Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Off the Wagon - Why?

Well I have caved in to the temptation, there are a lot of reasons I can use, the main one is the pain in my legs at the moment, but none are valid. I chose again to have some, will power is a funny thing. I am not trying to defend my actions, merely hoping the process of understanding my actions will help me to resolve them in some way shape or form.

There are many studies that show that Heroin, and many other Opioids actually damage the area of the brain related to 'will power'. There is some research floating about at the moment, which focuses mainly on 'will power' and intimates that if a person tries to make too many life changes at a given time they can easily overburden their prefrontal cortex, (the part of the brain responsible for will power, short term memory and problem solving). Not a very good combination of areas or facets to loose full control over when one is trying to quit an addiction.

Over at Stanford, Associated Professor of Marketing Baba Shiv has been conducting practical experimentation into why we make the choices we do.

A group of students, divided into two sets were tasked as follows: "One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad."

The statistics seem to show that the students with seven numbers to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. One possible reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that the process of remembering the numbers took up space in prefrontal cortex, increasing 'cognitive load' and by extension making it difficult to make choices that went against 'desire'.

This highlights just how pathetically weak the brain can be in matters of 'will power' and 'temptation', and also shows that people who struggle with 'will power' issues may not be just plain bad people, but may indeed just have a lot on their minds.

When you couple this theory with the amount of information parsed by the brain during the process of trying to relieve oneself of an addiction it surely seems to transcend into a 'catch 22' type position.

I think 'distraction' is going to have to be my mode for the next while at least, other studies have shown that people who are good at distracting themselves from 'temptation' have a better chance of avoiding bad choices.

A good example is the study recently undertaken by Prof. Paul Mischel, University of California, has shown that four-year-old children who are better at resisting the allure of eating a marshmallow, are the ones who sing songs, play with their shoelaces or pretend the marshmallow is a cloud. In other words, they're able to temporarily clear the temptation out of consciousness. "Because they know that willpower is weak, they excel at controlling the spotlight of attention: When faced with candy, they stare at the carrots."

So where to for me now? Have I indeed fallen into the realm of the true Junky, as a result of breaking my promise, I truly hope not. One thing is for sure, I am not giving up, going to look into 12-step programs and the like, continue researching into the methodology of abstaining from substance abuse, and hope for the best.

I will not be beaten by this.

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