When it comes to addiction and compulsive behavior night time can be a nightmare
For many of us, night time can play havoc on our discipline, temptations, habit control, and triggers. Why is this? There are a few reasons
- Night in when a lot of us fall to temptation. Why is this? Because nighttime is when our willpower is at it’s lowest. Willpower is more like a muscle than constant energy flow. It gets fatigued and needs rest.
- At night we away from our routine. Often alone and undistracted our mind naturally fills us with an awareness of inadequacy, anxiety, discontentment. Csikszentmihalyi, who wrote the acclaimed book Flow, did a study with thousands of people finding out what their minds were doing at various random times. He concludes, “When we are left alone, with no demands on attention, the basic disorder of the mind reveals itself. With nothing to do, it begins to follow random patterns, usually stopping to consider something painful or disturbing. To avoid this condition, people are naturally eager to fill their minds with whatever information is readily available, as long as it distracts attention from turning inward and dwelling on negative feelings.”
- We have trained our self to use our addiction at night. We are like a dog that gets excited when you shake the box of dog treats. They know a treat is coming. It is as if they are enjoying it already. That is why they call the dopamine a pleasure hormone. But the dog is not exhibiting PLEASURE but rather ANTICIPATION. Think of smoking. The excitement leads up to the lighting the cigarette. I don’t hear anyone on the third puff saying, “Man that is the best thing I have ever tasted!” Rather it was in the early days of smoking that our brain got wired and learned that cigarette smoking did something for us. It is those early experiences that primed the striatum to excrete Dopamine in order to get us excited to pursue the next fit. Our brains have learned that night time is when we get that reward and the dopamine is pushing us to get it.
- Two key neurotransmitters that our brain uses to send messages back and forth are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine excites us and moves us into action like the gas pedal in our car. Serotonin calms us down like the brakes. These both are key when it comes to addiction. Dopamine starts pushing us to get our evening reward when it was triggered earlier in the day. The trouble with nighttime is that serotonin is naturally lower at night. This helps us sleep. The trouble is that a high dopamine and low serotonin state is the perfect craving environment. Under normal circumstances serotonin tells the body and brain, “I have it!” versus the dopamine’s “I must have it!” message. However, when dopamine is high, and serotonin is very low, the result is an irritation coming from the desire for food, a safe place, sex, drugs, whatever our body and brain say it needs. This lack of SATISFACTION causes our serotonin to drop. It is this HIGH DOPAMINE – LOW SEROTONIN state that causes us to become obsessional in our “I MUST HAVE IT” mode. We just can’t let the thought go. THIS IS A CRAVING! It is an extremely uncomfortable, painful state. THIS HIGH DOPAMINE AND LOW SEROTONIN “STATE” CAUSES US TO SEEK A SOLUTION.
What gets our opiate circuit going?
Excitement – video games, gambling
Sexual content on tv, video, or more erotic Sex and porn
Our own sex night.
Rich foods and sweets
Drugs and alcohol
We have trained ourself to have an opiate fix at night. Like an entitlement.
Think about our day. We keep busy; we have routines to help us cope. How much of our childhood was emotionally surviving and coping. Trouble is nighttime comes and there is no more coping unless we are a workaholic.
TRUTHFULLY WE HAVE DEVELOPED A LOT OF CUES
Where we sit, seeing the tv remote, our chair in front of a computer, the driveway when we pull up, the corner where we turn right in order to get to our house. All of these can be triggers turning on the dopamine. When it does the cravings begin!
If we are going to win we must know about these triggers and try to do everything we can to prevent them from happening. We can do this by working on our environment, making changes to our routines and setting up good boundaries.
Night time maintenance
So what can I do about nighttime temptations, triggers and cravings?
How do we fight this?
- Believe, that we don’t need this!
We don’t need this opiate fix to survive, to be happy, to feel fulfilled. (It feels that way, but we are not going to die!!!)
- Feel the anticipation and tell it is faulty wiring and you DO NOT NEED IT. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DIE!!!
- Substitute satisfaction and comfort for excitement
We think it is comfort but it is not. It is short lived excitement that leaves us wanting more.
What really satisfies and excites you? What do you like to watch or read? What kind of games do you like? What hobbies would you like to start? The best way to beat an addiction is to find something that can distract you long enough for any urge to dissipate.
What good substitute brings comfort. Comfort comes from the other hormone, oxytocin. This comes from intimacy, play, hobbies, from reading a good book, learning new things, things that interest us, or fulfill us.
- Ask the Holy Spirit for help
The Holy Spirit is the true Comforter. Remember the fruit of the Spirit is SELF-CONTROL!
- Become more social
Isolation is a bad idea. There are many kinds of groups or places you could go. Health club, church function, meetings, dancing, reading groups, hobby groups.
You could be deliberate in making a list of people you want to call and see how they are doing and call some of them.
- Call someone who can listen
Do you have a sponsor or someone who could take a phone call from you? Someone who you can tell about your boredom and they will listen? Communicating will help it pass. Being heard will comfort you and cause the uneasiness to go away.
- Extinguish its power
Each day you resist it gets easier, you habit loses its power.
- Systematically win the race
Do it in baby steps. Start a new habit for 3 days. Think of it as a fast. You can do it. Then go to 10 days. Call this a detox. Then go for 60 days, call this your new lifestyle.
Fast – Cut out your bad habit or add a new one for only three days – This is doing it sacrificially for a limited time
Detox – This is the next 7 days. It is a deliberate choice to purge your system. You want to plan the evenings and have things around you that will help you change. Good book, listen to our program.
- Go to meetings – Support groups can really help when you are starting out. Don’t do this alone.
- Reset your environment -take away the temptations. Substitute a better way. You want to clean out your mind.
- Remember this craving is faulty wiring
It is hard to believe because it is your normal. But the fact is it is nothing more than a false signal that you need to ignore.
- Practice emotional motivational
Say to yourself, “I don’t want to be that guy”, “I want to be that guy.” “I’m not going to die!
Nighttime doesn’t have to be a losing battle. Follow these steps and free yourself from the nighttime nightmare!