During the height of the Vietnam War, researchers found that one out of every five service members became addicted to heroin. What was even more surprising than this number, however, was that only 5% of those addicted in the field of combat remained addicted to the drug upon returning home.
In other words, nine out of ten soldiers who used heroin in Vietnam eliminated their addiction nearly overnight when they got home to the United States. This finding totally upended the accepted belief that heroin addiction was a permanent and irreversible condition.
The new scientific finding: Addictions can spontaneously dissolve if there is a radical change in the environment.
To Change Your Behavior, Change Your Environment
Yesterday I wrote about the science of habits. James Clear, world renowned author of Atomic Habits, calls this the “Habit Loop”: Cue -> Craving -> Response -> Reward.
After learning about this last year, I wanted to try it out on a bad habit that I had developed. Here it was:
Cue: I finish washing the dishes.
Craving: I want some chocolate.
Response: I open the freezer.
Reward: I eat the chocolate chips in the freezer.
Before you make fun of me for us storing chocolate chips in the freezer… just go along with the story.
I had fallen trap to this habit for months before Karli accidently forgot to buy chocolate chips one week. I noticed because I finished washing the dishes one night and grabbed a bag of frozen corn instead! I was so used to the chocolate chips being in the same place for months, I had mindlessly reached in the freezer and grabbed what I thought was the chocolate.
What surprised me though was that I continued to open the freezer every night after washing the dishes for a week! I knew we didn’t have chocolate chips but I kept doing it out of habit. It wasn’t even a conscious thought–it was just something that I did after I finished the dishes.
After four consecutive days of doing this, I asked Karli to stop buying chocolate chips. The result? My environment changed essentially changed overnight.
Violá! Bad habit broken.
Now, I recognize that all habits (even addictions) are not this simple. But if military service members addicted to heroin can break the habit loop, so can you with you with strange sugar habits.
If you want to break a bad habit, change your environment.
All of our nutritionists start with habit change at RxFIT. If you want to book a free call with one of them, just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll link you with one of them.