Feel Good Guide: Vice Squad | Cover Story | Salt Lake City Weekly

February 20, 2013 News » Cover Story

Feel Good Guide: Vice Squad 

How to kick the bad habits and clean up your life

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February is littered with the tombstones of failed resolutions: Here lie abandoned gym memberships and nicotine patches. Empty bottles mark attempts to cut back; self-help books make their way to the bottom of the stack. But the year is young and there is still hope for a better 2013! We present you with seven tips to help you reinvigorate your resolutions:

1. Know the source of your vices
Is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed before your vice can be broken? Do you smoke or drink to curb anxiety? If you don’t address the anxiety itself, your attempts to give up your vice will likely be unsuccessful.

“We do what we do because it’s a reaction to something that’s going on in our life,” says addictions counselor James Ott. Even in a healthy brain, he says, a minor vice can snowball into a significant habit.
Bill Draney, a licensed hypnotherapist, says that, in his experience, vice “is a symptom of deeper issues. Until you ... resolve those deeper issues, addiction’s going to continue.”

Marc Stephens, a local teacher of transcendental meditation, uses a parable: “Who would go around on a tree and take care of each leaf? If you take care of the root system, the whole tree flourishes.”

2. Be confident in your ability to change
No one is powerless to change themselves. “One of the hardest things,” Ott says, “is just to have the hope. … From hope comes confidence, and then from confidence, you can figure out how to [quit].”

Jim Pehkonen, a certified life coach, says that the root of hopelessness lies in “disempowering thought,” which needs to be shed before change can happen.

Rachel Posner, Phoenix Rising yoga therapist, stresses the importance of intention-setting. “When you set an intention ... and you make any move towards that, it unfolds,” she says.
Ott recommends looking at other times in your life that you’ve been successful to boost your self-esteem.

3. Don’t replace one vice with another
When we stop rewarding our brains with our vices, it begins looking for other ways to feel better. If you’re not careful, you could end up replacing your sugary treats with a beer or two too many. “The same thing is happening in your brain, these same patterns,” Ott says. Draney claims that this is why hypnotherapy is more effective than Alcoholics Anonymous: “People quit drinking, and then they develop a sex addiction or a food addiction … [The] subconscious mind creates a different addiction to kill the internal pain, and what I do with catharsis [is] help them get rid of the pain.”

4. Take care of yourself
“As soon as you make a commitment to some kind of wellness practice,” Posner says, “Things change.” Corey Markisich, outpatient director of New Roads Treatment Center, says that exercise is a great way to rid yourself of “extra energy” and is especially helpful if you find that your vice is an emotional state, like rage or stress. Breaking through your vices, he says “is not an easy thing to go through, and to be able to take some time for yourself and be able to take care of yourself [is] a good thing.”

5. Practice awareness
Awareness of your vices keeps you from going on autopilot and falling back into your cycles. “The moment you’re aware you’re lost, you’re now aware of a map,” Pehkonen says, “And you can begin to find yourself.”
Posner says that even vice-free individuals can benefit from simple awareness exercises: “When you just settle down and breathe and just take some time to be aware, you just learn a lot. ... Learning always has a positive effect on your health and your well-being in general.”

6. Forgive yourself
Don’t beat yourself up for falling off the wagon. “Shame fuels addiction,” Markisich says. If you’ve tried to quit before, and failed, Pehkonen says, “part of you probably gave up on yourself, and you’re probably kind of hard on yourself.”

But don’t give up! “People have to be nice to themselves,” says acupuncturist Karen Luttmer, “Because addiction’s not something that you’re going to get over right away.”

7. Don’t be afraid to seek help
If you’re burdened by unsuccessful attempts to break free of your vices, don’t be afraid to seek help. “Reach out,” says Markisich. If therapy doesn’t appeal to you, he says, “Go on the Internet, talk to family, friends, whoever. Just don’t harbor it within yourself.”

“You cannot heal a problem with the mind that created it,” says Draney, “It takes outside help.”

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