Lesson 4 – The Warrior: A Protective Shield
Goal: Shield oneself from addictive behaviors by changing habits and creating alternative pathways to healthy living.
Activity: Become aware of feelings, settings and habits that “trigger” or fuel addictive behaviors and construct a “shield” as protection against the destructive forces of addiction.
During the course of the hero’s journey, you may find it necessary to declare war on those things that stand in the way of achieving where you want to be, or who you want to become. In addictions, the “enemy” may take the shape of your old lifestyle, may be a circumstance, or be individuals or groups standing in the way of your transformation. Choosing to become a warrior is a courageous act.
Recognize the Enemy of Addiction
A bad habit may turn into an addiction because it is paired with other pleasurable (non-addictive) behaviors. For example, smoking a cigarette may be associated with drinking a cup of coffee, finishing a meal, talking on the phone, or driving a car. In this way, addictive behaviors are consistently reinforced, both in body and in mind.
Rod’s experience with alcohol illustrates such an association.
“[I started drinking] on the reservation when they had a rodeo. That was one of the things you do at rodeo time, you get drunk.”
To break the addiction cycle, it is important to acknowledge “reinforcers” that deepen, prolong, and eventually embed habitual behavior. Recognizing the “triggers” that are directly linked to these behaviors increases the chance of extinguishing them or finding acceptable alternatives.
- Think about a behavior or activity that precedes or accompanies an addictive behavior. For example, hanging out with certain friends is associated with drinking a few beers.
- Try eliminating these behaviors/activities from your daily routine. This may involve simply changing your environment, like sitting in the non-smoking section of the restaurant. Think of other “environment changes” that weaken or are incompatible with addictive urges.
- Keep a log of your successes.
Learn from the Elders
Listen to Rod McAfee’s story. He recalls the role of his Grandfather as “teacher,” the person in his family who passed along tribal traditions and stories of how people lived in earlier times. He specifically remembers how Grandfather tried to teach him about the use of the shield and war club
“….he made me a little shield out of cardboard and he’d tell me how to run behind it and if I didn’t do it right he said, ‘No, you’re showing too much.’ You have to get behind the shield so they don’t see you and you carry your war club behind your back until you get close enough, then you can use that war club.”
Construct a Protective Shield
Think about difficult things you have done in your life and how you, as the Warrior, handled those situations. This is your encouragement—and your courage—to change negative aspects of your life.
- Think about reasons why you want to stop an addictive behavior. These reasons might be important because they are beneficial to your health, family relationships, friendships, saving money, or contribute to your personal sense of well-being.
- Write these reasons, or benefits, on a piece of paper. This is your symbolic SHIELD. Post it on your refrigerator door or the bathroom mirror where you’ll see it daily.
- Write down 4 or 5 major “triggers” you have already identified. Reread this list frequently. Keeping these triggers in mind will help you stay “on track” and find ways to substitute healthy choices.
- Enlist the help of your family and friends. Ask them to join your “shield” group. Explain why you want to change your behavior and how important it is to receive their support and encouragement.
“The shield was made out of cowhide so when it dries, it’s real hard….arrows would bounce off that war shield.” Rod McAfee
Rod’s description of the traditional skin shield can be thought of as a metaphor for a person’s defense against negative influences. Try to think about which personality traits symbolize these internal strengths.