate in procuring their drug of choice, be it nicotine, alcohol, illicit substances, food, gambling, sex, or any other object of addiction.
  5. Recovery from any addiction is unlikely to be successful unless a shift occurs, and is maintained, such that a new self-schema -- one that is wholly incompatible with the addictive behavior -- is now readily accessible in daily life.
  6. A Spiritual self-schema capable of activating thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with mindfulness, equanimity, and compassion for self and others, is an example of a schema that is wholly incompatible with the Addict self-schema.
  7. The goals of the Spiritual Self-Schema (3-S) approach to addiction are to both decrease the activation and availability of the Addict self-schema and increase the activation and availability of a Spiritual self-schema that is incompatible with addiction-associated thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
  8. This is accomplished by:
  • increasing Addict self-schema awareness through non-judgmental self-observation;
  • elaborating and reifying a personalized Spiritual self-schema using creative visualization, mindfulness, and meditation;
  • creating, rehearsing, and practicing Spiritual self-schema scripts and behavioral action sequences that are incompatible with the addictive behavior.

Before you begin ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I motivated to end the suffering caused by my addiction?
  • Do I equate Spirituality with compassion for self and others and with relief from suffering?
  • Am I willing to examine honestly the path of addiction that I take habitually in daily life that leads me away from my Spirituality and toward suffering?
  • Am I willing to set aside time each day to construct and maintain my own Spiritual path -- one that is wholly incompatible with continuing to engage in my addictive behavior, and that will facilitate the experience and expression of my Spiritual nature in all my daily activities?
If you did not answer 'yes' to each of these questions, this program may not be right for you at this time.