Most people that want to quit opioids spend years or longer trying to do so. They may even quit several times but rarely make it to the 90 days opioid-free marker. And if they make it past 90 days, there is still a very high chance that within months or years they’ll get back on daily opioids.
Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic relapsing condition.
The negative changes to the brain from the prolonged daily administration of opioids often results in severe neurotransmitter imbalances, erosion of the prefrontal cortex (responsible for decision-making), dysregulation of the dopamine (pleasure-reward) system, hijacking of the midbrain (unconscious-survival), negative changes due to neuroplasticity, glutamate excess or toxicity, endocrine dysfunction, adrenal dysfunction, and more.
It’s unfortunate that most individuals who begin taking opioids daily aren’t aware of the many devastating negative consequences of prolonged opioid use… but that’s the reality.
The good news is that all of these can be corrected and restored to normal (or even better than your pre-opioid-dependent brain).
This takes work, time, patience, diligence, commitment, resolve, focus, determination, resilience, self-compassion, and resourcefulness.
Of course one also needs an effective detox plan as well as a plan for getting through PAWS and healing the addicted-brain, but that’s why I created the Ultimate Opioid Recovery System.
It’s a go-at-your-own-pace video course that I recently updated to include all of the new and wonderful quitting strategies I’ve learned and created the past year.
The purpose of this article is to target the resources Focus & Determination… which I believe are missing ingredients to many folk’s recovery puzzles.
There are two types of people that want to quit opioids. The first type wants to quit but they don’t want it enough to be able to successfully make it off opioids for good.
The second type wants to quit and they do want it bad enough to successfully quit for good.
I’ve seen people with the best withdrawal remedies and a ton of time off not be able to quit and the main reason in these situations is often due to not having enough determination.
Determination is “a quality that makes you continue trying to do or achieve something that is difficult.”
I can usually tell on the first call or two with a new client how determined they are. It’s important to note that it usually takes a 10/10 level of determination to overcome opioid addiction. A 9/10 level of determination is still good but it’s not always good enough to see the challenge through to the end.
Luckily, there are ways to build higher levels of determination, and the best way I know of is to spend just 3-5 minutes every morning visualizing yourself opioid-free, happy, healthy, confident, energized, and enjoying life to the fullest.
Another helpful tool for increasing determination is to write a list of everything opioid addiction has cost you in the following areas:
- Mental/emotional health
- Physical health
- Spiritual health
Another important thing I’ve noticed is that people who believe in themselves and believe they can do it have much higher levels of determination than those without belief in themselves. Our beliefs shape our lives in a powerful way.
An excellent video I highly recommend on optimizing your thoughts and beliefs (featuring Dr. Joe Dispenza) is free on YouTube here (and has more than 13 million views).
In our current Age of Information (and misinformation haha), there seems to be an epidemic of people with “pathological preoccupation” — meaning most people’s attention spans are not up to par with being able to accomplish big goals (such as ending an opioid dependence).
I openly admit that I’ve had struggles with preoccupation as well (on and off over the years), although six months ago I did some major work in this area and am feeling really good about my focusing abilities.
Pathological preoccupation usually leads to slow progress in quitting opioids at best and backward momentum at worst.
To successfully transition off opioids and make it past 90 days it takes the exact opposite (aka the “antithesis”), which is “Absolute Focus” — a skill that most successful people have developed over time.
Here are some tips for getting more focused:
- Delete all non-essential apps off your phone
- Take a break from social media
- Check email 2-3x a day and no more
- Clean and organize your home and get rid of clutter
- Clean your vehicle inside and out
- Adopt the habit of making your bed every morning
- End your morning shower with freezing cold water for 1-2 minutes
- Use a nootropic formula (Neura-Vie is the new one I’m using and love and Quali-Mind is another one I’ve used and like)
- Unplug your television and keep the power cord in another room until you want to watch something
- Improve your diet and cut out some of the crap
- Drink more water
- Focus on healthy sleep habits
Finally, a great way to stay super-focused is to write down why you want to quit opioids and the date you plan to quit and place this paper on your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it every morning and night at the minimum.
Our brains are naturally goal-seeking machines.
The reticular activating system (RAS) in the brain works like a missile that can course correct when it’s target moves or changes. By reviewing your ideal outcome (of quitting opioids) several times a day every single day, you keep your RAS focused on the target.
This makes it way easier to stay focused on your long-range goal of quitting. Plus… it can also build more determination (double benefits!).
- Opioid use disorder is a chronic relapsing condition but it doesn’t have to be as using the right strategies and tactics you can quit and never relapse again
- Determination is a powerful resource needed to be able to quit and there are proven ways to enhance this internal resource (eg daily visualization of yourself living an opioid-free and awesome life and writing a list of everything opioid addiction has cost you in the important domains of life)
- Focus is another extraordinary tool for quitting that is often lacking in most people’s abilities in our current age of digital over-stimulation and there are proven ways to enhance focus (eg decluttering your home, taking a break from social media, taking nootropics, etc.)
- You can and should harness the power of your brain’s reticular activating system (RAS) by writing out your ideal outcome of being opioid-free with a concrete date to quit — then taping it up on your bathroom mirror where you’ll see it every morning and night
I hope these practical tips are of value to you!
And please remember that reading is great… but it’s in the application of what you learn that helps you the most.
Learning leads to knowledge but applying that knowledge leads to positive change.