Your five-step way of tackling the addiction monster

Dr Hugh Quigley has a five-step way of tackling a substance dependency, writes Lisa Salmon.

IF you enjoy a few glasses of wine or more every night and believe you can’t relax without them, you could be addicted.

Similarly, if you smoke cannabis or take other drugs regularly, and feel you actually need to take them to feel good or even just okay— these are all signs you may be dependent on them.

It’s no secret that addictions can be tough to beat — but there are lots of support resources out there, and anyone who’s worried about addictive behaviours should speak to their GP, as a first port of call.

Addiction expert Dr Hugh Quigley has devised a new self-help approach, that sees addictive thinking as a ‘monster’, which you’ll effectively need to ‘starve’ in order to overcome.

The counsellor and psychotherapist explains his theory in his new book, Starve The Monster: A Powerful Process To Kill Your Addiction Thinking, targeted at professional people who think their substance abuse is getting out of hand. The process aims to make it easier for people to identify what’s going on in their addicted mind. “They begin to understand they’ve given control over to something inside of their own mind, which we call the monster,” says Quigley.

Do you need wine? 

The monster might make you think, ‘I can’t relax without a bottle of wine’, but Quigley explains: “That is the addiction thinking.

“The addiction — the monster, whatever you want to call it, convinces the person that without the substance, they cannot function properly.”

People usually start using small amounts, and then ever-increasing amounts — until they get to a point where their body can’t function without the substance, he notes.

The process has five stages...

1. Name the monster

“The first step is naming the monster, knowing that this monster, this alcohol, drug, whatever monster, is controlling you to a certain extent,” says Quigley, who struggled with alcohol himself as a young adult. So if you’re having two bottles of wine five nights a week, your monster is the wine monster.

2. Externalise the monster

The substance that has control over you is external — it’s something you go and buy, from the supermarket if it’s wine or whiskey, or a pharmacist or drug dealer if it’s a drug. The idea, says Quigley, is to watch the behaviours of the monster and how it subtly communicates that it wants or needs its feed, which is whatever substance you’ve named it after.

3. Understanding monster talk

How does your monster speak to you? Is there something the monster will use inside your head to persuade you to get the substance and feed it? It could simply be boredom, stress, or an unresolved trauma, for example.

Quigley says: “Despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, all of these things, whatever it is you choose to run as a thought and as a feeling is what feeds the monster. You can call it negativity if you want, I just call it food for the monster.”

He warns the monster may tell you you’re going to feel ill, and won’t be able to relax or switch off. “It will use everything in order to make sure you go and get that substance to feed it.”

Part of this process is the addicted person rationalising their actions, perhaps thinking that just nipping out to buy a few bottles of wine ‘won’t do any harm’. “The monster will use any excuse,” Quigley explains. “I can’t get that across strong enough. The monster speak is a key factor to understanding what is driving you forward to actually use the substance.”

4. Recognising monster speak

The fourth step is where the process is consolidated, and you start to recognise ‘monster speak’ and possibly react differently to it. “This is where the steps all start to come together,” says Quigley, “where you know it’s the monster speaking, and maybe do something different, maybe not — it’s your choice.”

5. Starving the monster

If you successfully navigate the first four steps, you’re at the point where you’re starving the monster.

“The monster is getting smaller,” says Quigley. “It does diminish because you’re not feeding it. If you don’t feed something, it fades away.”

Quigley warns that for the first three days after stopping your substance misuse, you may feel terrible. But after that, the body begins to come back to a clear state of balance, and you’ll feel much better.

But be warned that during those three days, the monster will do its best to convince you that you’ll feel a lot better if you feed it again. Don’t listen to it.

Quigley says the three benefits of beating addiction by ‘starving the monster’ are seeing your future more clearly, taking charge of your life, and gaining peace of mind.

“While addiction often shows its symptoms physically and behaviourally, it all begins in the mind,” he says.

“Believing you can get clean is as easy as believing you’re hooked.”


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