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5 Bits of Wisdom That Would Have Helped Me Quit Addiction Earlier

5 Bits of Wisdom That Would Have Helped Me Quit Addiction Earlier

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Things I Might Say to My Old Addicted Self

I wouldn’t change a single thing about my past because all of it had to occur to get me to where I am today, and I love where I am today. I do regret the hurt I caused to other people, but I believe the best way to make up for this damage is to be a more functional human now.

Working with clients still trapped in addiction does get me thinking about what I could have said to the ‘old me’ who was in the same position. If I could go back in a time-machine to when I was say, nineteen, and getting ready for my first rehab, what bits of wisdom would I share with my younger self.


Here are 5 bits of wisdom that I believe would have allowed me to quit my addiction a bit earlier:

1. Trying to Think My Way Out of Addiction Could Never Work

It is now obvious to me that my alcohol enthusiasm was a symptom of something much bigger. The underlying issue was my addiction to thinking. I lived in my head most of the time, and this meant I became disconnected from reality – the more I became estranged from reality, the more I suffered, and the more I felt the need to escape reality by getting drunk (of course, it was my thoughts about reality I was really trying to escape).

I spent years trying to think my way out of addiction – strategizing, analyzing, making pacts, planning, and obsessively reviewing my mistakes. My mental aerobics were just adding fuel to the fire. I couldn’t think my way out of my alcohol addiction because the thinking was the actual problem.

2. Rock Bottom Was When I Decided Enough Was Enough

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the idea that once things got bad enough, I would easily be able to quit alcohol. I used the excuse ‘I need to hit rock bottom’ to justify my continuing alcohol abuse. As a result of my drinking, I lost jobs, I lost friends, I lost girlfriends, I became homeless, I had multiple mental breakdowns, I damaged my liver, yet it never felt as if I had hit rock bottom.

If I had continued to wait until I had hit rock bottom, I am sure I would have been dead by now. The lowest point in my drinking happened when I was 25 years old when I ended up on the streets. Things got a bit better for me after that, and when I finally quit alcohol for good 10 years later, it was more the relentless misery rather than a specific event that provided the motivation.

I know understand that hitting rock bottom was a decision and not an event. If I had realized this earlier, it would have meant avoiding a lot of pain.

3. Most Suffering Occurs Due to My Efforts to Escape Pain

The thought ‘I can’t deal with this’ has been at the root of the majority of my suffering. It was this unwillingness to accept reality that made alcohol such an attractive proposition. Trying to escape discomfort ultimately just multiplies it – substance abuse, or other maladaptive behaviors, just postpones the pain while also adding to it. One of the most wonderful discoveries I’ve made is that when I lean into the bad stuff, my discomfort is minimized and only temporary.

4. Thinking of Myself as Special Only Leads to Misery

I am a unique person. I am convinced there will never be anyone exactly like me born again on this planet. This doesn’t make me special though because the same could be said for the other 8 billion people living on the planet currently. The fact that we are all unique means none of us can really claim to be special.

Viewing myself as unique but ordinary makes life easier to deal with, and it also means I feel much closer to the rest of humanity. I accept that we humans are fallible, and as an ordinary human, I’m allowed to be fallible too. My job is to be the best ‘Paul’ I can be – I don’t need to be jealous of competitors because nobody else in the universe can do ‘being Paul’ as well as I can.

5. There is Much Better Way to Feel Comfortable in My Own Skin

The excuse I used for drinking was that it allowed me to feel ‘comfortable in my own skin’, but I never actually questioned what it was that was made me feel ill-at-ease with myself. It was only after I escaped addiction that I realized that it was living too much in my thoughts that was the underlying problem – I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin because I wasn’t actually living in my own skin.

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