learning to get a balance between "shoulds" and "wants" in your life,
getting exercise and some positive addiction (described by Glasser
above), behavior control techniques, increased self-awareness
(realizing our rationalizations and denial), and encouragement from
friends or a self-help group to vigilantly guard against unwanted
choices and actions.
Not all relapse prevention programs have been successful but the
majority have been (Irvin, Bowers, Dunn & Wang, 1999). Relapse
prevention works best with drugs, only fair with alcohol, and poorly,
thus far, with smoking. If you do backslide, relapse prevention helps
you recover from lapses (but the training may increase lapses). Some
behaviors are very hard to maintain. Many people make the same New
Year's resolutions for several years before they find the right
"treatment plan." Smokers typically make 3, 4 or more attempts to
stop before succeeding. Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross (1992)
found that relapsers don't necessarily go back to "square one,"
sometimes they learn from their mistakes, think of a better approach,
and build up their courage to try again. Try hard to avoid relapsing but
if you do, don't give up. This is one of the "hot" areas in self-control,
much research is being done.
Controlling simple habits
Nate Azrin and Greg Nunn (1977) offer Habit Control in a Day. It is
a clinically tested method for stopping nail-biting, hair-pulling, tics,
stuttering, thumb sucking, and other nervous habits. They obtained
90% reduction in the habit the first day and 95% reduction within the
first week and 99% within a month (assuming you keep working on
the problem as prescribed).
The method is simple: learn to substitute an acceptable but
incompatible action in place of the bad habit. To do this you must
observe the bad habit in minute detail. The substitute behavior should
(1) interfere with the habit but not with other normal activities, (2) be
unnoticeable by others but something you are very aware of, and (3)
be a response you can easily do for 3 minutes or so.
Examples of behaviors useful in opposing bad habits are: grasping
an object, like a pencil, or lightly clenching your fist. Either could be
substituted for nail biting or hair pulling. Likewise, filing your nails or
brushing your hair would also be incompatible with nail biting or hair
pulling. Also, isometric contraction of muscles opposing the ticking
muscles is another example. Consciously breathing in and out slowly
and evenly is inconsistent with coughing or clearing your throat;
drinking water is incompatible with the same habits.
Next, practice the new response 5-10 minutes every day for at
least a week. In addition, mentally rehearse how and when you can
use the new response. Once mastered, the new response must be
used for three minutes every time (a) you catch yourself doing the old
habit, (b) you feel the urge to do the old habit, (c) you enter a