Stoptober 2015: 1 Nov & my Chimp Brain

No panic! It’s the 22 Nov and I’m still a very happy non-smoker!

As advised by the chemist and by the literature I’ve been reading, I’m still using only the patches (no gums, lozenges, or other), even if sometimes I forget to put them on (!) and I normally realize that in the middle of the night when I simply cannot sleep and I’m sweating, tossing and turning in bed asking myself why… because during the day, woman, you wore no patch!

But one Sunday morning I woke up, I went downstairs, grabbed a coffee, sat on my sofa, stroke the cat and then BANG! …

FAAAAG

I stopped and thought: where is that thought coming from? Because it wasn’t a physical craving, nor a psychological need of a reward or to fill a sense of nagging boredom. Nothing was different: I did not change the coffee, my sofa was the same, my cat was the same and this time, this voice was like coming from outside of me, from a buried part of my brain which I did not recognise. I never felt that feeling, that voice, that buried urge to smoke before.

It was scary: believe me. Me, the rational, good, studious person, who knew everything about addiction and recovery, read all the books, knew all the theories… where did that ‘thing’ come from? What was it? … and WHY?! Why that Sunday morning?

And then, I realised.. It was the First of November, wasn’t it?!

I decided and convinced myself I was doing Stoptober… So, a part of my brain (which I have nicknamed ‘the Silly Bitch’) was counting days and I was totally unaware of it… that part of my brain, the chimp brain, was my automatic coping mechanism, which has worked so well previously during many years of struggles and problems and pain and hurts; that part of my brain did not need my rational and logic Self as on a day-to-day basis in order to live and survive (!). That part of my brain was independent and autonomous and had almost an identity on its own. It did not need Me. I always needed It, not the other way round.

I could only describe it as that kind of spinstery plain secretary that works in one of those open plan offices, the one dressed in grey and boring green, pony tail and glasses, no make-up, not a smile, always alone and silent, does not talk to anyone, eats always alone, never goes to a do, or a Friday night for a drink with the rest of the Company; but… she somehow knows everything about everybody because she listens, she checks, she keeps track of who’s who and who goes out with whom, who comes in and who goes out and then one day she simply opens her mouth and everybody is scared because ‘she knows things’… that’s my Chimp Brain! That’s my Silly Bitch!

So, what to do now? Well, I decided to ‘talk’ to that part of my brain: I told the Silly Bitch that I love her and that she had done an amazing job up to now, that I recognise all the times I could probably not have dealt properly with Life without her help in the past but now… BUT NOW… we could have worked together to change my autopilot: no more “fight or flight”, no more automatic extreme responses, no more reaching for fags.

I was different. This is when I realised I can really make this thing work: (still) one day at the time, retraining my Self.

So much so, that I have decided to make a vow and to commit myself to explore, research and produce a document that examines the connection between Trust, Hope and Faith in addiction and recovery, from a Nichiren Buddhist perspective.

Of course, I’ll keep you posted!