A friend of mine has a really difficult addiction he is fighting. He is months into his recovery efforts yet long term sobriety is evading him due to regular relapses. This last week we talked about an important principle, creating an 'environment for change,' that holds the promise for him and many of us to realize the change we want. Countless are the phrases suggesting the connection between us and our environment or our upbringing:
- You are what you eat.
- The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
- Like Father like Son.
- You are a product of your circumstances.
- I'm a [your ancestoral surname] and that is why I do what I do.
- I was born this way [Thanks Lady Gaga].
Now is there truth to this connection? I think so but instead of these ideas being a sentence of fate, they need to be positioned as a starting point, an input to the process of us turning ourselves into what we want to become. Hidden therein is the idea that we become who we want, if we make the changes. Our potential is only as large or as small as we make it by our daily actions. So back to my friend. As we looked at his check-in data, we isolated our discussion on his trouble times early in the morning when he had the most problems with his addiction. As we dug deeper asking why he had problems, he said things like, "Well I'm alone" or "I woke after restless dreams" or "I felt disconnected from others" or " I was bugged by my spouse." Therapists teach that addiction feeds on people's worst attributes. LifeStar, a therapy group dealing with pornography addiction teach that users turn to their addiction "to cope, self-medicate, or escape from emotional or psychological pain as a result of loneliness, boredom, stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or abuse and neglect." Whether we call our problem an addiction or a bad habit or somewhere in between, these same psychological factors perpetuate our problems and require serious adjustments. And so in the case of my friend, our conversation led to talking about what he needed to fix so that his environment would facilitate his change and that is a core question each of us need to answer.
What is your 'Environment for Change?'
The answer for my friend to create and environment for change is to fill his empty time with predictable, healthy activity and to create an accountability check-in with me. Now every morning he checks in after that period of concern has changed. He knows I am going to ask and his motivation to live a healthy life during that tough time in his day has increased. Now there are other things we discussed as well, namely staying asleep until his spouse wakes but for other reasons that wasn't an option yet. Key ingredients to create an environment are people, place and purpose.
- People - Are those who surround me helpful or hurtful? Do they fill me up or break me down? Do they do good or bad?
- Place - What thoughts fill my head when in a given location? Linked are the two - places will drive thoughts that lead to behavior. Protect our space and be thoughtful about its effect on our thinking.
- Purpose - What is the value of my effort on a given thing? Am I overwhelmed or inspired. Filling life with activities of purpose will give meaning to our effort.
What are your ingredients to creating an environment of change? I'd love to hear more.