Incentivizing for Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery

In episode 278 of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Chris Scott and Matt Finch discuss the misconception of laziness among individuals struggling to overcome alcohol and/or drug addictions. They also cover in-depth ideas and strategies for incentivizing your recovery rather than incentivizing alcohol or drugs.

They go over techniques and new mindsets to better overcome addiction — with an emphasis on optimizing both intrinsic and extrinsic incentives.

Links to Resources Mentioned in this Episode:

Here are some ways to learn from this episode:

Chris Scott: The whole facade of the drinking lifestyle became apparent to me, that there wasn't really much offered by that, when you realized that you could feel really good without it. And that all alcohol can do is dampen your senses, dampen your brain activity, dampen your sense of taste, and prevent you from feeling natural euphoria. So for me, that was a longer term incentive that worked for me moment-to-moment, going forward after that.

Matt Finch: It took a near death experience and then subsequently an altering of my outlook incentives and all that to get on this new timeline. And then on that new timeline, that was the personal development lifestyle optimization timeline. In that, I recovered so quickly and powerfully from what I ever thought I could do in years. Within six months, I felt like I had 10 years of recovery.

Announcer: Thanks for tuning into the Elevation Recovery Podcast, your hook for Addiction Recovery Strategies, hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.

Matt Finch: Thank you for joining us on Episode 288, of Elevation Recovery. I'm here with Chris Scott. We just had a great mastermind call and that should actually be maybe not the topic for this episode, but at least how we start off, and we'll see where it goes. We were just talking about a bunch of different mastermind things, one of which, and we didn't use this word, but we were talking about incentives, incentivization.

Matt Finch: And then when I was going to get some more water, before we did this and use the restroom, I was like, "People aren't lazy. Nobody's lazy. They just have not enough incentives." I think I've heard it another way before, "People aren't lazy. They just have impotent goals." Incentivization, and I used to use this kind of metaphor a long time ago, when I first started coaching people. And it's kind of a harsh, cruel way to talk about it, but it's obviously theoretical.

Matt Finch: What if somebody... They haven't been able to quit drinking or quit drugs. Well, what if somebody kidnapped your family, your wife and kids or something like that? They said, "All right. I have your wife," and you get video footage that they're still alive and stuff, but they're tied up. "The only way I'm going to release the wife and kids back to you is if you give me 30 days in a row worth of clean drug screens, or if you're able to quit drinking for 30 days straight."

Matt Finch: Obviously, this would never happen. But people that have not been previously able to quit alcohol or drugs, if it was something that serious, like "I'm going to kill your family within 30 days, if you don't," they'd be getting off drugs or alcohol, just like that.

Matt Finch: I had another client, a couple months ago. His dad actually signed him up, and I could tell. I was like, "I think the dad is really motivated for this, but I don't think the kid really is." So we had a nice brainstorm session, where I had to get some questions answered. So I asked the son, "How motivated are you on a scale of 1 to 10 to quit drinking?" And he said, "About a 2." I was like, "How much pain do you link to alcohol?" He said, "10." Or sorry. "How much pleasure do you link to alcohol?"

Matt Finch: He said, "10." I said, "How much pain do you link to alcohol?" He said. "3." So I was like, "Those numbers weren't adding up into somebody being able to quit drinking." I said, "How about this? What if you had a relative that offered to give you $1,000,000, if you got 60 days off alcohol? How easy would it be to quit drinking?"

Matt Finch: He's like, "It'd be the easiest thing I've ever done in my entire life, and I'd be excited and energized the whole time." That's what I mean by incentives. If people have been stuck drinking, and of course, there's the physiological withdrawal symptoms in many people too, and independence. It's not just about incentives.

Matt Finch: But usually, if people haven't been able to quit, it's not just a combination of not wanting to face withdrawal symptoms, and not wanting to be debilitated, and not be able to take care of work or kids. Usually, it can have a lot of that in there, but maybe one of the things at the core is simply a lack of a proper motivating incentivization protocol.

Chris Scott: That's a brilliant start to this. And I think it's the case that the decision to drink or not to drink in any given context always involves an either conscious or subconscious trade off calculation, which is to say that you are taking certain variables into account. Maybe they're just snapshot images, or quick little video replays or memories, or anticipated outcomes in your head, Such as you drive past a liquor store.

Chris Scott: You've been trying to quit, but all of a sudden you're thinking like, "Oh, my God. The game is on tonight, and my buddy said he is coming over." And then you're unable to picture yourself watching that game without a 12-pack of beer or a 24-pack or whatever it is. And all of a sudden it seems strictly necessary for you to go into that liquor store and drink. Now you weren't compelled against your will to do it.

Chris Scott: What happened is that you were unable to visualize a seemingly viable future in the short to medium term of you without alcohol. The same type of thing. It could even be more instant than that. That involves some planning. But it could be that you're super fired up and motivated to quit because you just read, Drinking Sucks, my book. Or you just signed up for coaching with a favorite recovery coach.

Chris Scott: But then you find yourself at an event with people you haven't seen in a while, who you always used to drink with, and then it suddenly seems like a no-brainer. That you need to have a shot of tequila because you're with these people. So I think the imagination's a very powerful thing and it feeds into our subconscious trade off calculation. And often during that snapshot calculation, we're not taking into account or giving enough weight to those variables that would involve negative consequences.

Chris Scott: A lot of the times the negative consequences seem like abstractions. So you know alcohol would be bad for your marriage in some abstract sense, but you're not really visualizing the exact ways that it would be. Or you know that alcohol is bad for your liver, but you're not really visualizing yourself in a hospital bed with a swollen stomach with cirrhosis. So those are kind of abstract.

Chris Scott: What you know for a fact is that your college buddies are here, and it's time to drink. I try to get people to bring the negative consequences into a closer timeframe, when I'm working with clients. Say, "All right. When you drink, what are the inevitable biochemical consequences that you'll experience tonight or tomorrow? Do you really enjoy waking up at 3:00 A.M. with a sense of impending doom?"

Chris Scott: And a lot of times, they've actually forgotten some of the things they told me about drinking, that they didn't like. Their scale of 1 to 10 for the amount of pain that they link to alcohol is a 3, but it should be a 9, after they reassess it. And so this is a process that Coach Briana, who's a Fit Recovery Coach, and also has her own fitness and diet coaching, nutrition coaching.

Chris Scott: She calls it cognitive reappraisals. So you're going through and consciously identifying the variables involved in this trade off, so that when you reach a point in time where that trade off happens again, you're aware of all the variables. Now you also want to be aware of the positive variables, both of using the substance itself, if there are any. And a lot of people, if you're like I was, when I reached the end of my drinking, there really were no positives.

Chris Scott: It didn't work to make me happy. It didn't offer me any relief. It didn't even cure my withdrawal. So for me, it became literally an exhausted resource. But before that, I did get some euphoria from it. It cured social anxiety that... I didn't realize until much later, it was actually a product of being in withdrawal. I don't naturally have social anxiety, although I was convinced that I did by my mid 20s.

Chris Scott: But anyway, I had these certain benefits linked to it. So you want to be honest about those benefits. And then you also want to be honest about the benefits of not using that substance. That's where I think incentives comes in. What incentives can you give yourself? What bright, vivid visualization of yourself operating at your highest potential can you provide for yourself using your imagination and all of your resourcefulness, such that you create an incentive to not drink in any given time?

Chris Scott: And I keep saying in any given time, in any given moment, in any given situation or context, because no one makes a decision once and for all to not do something and then never does it. Because you don't exist in a static state. You exist moment-to- moment. It's never the past or the future. It's always right now. And so we can't make a decision now that carries over to later, unless we enable ourselves at that later moment, to reflect on the trade offs and variables that are involved in that decision.

Chris Scott: And so incentives, I think hugely important to illuminate what is it that you want from not using something? What is it that you get from using something? What are the costs associated with using something? What are the costs associated with not using it? And this is actually something that I did. When I chose what college I was going to go to, just to take a somewhat trivial example from a long time ago.

Chris Scott: I made a list. I've always been kind of compulsive, and I love making lists. I was choosing between three different schools that I figured I'd probably get into, and I made a list of all the things I liked about them and didn't like about them. And then I put weights, 1 to 10. And I took the weighted average. And the one with the most things I liked and the fewest things I didn't like, all weighted, won out.

Chris Scott: And that's how I chose that. Now I wasn't smart enough to use that to decide whether to quit drinking. I didn't quit drinking because I was a Saint or because I'm better than anyone. I quit drinking because I got to the point that alcohol didn't do anything for me. It didn't cure my withdrawal. And that's what I've been using it for, for the last six months of drinking.

Chris Scott: But I think it's always possible to enable people to be proactive and to make better decisions earlier than they otherwise might have. I was very lucky that while my whole life seemed to collapse when I did drink, I didn't reach the point where I couldn't build back up. In a sense, I hit rock bottom, but I never reached the point where there was no hope of me building my life back up.

Chris Scott: Now there's an argument that it's really hard to get to that point. You can always build your life back up. But I'm glad that I didn't lose more than I did. I lost my job, my fancy apartment, girlfriend at the time, people's respect for me, I'm sure. I remember going into the office that I used to work at, and it was kind of a mutual decision to leave that.

Chris Scott: But some of the people, I'd like heard rumors that I'd gone into detox for alcoholism, and they kind of shielded their eyes away, because they didn't want to have to make eye contact. Not a pleasant thing. And, of course, I could've made a decision much earlier to stop drinking. And, of course, I would've needed a plan. I would've needed to figure out how to deal with the withdrawal and the post-acute withdrawal.

Chris Scott: And ultimately, I figured that out. And then once I reached a point where I was biochemically optimized, not just stable and no longer at risk of acute withdrawal. But once I reached the point where I could feel physically good without alcohol, that became my major incentive to not go back into a state of addiction with alcohol. Because the whole facade of the drinking lifestyle became apparent to me.

Chris Scott: That there wasn't really much offered by that, when you realized that you could feel really good without it. And that all alcohol can do is dampen your senses, dampen your brain activity, dampen your sense of taste, and prevent you from feeling natural euphoria. So for me, that was a longer term incentive that worked for me moment-to-moment going forward after that.

Matt Finch: Right. I can see why so many people either haven't thought about this, at least to the degree we're talking about it here, or haven't set up their own incentives to quit drinking or to quit drugs. I understand that because I never did. My incentives were like, "I want to not look like shit." Because alcohol and drugs made me look horrible, made me not focus on diet and stuff.

Matt Finch: So I always looked like shit, specifically when I was drinking alcohol. It'd make my face puffy, all the kind of same things that you had. Just like swollen and bags under the eyes, and your skin's not as good. But I understand why so many people are addicted to alcohol or overusing it. Drugs as well. Because there's a lot of incentive to drink.

Matt Finch: I'm just thinking about a few phases of my life. When I first started drinking habitually, oh, my God, the incentives to drink was great. I was going to hang out with this new circle of friends and some of my other bros. And I was going to have a lot of fun with like-minded people, that liked to surf, that liked to party, that liked to hookup. The hookup culture.

Matt Finch: And so we would laugh. We'd have brotherhood, camaraderie. We would have fun. We'd have adventure. Obviously, alcohol makes you really euphoric, and the more I drank, the more energy and euphoria I got. And then we'd do crazy shit. That was good for fun stories. Storytelling like, "Oh, I did this crazy ass stuff." So there was a lot of incentives. Before I got addicted, it was pretty much mostly all incentives to drink.

Matt Finch: Yeah, I would get a little bit of a hangover in the morning but at that age... I was 22, 23, when I first started doing this. Then I wasn't really getting bad hangovers. You could feel that you had drank too much or something, but it was no big deal. I'd get up and go surf or... My liver was so healthy back then, and so fresh. When I first started using opioids daily, every single day.

Matt Finch: It took me about eight years before I went from recreational opioids to daily physiological dependence. But I did that, when I was in Upstate New York, and I had severe loneliness, exhaustion. I was the father of a... At that point, I started using daily, I think when she was only 30 days old, around a month old. So a little newborn baby. I'm up all throughout the night, feeding her and losing sleep. I was like a zombie at work.

Matt Finch: I was super lonely. I had a bunch of trauma from relationship stuff, which I won't go super deep into, but I was just... Psychological pain, physical pain, physical tiredness, loneliness. This kind of storm of physical, and emotional, and mental symptoms. So then I found a hookup that had daily opioids. I was able to get pills every single day for that first two months straight. There was a lot of incentives for me to use those pills daily.

Matt Finch: Yeah, they were expensive, but my rent was super cheap back then. It was like $500 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, a nice one too, Upstate New York. So lots of incentives to use the pills. Why? They were giving me hypomania all throughout the day. So not only was I not depressed, not anxious, not lonely, not tired, but I was the opposite of all those.

Matt Finch: Euphoric, confident, energized, indestructible. I just felt amazing. So it was worth the price investment for me to buy them daily and to keep using them daily. Because my whole life changed and I was hooking up with all sorts of girls and I was having tons of fun, working like a champion, cooking at the restaurant. On opioids, I was like Superman. Then I ran out of pills and I ran out of people that had pills, and I went through my first acute opioid withdrawal.

Matt Finch: Five days, especially the first four days, of some of the worst tear on earth. Definitely the worst tear I had experienced up until that point. Then I was like, "Whoa! Maybe I need to reconsider these things." A week after detoxing, all of a sudden, my brain must have forgot about how bad the withdrawal was, or more likely, it downplayed just how bad things got, and it up-played my ability, my belief in myself to be able to use responsibly now. "Oh, I'm never going to do that shit again. I'm going to use responsibly."

Matt Finch: Because I thought, "I don't want to get dependent again and go through withdrawal." Do you think, Chris, that after that gnarly withdrawal... Then a week later, I got back on. Do you think I was able to use responsibly? No. You know the answer to that, because I'm sitting here talking with you. It was a lot more of opioid addiction after that. So there's a lot of incentives. That was a long way of saying, there's a lot of incentives to drink. There's a lot of incentives to use drugs, which are all subjective, depending on the person.

Matt Finch: We already know the incentives to drink, and you lost your incentive to drink, once you could not relieve your alcohol withdrawal symptoms by giving your body alcohol. Now the incentive's gone. It's like, "Well, it's not even working anymore. It worked to zero." So how can people start to lower the incentives they have assigned to alcohol and/or drugs, think about and brainstorm really good incentives for quitting and staying quit, and then making a huge list?

Matt Finch: Get a piece of paper, where you draw a line through the middle. On the one hand, incentives to drink or use drugs. On the other hand, incentives to not drink and to not use drugs. The pros of drinking, the cons of drinking, the risk, cost. It'd be cool if somebody made kind of like software on this, where you just get all these questions asked to yourself. What's that thing called? Quick, not QuickBooks. I forget.

Matt Finch: Anyway, there's software, where you can get really detailed on the tables and charts. So people could just do a mind map. In the middle, write there, drug, substance of choice, alcohol, opioids, methamphetamines, whatever the substance they want to quit. Put a circle, a big, huge poster, poster board or poster paper. In the middle, you write the name of the substance. Then you start mind-mapping all these branches out from that first circle, where one branch is incentives to use this substance.

Matt Finch: And then another branch is incentives to quit and then not use this substance. Pros of this substance, cons. Then you've got all this room to mind-map out. Oh, accountability. Oh, emotional support. Oh, treatment approaches, that I'm interested in. So you've got this huge poster board or paper. The substance in the middle, in a circle, and then you just mind-map out, because that way your brain just starts to unload it all. And then for that mind map, you can create something very, very constructive and organized, and potentially fucking efficacious as shit.

Chris Scott: Yeah. All good ideas. This brings us to one of the most difficult and nuanced questions, but also one of the most obvious questions. And I think commonly misunderstood ones in addiction, recovery, which is, "Is addiction a disease, or is it a choice?" And I'd say nuance, because I think the answer has to be formulated carefully. I don't have all the answers. But I'll tell you, what I used to think was that there's not necessarily a contradiction between the two.

Matt Finch: In other words, a choice. What someone said.

Chris Scott: What if you had... Right. And I don't think it's a disease anymore, but I'll get to that. But what if you had a condition in which you literally hallucinated a little demon sitting on your shoulder and every time you did anything, the demon was like, "Drink, drink, drink, drink." That's your disease. Right? So you're not compelled to drink. You just have a demon who's yelling at you about drinking all the time. So the disease is the demon yelling at you.

Chris Scott: Whether or not you decide to drink in any particular situation is kind of a choice, but you're kind of being compelled a little bit. You don't have to listen to him. Right? So then the solution would be, "How do I get the demon to shut up?" Or "How do I distract myself from the demon?" And then the assumption is that the demon's there for the rest of your life.

Chris Scott: Now the good news about addiction is that there's no demon, and it's not there for life. And you also don't have to listen to any of those thoughts. You can find ways to reframe your thinking. You can rebalance your biochemistry, all of which-

Matt Finch: Yeah.

Chris Scott: ... make the so-called demon disappear. But I would say, of course, the decision to drink or not in any given context is a choice. But that doesn't mean it's an easy choice. And I think what we're dealing with here isn't necessarily a permanent brain disease, but rather a distortion of the pain-pleasure principle, which is really important.

Chris Scott: Of course, in my darkest days of struggle with alcohol, I could have made the choice in any given situation not to drink. And many times, I did, and I suffered with withdrawal, and I didn't understand what was going on. And eventually I made the choice to drink because I didn't want to put up with the amount of pain and the absence of pleasure that that choice brought me.

Chris Scott: And so I was in this conundrum, where my biochemical state was not going where it needed to go, for me to think that life was even worth living when I wasn't drinking. And I would call that conundrum a biochemical disorder. And I resolved that disorder in time using nutrient repair, using NLP, brain rewiring, reframing techniques, accumulating new experiences with a new mindset, and literally identity shifting, becoming the kind of person that doesn't need to rely on alcohol.

Chris Scott: So I would say it's a biochemical disorder that can be resolved, and does not need to be permanent, and does not need to be framed as either a disease or a simple choice because it's not that. And I bring that up just for people who might be interested in some of the more intellectual facets of what's going on with addiction. Because it's very easy to get lost in semantics, especially when the vast majority of the mainstream treatment revolves around dogma that, some of which flies in the face of logic.

Chris Scott: So I'm not saying everything that is out there in the mainstream is bad, but I think there's a lot of confusion about the words, such as disease, choice, et cetera. And, of course, I acknowledge that the health authorities classify it as a disease. I disagree with that classification, I think for logical reasons. And obviously, the argument from authority is a logical fallacy, in and of itself, although we seem to have forgotten that here.

Chris Scott: Not with you and me, but just in recent years. But I think it can also be comforting to know that you can resolve this, and it's not something that's going to follow you around forever. How often do you struggle with the desire to use heroin these days? I assume not at all, or I've never heard you talk to about it.

Matt Finch: I don't even think about it, ever.

Chris Scott: I don't struggle with any desire to use... Well, heroin, I never used. But alcohol, and I have no doubt that it wouldn't give me what I was looking for. If I decided to go drink 20 beers, I have a pretty good idea of how that would feel, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to repeat it. Whereas, when I had just quit drinking, I assumed... I was kind of brainwashed into assuming that if someone did force me at gunpoint to chug 20 beers, I would inevitably be caught in this horrible brain disease again, that would compel me to go back to the liquor store.

Chris Scott: I think it can be empowering to realize that that's not the case. That addiction can be a phase of your life. It can be a stage of your life that you can learn from. But that you need to be proactive in rebalancing yourself biochemically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually.

Matt Finch: Oh, this is great. And I know we got to keep this one pretty short. So I'll just add one thing in there. Regardless of what someone labels it, a disease, a choice, a biochemical disorder, a biopsychosocial, spiritual, disease, disorder. Whatever the label is, for sure, hands down. It leads to, in varying degrees, chronic brain physiology dysfunction, which at mainstream treatment is left unaddressed and untreated.

Matt Finch: Chronic brain physiology dysfunction, usually untreated and often even unaddressed and not even talked about. "Hey, dopamine, GABA, endorphins, what substances do. Here, this is going to take your brain." "Nope. You just do this cookie-cutter treatment approach and good luck," I guess.

Matt Finch: Another thing I wanted to say was, it's also a timeline choice. Where when I was addicted to drugs and alcohol, I didn't have enough. I had incentives to quit, but the incentives to keep using for whatever reason were subjectively more. It was just really hard to quit heroin, alcohol, Mezzos. So there was this huge shift in all of a sudden my situation. I almost died, a near death experience. That shifted things in me.

Matt Finch: It led to this kind of post-traumatic growth, PTG. Instead of having post traumatic stress from that, since I narrowly escaped dying, that gave me such a new passion for life. It was funny. I needed to become that close to death to actually appreciate my life. Then I just had this new vigor, this new vitality, this new outlook. So that post-traumatic growth outlook and mindset, and just state of beingness, led to me shifting to a totally different timeline.

Matt Finch: There was the drug and alcohol addiction timeline, which just kept leading to poor decisions, negative consequences; screwed up relationships; bad, unethical, immoral behavior on my part; hanging out with the wrong people; health consequences, and so much more. And at time, low paying jobs for me. So I was on that timeline for what? Fuck, way over a decade. It took a near death experience, and then subsequently an altering of my outlook incentives and all that to get on this new timeline.

Matt Finch: And then on that new timeline, that was the personal development, fucking lifestyle optimization timeline. And that, I recovered so quickly and powerfully from what I ever thought I could do in years. Within six months, I was felt like I had 10 years of recovery. And so that was like a whole new timeline shift. So people are often stuck in their current timelines. Maybe they'll be able to make a few changes here or there, but they don't stick with it.

Matt Finch: So there's this stickiness of their current timeline. Change is hard. We're wired for things to stay the same for survival. But if somebody can design what they want their life to look like in a year, six months, three months, even. Two years, whatever. Then write all the things they'd have to do and have as habits and everything for that to happen.

Matt Finch: Now, all of a sudden, you've got a new timeline and you've got habits, and routines, and resources that can help you to bridge that timeline gap and to do a good service to your future self, who will then be imagining you right now. Your future self, in the future, which will be the present. Now they'll be daydreaming, remembering the past, which is this current you, and this current timeline.

Matt Finch: But that could be You 2.0, or You 4.0 in the future, if you just get the good enough incentives for everything, not just for quitting drugs and alcohol. Incentivizations to be able to change and make the positive changes that you want to change.

Chris Scott: Hey, everyone. Chris Scott, here. If you like the information on today's episode regarding supplementation and empowerment strategies for addiction recovery, then please subscribe to the Elevation Recovery Podcast and leave us a rating and review on iTunes.

Chris Scott: And if you benefited directly from this information, I'm confident in saying that you'll love the information-packed online courses that Matt Finch and I have created.

Chris Scott: Matt Finch's Ultimate Opiate Detox 4.0 is a 6-module, 30-activity course that contains video lessons, written lessons, PDF downloads, worksheets, audios, and much more. And it has everything you could possibly need to know to conquer opioid addiction in the easiest and most comfortable way possible.

Chris Scott: My own course, Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0 is the most cutting edge resource for anyone who wants to transcend alcohol and build their best lives. To get these courses, to learn more, and to read testimonials, simply go to opiateaddiction support.com/ultimate. Again, that's opiateaddiction support.com/ultimate for Matt's course.

Chris Scott: Or for my course, go to fit-recovery.com/course. Again, that's fit-recovery.com/course. You can also go to elevationrecovery.com to see the show notes for this episode.

Author

  • Chris Scott founded Fit Recovery in 2014 to help people from around the world dominate alcohol dependence and rebuild their lives from scratch. A former investment banker, he recovered from alcohol dependence using cutting-edge methods that integrate nutrition, physiology, and behavioral change. Today, Chris is an Alcohol Recovery Coach and the creator of an online course called Total Alcohol Recovery 2.0.

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