In this episode of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Matt Finch discusses NAC or Neuro-Associative Conditioning and how it relates to recovery.
He also discusses strategic intervention and the many different modalities and therapies involved.
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Matt Finch: Whether they're struggling with alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, whether their marriage is on the fritz, or whether they're... have clinical depression and have no motivation or energy to do anything in life. Strategic Intervention was designed to help bring people to not only breakthroughs and transformations, but to bring them there much more quickly than some of the other systems out there.
Announcer: Thanks for tuning into the Elevation Recovery podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies. Hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Matt Finch: Welcome to the show. Super glad you joined Papaya and I today because we've got a really phenomenal topic that can help you to either quit drinking and stay sober from alcohol, overcome drug dependence or drug addiction, or literally change any other undesired behavior that you want. The strategy that we're going to share with you today, I guess I'm going to share it with you because Papaya is my kind of moral support and peaceful, loving kindness energy. But I think I'm going to be sharing the strategies. So what you're going to learn about is something called Strategic Intervention, which is one of the coaching programs that I'm certified in, well coaching systems, and strategic intervention was developed by a combination of two people. One, Anthony Robbins, the self-help personal transformation guru that millions of people have been helped by over the span of probably close to four decades, somewhere around there by now. And Cloé Madanes, who is one of the world's most renowned and famous marriage and family therapists.
Matt Finch: So they both created this system together, which is designed to create transformational breakthroughs to literally come into somebody's life whether they're struggling with alcohol use disorder, opioid use disorder, whether their marriage is on the fritz, or whether they're... have clinical depression and have no motivation or energy to do anything in life. Strategic Intervention was designed to help bring people to not only breakthroughs and transformations, but to bring them there much more quickly than some of the other systems out there. For instance, Strategic Intervention is a very eclectic complex blend of, I believe more than a dozen different modalities, therapies, disciplines, things like hypnosis, neurolinguistic programing, positive psychology, goal achievement and systems theory, the personal science and art of success and achievement, and a bunch of other things that I can't even remember right now because this model of coaching and transforming just has so many elements into it.
Matt Finch: And the main concept you're going to learn today within this Strategic Intervention system is called neuro-associative conditioning. That is NAC, not to be confused by the supplement that Chris Scott and I often talk about on this show, Acetylcysteine, not that NAC. Today's NAC is neuro-associative conditioning. So we can break that down right now, neuro, that refers to brain, associative, that refers to the associations that you link up to a person place or thing in your brain, and conditioning, think about strength conditioning, you're conditioning your strength, mindset conditioning. So it's kind of like making this a habit, wiring it in your brain, and having it totally shift you when you embody this. And to kind of frame this neuro-associative conditioning, so to speak, I guess we could call it framing it. We have to back up a little bit and look at it through the lens of something called the pain pleasure principle, the PPP or the P cubed.
Matt Finch: You may have noticed if you've ever taken a physiology class in high school or college, or have just studied physiology on your own, that humans are quite complex. Specifically our brains, but even our systems as well, the central nervous system, obviously the brain, the endocrine system, and much more, we are very complex, mind body spirit systems, or mind body spirit complexes, as you could say. And what you might find really interesting is that despite how complex our brains are, how complex our mind body spirit complexes are, well, all human behavior, when you boil it down to it comes from a few things. Number one are in a survival-based needs to both avoid pain and to gain pleasure. So moving away from pain and moving towards pleasure. So that is in a nutshell, the pain pleasure principle, everything we do in life is either to avoid pain or to gain pleasure, or a combination of both of those.
Matt Finch: And to give you some examples of this, let's think about kind of everyday life. For example, for a person that is struggling with alcohol use disorder, and has not been able to overcome the disorder on their own, or even with professional treatment or peer support or 12 step groups, it might be because of their pain pleasure principle. It's kind of a fun word to say pain pleasure principle. Try to say that 10 times fast. No, thanks. So here's this example. When I first started drinking alcohol, well I guess the first time I ever drank it, I was 14 years old. I was a freshman in high school, and I was pre-partying. My older brother from another mother is 10 years older than me. So my buddies were both 14. It was myself at the age of 14, and two of my friends all age 14.
Matt Finch: And we went to a party with my older brother from another mother, and a bunch of his friends that were all around the ages of 23 to even like 30 and above, I believe. And this party was like a pre-party before we went to a concert where we were going to see Candlebox, Suicidal Tendencies, and then the closing main band, Metallica. This was going to be my second time seeing Metallica live. The first time I ever saw them was the year prior. And I was watching Metallica and Guns and Roses and Body Count at the old Jack Murphy stadium here in San Diego, California. I was offered alcohol, as were my friends when we got to this party, and I had never drank before, but I said, "Yeah, I'll have some alcohol. Are you kidding me? I'm hanging out with the the old dudes now let's do this."
Matt Finch: And so what I noticed was the alcohol went down really, really smoothly. I loved the taste of it. I loved how it made me feel euphoric. It made me finally feel super confident. At the age of 14, I don't think I had ever felt confident, ever felt comfortable in my own skin. And I'll tell you, as I was probably 110 pounds at that age, I was a shrimp. I didn't hit my growth spurt until I was in my early 20s. But I drank six beers likely in the span of maybe less than two hours. That's how fast and smooth and easy those ice cold bottles of beer were going down. After all the beer ran out, somebody said that there was some liquor in the freezer, in a flask, and that I could have some. I was like, "Sure." By that point I wasn't blacked out, but I was kind of graying out, I guess you could call it. Went in there, and I started drinking from the flask.
Matt Finch: Five minutes later, I'm sitting on the couch, and I'm noticing that I'm having this great conversation with a girl that was probably 21 or 22, probably one of my brother's friends' girlfriends. And I just felt so confident. It was just so easy to talk to a member of the opposite sex under the influence of six beers on an empty stomach, and a few shots of whatever type of liquor that was. I think it was scotch in fact. The only problem was, is we got stuck in big time traffic on the way to the concert. So many people were going to this concert. There was thousands and thousands and thousands of people. And in this probably two, two and a half hours of traffic, I became violently ill. I was uncontrollably vomiting, and I was vomiting, I couldn't even get my head out the window of my brother's car. Well, I guess it was his then at the time wife's car that he was driving.
Matt Finch: So I couldn't even put my head out the window. I was so weak and so sick and so drunk and so dizzy and so nauseous. And I began puking into my hands, and vomiting into my lap. And I'll never forget my friend Joe, back at the time, one of my good friends, Joe, he said that, and I remember this somewhat, but he said that I turned back, because I was in the front seat, sitting shotgun. He said, I turned back, looked at him, just looking pathetic as can be. And I had vomit trickling down my lip that didn't make it all the way off my mouth. And he said that I went like this. "I puked." And just looked all depressed and sad. And of course he and our other friend there, I forget his name. They just started cracking up and laughing. So in the middle of all this traffic, we weren't going anywhere at many times.
Matt Finch: And my brother was flying out of the car, and running to each car that he saw asking people if they had any paper towels, any type of thing that he could use to help wipe up this growing and growing pile of puke that was all over me, all over my sister-in-law at the time, her car, it was just disgusting. Oh boy, what a nightmare. So that was my first time drinking and getting drunk and getting totally sick from it, and not being able to control my drinking from the very first time ever. I couldn't drink just one. I couldn't drink just two. Again, I was a shrimp. I was probably five foot three inches at 14 as a male, 105 or 10 pounds soaking wet. And here I am drinking a six pack to the dome in a short amount of time, more than a lot of adults drink in two hours.
Matt Finch: That is how I knew that, oh my goodness gracious, well, I didn't know it back then, but looking back at it with hindsight that's 20/20, I sure was kind of primed for alcohol addiction, for alcohol cravings, and not being able to stop after that very first drink. So after my first time drinking alcohol, getting drunk, blacking out, getting sick, having a hangover, I probably didn't drink any alcohol for at least a year. In fact, all the way through high school, ever since that first time drinking, which made me so sick, vomiting, just totally out of control, dizzy. I didn't really care about it. And when I was 15, I started to smoke cannabis and then I started to smoke quite a lot of cannabis. And I was too busy surfing and body boarding and downhill skateboarding and riding my bike and playing hacky sack and playing video games and hanging out with friends and watching surf videos and going to the store and renting VHS videotapes and hanging out with friends and family.
Matt Finch: And I just didn't care about drinking all throughout high school, even when I was 18, 19 20, I didn't care about it. Now, I would drink from time to time during the years from 15 to 20, leading up to my 21st birthday, but I wasn't a big drinker. And I rarely got drunk, and it was almost never my idea. The closer I got to 21, sometimes I'd get the idea that I wanted to drink a 40, or I wanted to drink a 24-ouncer. But never like these huge quantities. So it was always friends of mine. This one friend, Zach, and I had some other friends too, that their parents would go out of town. And so we'd have a sleepover at their house, and we'd drink vodka and orange juice, screwdrivers with saltine crackers, or we'd drink car bombs or we'd drink other things. And it always made me feel crappy.
Matt Finch: Alcohol never made me feel good. I always felt sick the next day. I just didn't like it. It was my body telling me from all the very first years that I consumed alcohol, that's not a good substance for me, for whatever reason, maybe it's my background. I've got Native American genes and Irish genes and Pennsylvania Dutch and some other ones. And a lot of these can be very, very, even allergic to alcohol and prone to alcohol addiction and the negative aspects of alcohol. That all changed when I turned 21. And even more specifically, when I turned 22, I got a new friend group. I was selling weed, and I came across this group of friends. They were really fun. We had a lot of the same interests. They were always partying. They always had a lot of girls over at their apartment. They lived a half block away from me. I was a 22-year-old, mostly marijuana dealer at the time with my home-based part-time business selling pot.
Matt Finch: So I didn't have a real job and I got to choose my own hours. So one of the results of that was I could drink all the time if I wanted to. And then at that point, with how fun I was having with those friends, then the more I drank alcohol, remember before, every time I'd drink alcohol, every few months or something like that, probably on the average from the time I was 15 to maybe 20, 21, it was never more than maybe every month or three months that I drank alcohol. And it would make me sick, remember. That changed, when I started drinking consistently a few nights a week, and then it turned into four or five nights a week. And then it turned into drinking during the days sometimes. The more I drank alcohol, the better it made me feel. And the more I became to need alcohol to even feel good at all. So in a way, it started to monopolize my brain chemistry, meaning before, naturally, alcohol didn't make me feel good from the first time I consumed it.
Matt Finch: And then on and on and on, of course those times I was usually drinking too much, but it just wasn't a good mixture for me personally. But when I started to do it consistently very regularly, my brain started to change. I started to love it, need it. And then eventually I was so addicted to it and physiologically dependent that if I didn't consume alcohol for a day or even a half day, I was going to go into delirium tremens, I could risk to death. And so that is what we're going to talk about now. From the year of 22 onward, when alcohol started to make me feel great, alcohol-induced energy, alcohol-induced confidence, alcohol-induced euphoria, alcohol-induced social confidence, and relationship confidence and dating confidence, alcohol-induced egocentrism and narcissism, alcohol-induced creativity. Alcohol gave me so many benefits back then. And at that age, 22, 23, 24, typically I didn't get hangovers. I could just drink so much alcohol, especially 22 and 23, we would drink all day sometimes. The next morning I'd wake up feeling great. I'd clean my apartment. I'd go surfing, or I'd go sell some weed.
Matt Finch: And so during that point, and it was helping me to hook up with girls, and that was really cool because without alcohol, I didn't have confidence to be able to do that. I actually had a lot of fear and shyness and low self-esteem. So as you probably have heard in the AA meetings if you've ever been there, alcohol did for me, what I could not do for myself, or at least what I did not do for myself, did not know how to do for myself. Had not figured out how to do for myself at that point. So coming back to the pain pleasure principle, the thing that drives all human behavior, during the ages of 22 and 23, that kind of period especially, I got a 10 out of 10 pleasure from drinking. Okay so now coming to the neuro-associative conditioning part, neuro-associations, let's talk about that.
Matt Finch: Everything we do is to either avoid pain or to gain pleasure, and then, well, how does that work? How your brain views a person place or thing. In this case, what my brain associated to me consuming alcohol was a 10 out of 10 pleasure. Why? I just previously mentioned it. Alcohol-induced energy, confidence, social lubricant, to be able to hook up with girls, to be able to feel euphoric and energized and confident and bold. And it would literally do for me, it would make me this person that I normally wasn't. I was normally not a confident, outgoing badass dude. Alcohol made me at least believe that I was that person. And then again, I wasn't getting hangovers. I was not getting hangovers at that age with such a healthy liver. And I was exercising a lot surfing and bike riding and skateboarding and hacky sack, and other forms of exercise as well, body surfing, swimming, and weight lifting sometimes.
Matt Finch: So I would say that during the ages of 22 and 23, I linked a 10 out of 10 pleasure to the behavior of drinking alcohol. And I probably linked a one or maybe a two out of 10 pain to the behavior of drinking alcohol. I wasn't getting many negative consequences. Of course I would do some things that I'd be really shameful about, felt a lot of guilt over, did some, some bad stuff. But overall, I didn't really care. I was in my early 20s, I was a marijuana dealer. So I wasn't too concerned with being a good person. I was living through this bad boy phase that was so not who I am and my true self, but it was the social mask that I thought that I needed to wear and be and put on to be able to be accepted by the people that I was hanging out with. And thus, if I was accepted by them, I was loved by them. And so I wasn't thinking any of this consciously, but looking back on it, again hindsight 20/20, and operationally, that's what I was doing. That's how it was playing out.
Matt Finch: I didn't like who I was as a person. I wasn't okay and secure with myself. And so, alcohol helped me to get those feelings of security, those feelings of being good enough, those feelings of being popular, of being good with girls, of being fun, of being outgoing. So for me, the positive benefits of alcohol greatly outweighed the negative consequences. So my neuro associations and the kind of unintentional neuro associated conditioning that I was doing back then was just kind of reinforcing the pleasure from alcohol, because it would lead me to having great experiences, great times at the bar, great times at parties, great times at home, hanging out with friends. Time after time, again, every once in a while at that age, I would do something horrible. I'm not even going to talk about most of the things I did. But I would do things where I was blacked out drunk, and I would just feel so much shame and so much guilt afterward, but those weren't the regular occurrence at that point in my drinking.
Matt Finch: It was a lot of fun, a lot of pleasure, a lot of euphoria, a lot of just huge highs and only a very limited amount of the negative consequences, and the low lows. So at that point, my neuro-associative conditioning was like, there's no way I'm quitting drinking. Alcohol is great. I love it. So during this time where I was drinking a lot habitually and often daily, my parents and some of my friends were saying, "Dude, you got a drinking problem." Or, "Matt, you're an alcohol." Or, "Dude, you have become a full blown alcoholic. Matt, you're a drunk, you're a lush." And people would say these things. And sometimes I believed them, most of the time. I didn't. But since I linked so much pleasure to drinking and not much pain to it, at that point, I was linking and associating more and more pain to drinking, but overall, still, it was much more pleasurable than it was painful. So there was no way I was going to quit. Now, so that's an example of having disempowering neuro-associations for the goal of quitting drinking, the goal of quitting drugs, or changing another behavior.
Matt Finch: So the worst neuro-association set up you can have for either quitting drinking, quitting drugs or changing another behavior is if you link a 10 out of 10 level of pleasure to the substance or the behavior, and you link only a one out of 10 pain to the substance or behavior, think about it that way. Your brain associates to alcohol or drugs, or another behavior, 10 out of 10 pleasure. And your brain associates to alcohol or the drug or another behavior only a one out of 10 pain. There's no need to quit that point, or there might be a need to quit, but you certainly don't see it. So the reason I'm doing these extremes first on this spectrum is because we're working our way to the very middle of this spectrum, which is total ambiguity, which is where a lot of people are stuck in this phase of ambiguity, procrastination, back sliding, slow progress, inconsistency, and other things that we're going to get into.
Matt Finch: Now, let's talk about the best neuro-associations to be able to set up intentionally in your brain, to be able to quit drinking, to be able to overcome a drug addiction, or to be able to change any other behavior in your life. That would be to link a one out of 10 pleasure to alcohol or the drug or the behavior, and a 10 out of 10 pleasure to not consuming the substance, alcohol, or engaging in the behavior. So on one side of the spectrum, again, if you link a 10 out of 10 pleasure to the substance or behavior, and a one out of 10 pain to the substance or behavior, you're not going to quit. There's going to be no need to quit at least in your mind, even if somebody offers you a bunch of money, it would probably be hard to do. Well, I guess it depends on how much money that would be. So that's one side of the spectrum. Quitting is pretty much not even something you're thinking about, let alone that you're going to go out and do.
Matt Finch: Then on the opposite side of that spectrum, when we go all the way to the other side of the spectrum, you link a 10 out of 10 pain to the substance or the behavior, and only a one out of 10 pleasure. At that point, you want to quit so bad. And that's the best neuro-associations to have. 10 out of 10 pain to drinking or drugs or the behavior, one out of 10 pleasure to it. When you have that type of neuro-associative conditioning going on up there, that makes quitting, that makes changing behavior so much easier, such a smoother process. Everything just seems to get out of your way. You can knock over obstacles, go around barriers, figure out shortcuts, learn more resources, become more resourceful. Things just have this magical way of cruising in the fast lane to your goal with those neuro-associations. Here's the problem.
Matt Finch: Most people don't even know what their neuro-associations are. Most people have been going through life, not knowing about the pain pleasure principle, not knowing about NAC, neuro-associative conditioning, and thus being more of a victim of their environment and conditioning regarding getting addicted to alcohol, getting addicted to drugs, getting addicted to smartphones, Netflix, pornography, all sorts of things, foods, comfort foods, sugar. There are so many things, bad habits, undesired habits that a little bit moderation is not problematic. But then when people get to the point where they have an addiction, which is continued use despite significant negative consequences in areas like your relationships, your health, your finances, your career, your spirituality. So that's addiction, continued use of a substance or behavior despite significant negative consequences.
Matt Finch: So now let's move into the very middle of this spectrum, kind of the balance point. So let's do a numerical system. It goes from zero in the middle, and then on the left side, it goes to 10. That is 10 out of 10 pain, and a one out of 10 pleasure to the behavior or substance. Other side of the spectrum, plus 10, that is you link a one out of 10 pleasure to the substance or behavior, and a 10 out of 10 pain to it. Well going to the middle of this spectrum, we have the zero point. In that zero point, you are linking in your brain, associating a five out of 10 pain to drinking or using drugs or another behavior, and a five out 10 pleasure so that they balance each other out. Think about it this way. What if in your brain you associate for this example with alcohol, with drinking, what if you feel like you're getting overall in life, a five out of 10 pleasure and benefits from drinking alcohol, and also a five out of 10 negative consequences in pain from drinking alcohol?
Matt Finch: Can you start to see how having those that set up of neuro-associations, a five out of 10 and a five out of 10, that's right in the middle. And I view that as the ambiguity stage, when you're getting the exact amount of numerically assigned quantification of both pleasure and positive benefits, as well as pain and negative consequences, that's kind of like, well, what do I do from here? I'm getting just as much pleasure and positive benefits as pain and negative consequences. People aren't thinking these things consciously, but I guarantee you, unconsciously, your brain is always doing this type of mathematical quantification on avoiding pain and gain gaining pleasure. And that is why we continue so many habits that we'd like to extinguish it's because our brain is trying to do us a favor to avoid as much pain as possible while gaining as much pleasure as possible.
Matt Finch: Now that you know the best neuro-associations to set up in your brain to quit alcohol or drugs or another behavior. And now that you know the worst neuro-associative conditioning setup to have, and now that you know, right in the middle of ambiguity, that's a five out of 10 pain, and a five out of 10 pleasure to drinking or drugs or another behavior. Now we can start to work at how you can actually consciously, intentionally, strategically, step by step, begin to change your neuro-associations regarding how much pleasure and pain positive benefits and negative consequences you associate in your brain to alcohol or drugs or another behavior. But, right before we move on to some exercises that you can adopt and utilize in your own life to optimize your neuro-associations to help you overcome any type of addiction or any type of bad habit, let me give you a couple more examples from things that are not related to addiction, or at least not related to alcohol or drug addiction.
Matt Finch: For example, there was a point maybe around five years ago where I'd become overweight. I wasn't obese. I wasn't morbidly obese. I'm six foot, three inches. And at that time, I got up to about 230 pounds. That wouldn't be a problem if it was mostly muscle, because I'm so tall. The problem was, it was mostly fat. I didn't measure my body fat percentage, but I was guessing that I was probably 25 or 30% body fat. I was flabby. I had a chubby face. I had a pretty substantial sized belly. My belly was protruding. When you gain weight, for me, it happened kind of slowly. It wasn't something where I was skinny one day and then the next day you wake up, look in the mirror and you've gained all that weight. No, no, no, no, no, no. How it happens for a lot of people, and how it happened for myself was it was over time. It was over the span of many, many, many months where I just started to overeat. It became my coping tool. I was so stressed out during this period of life.
Matt Finch: This is years after drug and alcohol addiction, but I was going through so much stress, work stress, relationship stress, single parent stress, bills stress, many other types of stress. And one thing that I found was if I ate a bunch of pizza at night after work, and followed it by a tub of Ben and Jerry's, that would just conquer my stress. What happens when you indulge in a bunch of comfort foods like that, that are high in carbohydrates, pizza, ice cream, just so high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, as well as saturated fat and a bunch of other things. But that would bring down my cortisol level. I was abusing simple carbs and overeating carbs, as well as other things to lower that cortisol, to be able to reduce that stress and relax. And by repeatedly doing that over and over again, now all of a sudden, not only did I need those types of foods to relax the stress, but eventually I needed all those junk foods and nasty foods, not in moderation, but as my everyday diet, just to be able to feel normal.
Matt Finch: Because if I tried to eat a salad or grilled chicken with broccoli and rice or something like that, it didn't sound good. And when I would eat it, I would start going through sugar withdrawal. I would start going through all these withdrawals of these foods that I was binging on, but I didn't care that I was gaining weight. I didn't look my best. Not at all. I didn't feel confident at that weight, not at all, but I was making lots of money at that point, getting a lot of stuff done. And so it was okay. Here is how my neuro-associations regarding this type of overeating and choosing the wrong foods and high calorie stuff like pizza and ice cream and California burritos, all sorts of other sweets and high fat, just really fast food, takeout food and what have you.
Matt Finch: One day, two things happened in the same day. So I had gone out to breakfast by myself in the morning, got some work done on my phone. And I went out to breakfast at a Mexican restaurant, and I had this huge omelet, giant omelet, bunch of potatoes, and some toast and orange juice. When I left that Mexican breakfast restaurant, and I was walking down Newport avenue in the town right close to me, Ocean Beach. I now live in Point Loma. One of my friends from high school that I hadn't seen in years was driving by in his truck. And I'm walking by my myself, walking back to my car, my stomachs just, not only had I gained a bunch of weight and my stomach was big, but remember I just had all those calories, a ton of carbs, just loaded it all up. So my belly was extra big, extra big. And I hear this out of this, I recognize my friend's truck. You can't miss it once you know what he drives. And I hear this from the window, "You're getting fat, Finch." That's my last name, Finch.
Matt Finch: That made me feel like shit. It was kind of funny. But then that was the first time that somebody else said something. Remember, when I was looking at my weight every single day, it kind of happens slowly. And then you look at yourself so much, you don't realize just how much weight you're gaining. You can lower your standards and start to just be okay with being that weight. When you lower your standards, then you fall down to where you've lowered your standards. So later on that same day, in the evening, I saw another friend, and he looked at me. He hadn't seen me in probably a year. He looked at me, looked down at my belly, looked back up at my face, looked down at my belly and pointed down, looked up at my face. And he said, "What's going on with that thing, man?" That was it. Twice in the same day, I had two of my male friends basically talking some smack about it. Like, "What are you doing, dude?" And at that point, I'm glad that they did that. I'm so glad that they did that.
Matt Finch: I'm glad that it happened in the same day, because what that did, was it elevated how much pain I perceived with eating all those foods and overeating, and how much pleasure. Immediately, from having those two things where people were noticing, they were telling me about it. Obviously it didn't look good. Now it wasn't just me that was noticing it. People were noticing it. And they were saying things. And that was making me feel bad about myself. Not because they said something bad, but because I knew I could do better. I knew that I had done better for so long in the past. And I knew that I had fell down to a place that wasn't my Identity. I'm really into health and wellness and passion and energy and focus and eating in that way, I wasn't having those great benefits. So immediately from those two interactions, I linked a 10 out of 10 pain to the behavior of overeating, and choosing all those bad foods in way over amounts.
Matt Finch: And then I all of a sudden linked a one at a 10 pleasure to it. Immediately, the next day I woke up and my desire to get back to an ideal weight and look good naked was way, way, way stronger than my desire to eat pizza and Ben and Jerry's and all these other things to reduce cortisol and reduce stress and kind of just get euphoric from food basically, which can be used as a drug, which I was doing. Now, I'll give you one more example of using neuro-associative conditioning to overcome a habit that you want to break. This example comes from my Strategic Intervention coaching online training system, where Tony Robbins was talking about how he had a client, this was back in the early days of Tony doing his stuff, he had a client that wanted to quit smoking. This guy linked so much pleasure to smoking, and he linked some pain to it as well. He mostly wanted to quit because he was smoking like two packs a day, something crazy like that.
Matt Finch: And he didn't want to get cancer. And it was reducing his appetite, side effects, but he loved smoking and that's why he couldn't stop. So Tony Robbins did something so crazy. I don't do nearly to the extent of his type of strategic intervention. That guy's kind of a mad man, especially back in those days. But what he did was he had this client meet him in a hotel room. So Tony Robbins purchased, rented out a hotel room and he had that guy come up and meet him in the room. And it was a smoking room. This was decades ago, room where you could smoke. And Tony told him, bring a bunch of packs of cigarettes. So what Tony had him do was he made him smoke a cigarette. And then as soon as he was done with that one, smoke another one. And then he started to have him smoke two cigarettes at a time, back to back, then three cigarettes at a time.
Matt Finch: And this guy was getting headaches, he was puking. He was getting nauseous. He was like, "I want to stop. I want to stop." And Tony was getting intense. He was like screaming at him, "No, put that in your mouth." He's gnarly. He's probably six seven. He might even be taller. The dude is a giant, he's a big, huge guy, big, huge hands. And he can be really scary. So he went into acting mode and he was scaring the piss out of this guy. And so this guy had hired him and paid him money and he did want to quit smoking. So he was going along with it, just so intense. So all of a sudden, there's just all this smoke in the room. He's got all these cigarettes in his mouth. Tony's screaming at him. He's got migraine headaches coming on, vomiting, and then he's making him, "No, put those cigarettes back in your mouth." And he just berated him.
Matt Finch: So what this did, I don't know how long the experience went on for, I think it happened for a few hours, but think about it. Before this happened, he linked a lot of pleasure, probably a 10 out of 10 pleasure to smoking, and who knows how much pain, maybe be a two out of 10 pain to smoking, maybe even a five out of 10 pain. But when the pleasure of doing the behavior, in this case, smoking cigarettes is significantly higher than the pain, even though you want to quit, with that kind of neuro-associations going on in your brain, it can be hard if not impossible to do. So what Tony did, this kind of strategic intervention that he did using neuro-associative conditioning, he radically altered this gentleman, this client's neuro-associations. All of a sudden he left that hotel room totally traumatized, never wanted to smoke cigarettes again, just the thought of smoking a cigarette was disgusting. And then he was able to quit right then, he didn't want anything to do with cigarettes.
Matt Finch: Now I'm not recommending that if you're drinking or using drugs, that you should do that too. I don't even know if it's legal to do that type of stuff nowadays. But my point in sharing that example and the other examples is just to give you kind of more of a baseline and more of a foundation on how this neuro-associative conditioning works. Again, coming back to the pain pleasure principle. Exercise number one is to start off with valuing where you're at right now, meaning, how much pleasure do you associate to the behavior that you'd like to change? 10 out of 10, seven out of 10, three out of 10, some other type of number out of 10, and how much pain that you associate with that behavior, with engaging in that behavior, whether it's drinking in drugs or another type of behavior. Do you associate a 10 out of 10 pain to it, a four out of 10 pain, seven out of 10 pain?
Matt Finch: The reason this is the first exercise is it gives you so much clarity, and it's probably impossible to get it exactly. But, what you can do is start to think about, okay, in how I'm living, in how I'm engaging in this behavior, operationally, how it's affecting me, what is kind of the consistent amount of pleasure that it's bringing to the table, pleasure and positive benefits, and what is kind of the consistent overall pain and negative consequences it's bringing? So again, you want a 10 out of 10 pain to using the behavior, engaging in it, and a one out of 10 pleasure. If you're not there, don't worry. It's fine. Because the next few exercises are designed to help you achieve those empowering neuro-associations. And one thing I can almost guarantee is that after you do this exercise, exercise one, and you at down on paper, you can see right in front of your eyes, how much pleasure you associate to the behavior you want to change, and how much pain you associate to the behavior you want to change.
Matt Finch: It's going to be right in front of your face, where you're at, and what you have to work with, and which direction you need to go in to get to the empowering neuro-associations that we've talked about. Exercise number two is to write an exhaustive list, come up with as many items on this list. As you can think about, these are ways that you can associate more pain and negative consequences and more overall pain to engaging in the behavior. A lot of times there is a lot more pain than we even know about, we just haven't got a pen and paper out and come up with an exhaustive list to be able to see it right in front of our eyes, just how much pain the behavior is causing in our lives.
Matt Finch: And if you put on some background, low level instrumental music or some other type of music that helps get your creative juices flowing, this can really help you to come up with this totally exhaustive list of just starting the list, and not stopping until you can't think of any other thing that you could do to make drinking or make drug use or make another behavior a 10 out of 10 pain. Exercise number three is doing that same one as two. Only this time coming up with an exhaustive list of all the things that you could write down that you could think about that you could do the ways you could think and believe that would increase your pleasure of engaging in the behavior to go down to a one out of 10. How can you get that from wherever it is right now, down to a one out of 10 pleasure. Because remember, I'm going to be repetitive in this because the more times you repeat something in a topic like this, the more times it can sink into your subconscious mind so you actually learn this stuff.
Matt Finch: So again, all these exercises are helping you to number one, figure out where your neuro-associations currently are, how much pain and pleasure you link to the behavior that you're doing that you don't want to be doing. And then to be able to, from that point, figure out all the different things that you can do that you could do, that you're capable of doing to build as much pain associated with that behavior as possible, and to build as much pleasure associated with not engaging in that behavior as possible. One of the biggest reasons people keep relapsing back onto alcohol, or keep relapsing back onto opioids is because they don't feel comfortable in their own skin, or for people on opioids, they've got legitimate chronic pain problems, and opioid therapy is thus far the only thing that has really helped to manage their pain so they can live a much less debilitated life.
Matt Finch: So another important thing to remember is, when it comes to building up more empowering neuro-associations, to be able to extinguish a behavior that you want to extinguish, what you have to do is, well, you don't have to, but what's often recommended is to replace the behavior that you want to change, drinking, drug use, or another behavior with one or more alternate behaviors that give you the same or similar benefits to the same or similar level of magnitude of potency, if that makes sense. That's why Chris Scott and I are so big into fitness. Think about it, fit recovery, fitness. When you exercise, when you get into the habit of regular fitness and exercise, and your body just gets to the point where you love it and you thrive on it, you can't wait to go exercise and get that workout in. Well, what does that do? That boosts confidence, focus, energy, healthy sleep patterns, makes you more confident because your physique gets better. The more you take control of your health, the healthier your skin can get.
Matt Finch: The more energy you can have, the more your brain works better, and life can just become easier and easier. And exercise is just one way that you can help to extinguish a behavior that you want to change. Whether it's using substances or even something like I was doing, and overeating, sugar can be a drug for sure when you abuse it. And so replacing the behavior that you want to change with one or more other behaviors that are healthy, that are very adaptive, like exercise, supplementation, for people quitting drinking, there's things like CBD-infused adaptogenic drinks, a lot of people that are quitting prescription opioid painkillers, quitting fentanyl, and other fully synthetic mega powerful opioids. A lot of them are transitioning over to a natural plant opioid called Kratom, or Kratom, or in Thailand it's pronounced kre-tom, because that is a much weaker partial opioid agonist versus a full power full opioid agonist.
Matt Finch: So what these people are doing is they're kind of gently going from a really powerful pharmaceutical opioid, whether it's semisynthetic or are fully synthetic. Before they're extinguishing that behavior completely, they're transitioning over to a natural partial opioid agonist. And then a lot of them are using that for a while. And then they find that it's much easier to come off of that natural much less potent plant opioid than it was to come straight off fentanyl, or straight off shooting heroin for example. Then when it comes time to quitting the Kratom plant, which is a partial opioid agonist, binds to opioid receptors, people can get crazy addicted to it, especially when they're taking high amounts on a daily basis. But when it comes to that, well, if they tried quitting Kratom, and they haven't figured out ways to mitigate their pain, for example, without opioid therapy, or if they haven't figured out ways to remedy their proneness to exhaustion or depression, without some other type of thing, maybe that can boost their dopamine really high like Kratom only without the addiction and dependence potential side effects.
Matt Finch: And for quitting drinking, for me, I didn't have any self-esteem, low self-esteem, low self confidence, anxiety, depression, yada yada, yada. I had a bunch of issues back then. So when I was quitting drinking and quitting opioids, et cetera, I really had to figure out different ways. Non-addictive healthy ways, adaptive ways to create these new behaviors that would give me the same or similar benefits to the same or similar potency magnitude. I needed to figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin without drugs and alcohol, how to be confident without drugs and alcohol, how to have high self esteem without drugs and alcohol, how to manage or preferably transcend anxiety and depressive disorders.
Matt Finch: And for a phase of my life, bipolar two disorder. I had to find healthy, adaptive, new behaviors for when I was dating a new girl. In the past, I relied on and used the crutch of alcohol and pharmaceutical pills like opioids and benzos and Adderall, and a bunch of other things when I was dating girls. And when I was doing that because under the influence of substances, I felt so much more comfortable in my own skin, and thereby making the dating process and the relationship process transitioning the relationship much more easy for me, even though it was causing negative consequences, it seemed like a good idea at the time, because it was like a hack for me. So when I quit everything, I had to kind of rehabilitate and learn how to achieve these desired outcomes that I wanted, how to level up my potential without using the crutch of over consumption of alcohol, over consumption of drugs to the point where I was at that turned into these severe multiple addictions at a time.
Matt Finch: So as you're hearing me talk about these topics and we're winding the close of this episode, you could start to think about what are some healthy, adaptive behaviors that you could potentially use to help to replace the current behavior or behaviors that you are trying to or would like to change. So I hope you're starting to really, really see how powerful this system of conscious intentional strategic utilization of the pain pleasure principle. So you can use it rather than it use you. And that way you can, now that you've learned about neuro-associative conditioning, you can figure out with these exercises number one, what your current rating of pain and pleasure is to the behavior that you want to change. Number two, how you can get those neuro-associations to the highest amount of pain possible to the behavior you want to change, and the lowest amount of pleasure possible to the behavior you want to change.
Matt Finch: And then when you do that, and you also have other behaviors, alternative, healthy, and adaptive behaviors that can provide the same or similar benefits to the same or similar magnitude that either alcohol or drugs or another behavior we're supplying you with. Well now, you have got quite a formula, an equation, so to speak, where you can take this, run with it, and achieve all sorts of breakthroughs and transformations, and achieve more of your potential than you did prior to listening to this training. With that being said, as always, thank you so much for watching. We love you guys so much, Chris and I, and Papaya, thank you so much for tuning, and can't wait to see you next time.
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