The Source of problem gambling
What is addiction? Addiction is any behaviour we continue to do despite the fact that it brings negative consequences into our lives – Tommy Rosen in Recovery 2.0
Habits on the other hand is similar, however they don’t have the negative impact as addictions.
Over the years I have been treating people with a gambling addiction, I found that all of them suffer from some sort of problem or problems, that I will call from now on an aggravation, that are the deeps roots for the addiction. More importantly I found out through my work and readings that actually there’s only four main reasons why people get addicted. As I explained on my previous program, they are negative thinking, self-doubt, procrastination and resentment.
Have you ever heard about the The Parable of the Downstreamers by Donald Ardell?
There once was a town called Downstream, which rested on the banks of a raging river. For many years, the town prospered. All was well in Downstream! Until the first body appeared in the river. The person was still alive. But they were struggling to keep their head above water. In that moment, the townspeople sprung into action. Downstream’s brightest minds devised a solution, and they saved the struggling swimmer.
The town rejoiced! Until the following day when the next body appeared in the river. Fortunately, they had a solution to the problem. It took a great amount of effort, but they saved the next victim.
As the weeks went on, more and more bodies appeared in the river. Not just one a day, but three…five…ten people who needed saving each day.
So Downstream devised more powerful solutions. They built boats and formed a town Coast Guard. They built a school to teach these coast guards how to navigate the treacherous river waters. They built a new hospital right along the shore to treat the survivors from the river.
The Downstreamers grew proud of their support systems. Years after the first rescue,it’s hard for the children of Downstream to comprehend that they once struggled to save one person a day from the waters. Because these days, they’re saving a dozen or two each day.
Downstreamers will tell you that they’ve never had a death in their waters. Sure, they invest a massive amount of resources into these rescue efforts. But isn’t it all worth it to save human lives?
Every once in a while, someone will ask: “What’s going on upstream of Downstream? Why are these bodies in the water in the first place?” But there’s so much to do just to help the people in the river that nobody bothers to look into it.
Every challenge in life has two main pieces.
The symptoms of a challenge are what grab your attention. The symptoms alert you that there’s something to address. (e.g. a painful sensation, an uncomfortable thought, making a mistake, etc.)
The source of a challenge is whatever created those symptoms in the first place.
In Downstream, they were great at treating the symptoms of their problem. (Bodies in the river.) They created robust defense mechanisms to deal with a problem that kept building over time.
But they never got to the root cause of their problem. What was causing so many people to fall into the river in the first place? Was there a bridge in disrepair? Were unaware tourists swimming in an area with fast currents?
Downstream could have saved countless resources by first going upstream to understand the source of the problem.
It’s easy to get so focused treating the symptoms of a problem that you don’t think about anything else. After all, the symptoms are what grab your attention in the first place.
But you’re wasting your energy unless you…
Treat the Source of Your Problems, Not the Symptoms
When you address the source of a problem, the symptoms go away on their own.
Which means it’s a tremendous waste of resources (energy/attention/time/money) to treat the symptoms of your problems without addressing their source.
Treating symptoms without treating the source is like trying to cool a pot of boiling water by adding ice cubes instead of turning off the burner.
In other parts of life, it often takes more consideration and effort to treat the source of a problem. But you reap the benefits of this short-term effort in the long run.
Because when you fail to address the source of a problem, your problem will persist.
The situation I’m trying to describe becomes even worse, without treating the source of the problem you can move from different addictions thinking that you have an addictive personality but actually this is what happens
The Upstream Solution in Practice
Let’s take a look at this approach with some common challenges you might experience.
Health Challenge: You have a headache.
> You could treat the symptom by taking a pain reliever.
> But what’s upstream of headaches? Dehydration. So staying hydrated could also solve the problem.
Energy Challenge: You’re fatigued and groggy.
> You could treat the symptom by drinking more caffeine.
> But what’s upstream of fatigue? Sleep. So prioritizing sleep quality and quantity will solve the problem more effectively.
Habit Challenge: You’re struggling to go to the gym on a consistent basis.
> You could treat the symptom by paying for a personal trainer to motivate you to do exercises you don’t want to do.
> But what’s upstream of motivation? Desire. So choosing to move your body in a way that you love might make exercising easy. Reconnect with why movement is important to you. What’s life like when you exercise every day? What’s life like when you don’t?
Relationship Challenge: You keep having arguments with your partner about the same topic.
> You could treat the symptom by trying to figure out better ways to “win” the argument.
> But what’s upstream of arguments? Misalignment and misunderstanding. So creating space for a conversation to explore the expectations each of you have about that topic could stop the feuds at their source. Listen without judgment to understand their perspective. Seek to arrive at collective understanding and acceptance. And then, create agreements on what it looks like for you to address that topic at your best moving forward.
The most important aspect of recovery becomes, as I said before, retraining your brain and body to have new habits. Not necessarily by focusing on the goals but on your behaviour, how to fill the void left by not gambling!
James Clear has a nice way of describing the value of focusing on behaviour:
“If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results? For example, if you were a basketball coach and you ignored your goal to win a championship and focused only on what your team does at practice each day, would you still get results? I think you would.”
In the end, your actions are all that will make your progress enjoyable, even if the results in the end become similar.