Monday, August 07, 2006

Addictions: focus not on 'giving up' but on adding!

With the reality of high oil prices (and today's announcement that a portion of the Alaska pipeline oil flow is going to be disrupted is likely to increase them ever more), life as we know it is going to change. We are, as President Bush said, "addicted to oil" and it shows up in so many levels of life. Oil is everywhere and in everything!

To say, "life as we know it is going to change" sends a shiver down our back because like any addict, living without the addictive behavior seems, initially at least, as something that's going to be awful. But it is possible, as many addicts discover, that after the addiction, life is actually better! And so, a post-oil addiction life could be wonderful as we discover new ways of living.

When I work with folks with addiction issues, my focus is never on 'giving up the old behavior' as much as it is to focus on 'adding new behaviors'. With our attention focused on what new things we're doing, we don't have as much time to be involved with the old behaviors.

I recall when I was giving up my junk food addiction. Initially, I truly had a panic as I could not imagine how I was going to eat without driving through the drive-thru twice a day! But I dove into learning about good nutrition, trying new foods (and yes, some of them were just awful! Brown rice, like yuck!) and committing to increasing fresh foods on a daily basis. I was so busy doing this that little by little, running through the fast food drive-thru wasn't necessary. No, I didn't go cold turkey, but within the course of a year, I'd added so many new foods, new menus and new learning that it no longer was an issue of giving up the fast food drive-thru, but simply my focus was on a way of life where I added the healthy, whole and vibrant foods my body really wanted.

Now, oil addiction and the massive consumption that's connected to it has led to a lifestyle that is fast-paced, filled with stuff, stuff and more stuff. Big cars, big houses, closets over-flowing and work schedules of 60+ hours a week to support all the stuff our addiction has convinced we need in order to live. Our lifestyles are high stress, we're creating lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, obesity, heart disease which are costing a fortune in healthcare and most important of all is that we've lost connection to our community because we have no time to know our neighbors, protect the environment and live in peace. Ah, the good life is killing us (as would my junk food diet have done if I'd kept eating that over the last 30 years!).

As we contemplate a post oil-addiction lifestyle what shall we add? Instead of driving, working and shopping as the major time consumer that we call 'life', let's add more exercise, more volunteering, more gardening, more community-building, more time with our children, more reading, more discussion groups, more learning how to play a music instrument (which you'll have time to practice!). more walking, more knowing our neighbors, more cooking at home and eating slowly, more eating locally, more time for daily yoga practice, more healthy bodies, more meditation, more singing, more.....life.

This won't happen cold turkey (hopefully it won't come to that!), but little by little, as you spend time adding those behaviors noted above, you'll discover that the old monied/consumption lifestyle has transformed into something else that you like even more. Yes, when I started the transition from junk food--I thought brown rice was yuck! I couldn't imagine how I was going to get over that--but I found if I did a 50/50 split between the old white rice and the new brown rice, it helped me adjust. And sure enough, now I love brown rice as I've adjusted to the firmer chewing and deeper taste that white rice didn't provide.

As you start adding these new behaviors, you will find some things you don't enjoy initially--just stick with it. Give it the time to learn, try new activities and do them consistently over the next six months and I will bet you'll discover a new joy and love in how you live your life that you can't yet imagine. Life without massive consumption is not a boring life--in fact, many people decide it is much more exciting and joyful.

1 comment:

Puzzle Maker said...

Great article! That's a great strategy, I can see how it works- you never really think about giving up the addictive behavoir or notice it until it's on its way out the door.