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Twelve-step programs are typified by AA, NA, and related groups for families and teenagers. They are offered for a variety of specific drugs, including alcohol, opioids, cocaine, nicotine, and marijuana, and for behavioral addictions such as gambling, sex, and food. Those who work the program are expected to progress through the twelve steps. Remarkably, AA and its sibling services exist without any central organization or any external financial contributions. Anonymity is fundamental to meetings and participation. But a person in need can find a meeting almost anywhere, almost every day, as well as a sponsor, a person of the same gender who, usually, has a minimum of one year of sobriety, has been through the twelve steps, and is available to help a newly sober (or striving to be sober) person through the steps. Some balk at the explicit spirituality in the twelve steps, especially when it is regarded as synonymous with religion. But, again, it is not: religions are based on institutions with specific beliefs and practices, whereas spirituality is individualistic and can take many forms. As a component of a comprehensive treatment, a 12-step program can be useful. Meetings are also highly accessible, available 24-7, and free. Then there's Charlie, who is a habitual procrastinator. Like Stan, Charlie feels the same sort of toothache and, also like Stan, he dislikes the thought of visiting the dentist. However, unlike Stan, Charlie puts a good amount of effort into not seeing his dentist by going to a drugstore to buy a pain reliever. Although this buys Charlie a few weeks away from the dentist's chair, eventually the pain becomes so bad that he's forced to make an emergency dental appointment. At the dentist's office, he discovers that he now has an abscess that requires extra work. The dentist comments, "You must have been in pain for a while--why didn't you come in sooner?" When Charlie leaves the dentist's office, he says to himself, "Why did I put that off for so long? I'm such an idiot!" If we look further into this comparison, we can see that while Stan temporarily allows himself to delay his visit to the dentist in order to buy a little time, his own tolerance for this delay is actually quite low. We can almost imagine Stan saying to himself, "It's time to get this taken care of before it gets worse, because you can't fix it yourself." Now let's take a closer look at how Charlie handled the same situation. Over-the-counter pain relievers play a role in almost everyone's life at some point, but when Charlie went to the drugstore it wasn't so much to obtain a bottle of tablets, as it was to avoid the need of visiting his dentist. He then continued using the pain reliever for as long as he possibly could to keep from seeing the dentist.

While Stan believed that he couldn't imagine dealing with a cavity on his own, Charlie's decision was quite the opposite. Then, after unbearable pain indicated that Charlie's coping-mechanism had failed, he was then faced with the news that he had an even worse problem, an abscess, which required extra work. Then, for seemingly the millionth time in his life, he heard, "Why didn't you have this taken care of sooner?" Here we see another aspect of habitual procrastination: a refusal to learn from past mistakes. In fact, if there's just one thing Charlie's heard more often, it's "Well, I just hope that you've learned a lesson from all of this." Charlie just hates it whenever somebody says that to him. Some of the confusion that comes from talking about depression is that there are a number of different diagnoses that can be applied depending on the kind of symptoms someone is experiencing, how severe those symptoms are, and the pattern those symptoms follow. Though these conditions may seem similar in many ways, it is important to leave it up to a qualified mental health professional to make the diagnosis rather than trying to diagnose ourselves or someone we know based on what we might have looked up online. An incorrect diagnosis can mean significant delays in getting the right kind of treatment and lead to unnecessary suffering. Among the different diagnoses that can be made for someone reporting symptoms of depression is whether the symptoms are related to true depression or due to bipolar disorder. While we all experience mood swings as we go from highs to lows, these changes in mood tend not to be that severe. With people experiencing bipolar disorder, however, their symptoms often swing from feeling extremely depressed to feeling manic (i.e., superenergized or on top of the world). Though most manic highs tend not to be that severe (and they are often referred to as hypomanic episodes), people in manic states can often make grandiose plans for the future, talk a mile a minute, and experience an inability to sleep because they are so excited about what is happening to them. They may also be prone to impaired judgment resulting in risky behavior or unwise financial decisions. These manic highs rarely last long though, and as soon as they run their course, the depressive phase sets in. Since people rarely go to their doctors when they are having a manic episode (and why would they when they feel great?), they are usually only diagnosed after getting in trouble with the law or when family members force them to get help. The depressive phase, however, can often be impossible to distinguish from true depression. As a result, proper treatment can often be delayed, which is why a correct diagnosis is so important, especially in the early stages. In addition to bonfires at summer solstice, the field across from our summer cabin was used for play. When I was a child, we could easily muster twenty-five kids for a game of roundball (best described as a simple version of baseball); of course, this was in the pre-iPad age. Last year, a survey from Action for Children in the UK showed that parents find convincing kids to turn off their computer, phone or other device tougher than getting them to do their homework. Almost one in four parents found it difficult to control the amount of time their children spent playing on computers or tablets, while only 10 per cent struggled with getting their children to do their homework.

One of the reasons behind this is that kids do not want to be left out of the online community. A Danish boarding school is going to what the kids consider extreme measures to create community. The staff confiscate smartphones and other gadgets; Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat can be accessed for only one hour per day, as pupils are allowed one hour of gadget time per day. After the first term, the system was put to a student vote. Should we continue with this system, or be given back our phones and gadgets and be free to use them as much as we want? Eighty per cent voted for the first option. Obviously, these kinds of measures work only when a sufficient number of people are on board. If you are the only one without your phone and the rest of the class is Snapchatting with their friends back home, that is a lonely experience. So it is important to get critical mass within your social circle. You could convince a number of families on your street to make Thursday night analogue night and send the kids out to play together, or start at home by making Thursday night family night. Other options are to create a no-phone zone for two hours around the evening meal, or place a basket for phones by the coat hangers and encourage friends to deposit any devices there when they visit. The need to constantly share your feelings and emotions is pathetic and puts you in a position of looking and feeling helpless. As you've learned, you are never helpless. Don't create that appearance. Don't look weak and pathetic to anyone. Expressing your feelings to the world doesn't improve your situation or position. It does nothing to move you forward. It doesn't give you power. It only takes power away from you, sets you back, and reveals your weaknesses. You're pulling your own feet right out from underneath you.

As Jocko Willink says, "You don't have to be transparent all the time. You have to win the game." It doesn't matter if others think you're a jerk or not transparent enough. What matters is keeping power to yourself and not giving anyone the opportunity to see right through you and take advantage of you. When you're sharing your feelings, acting like a victim, and complaining about what isn't fair, the person listening may actually care about you and be a good listener, but unconsciously, they're lowering your value in their mind. They're lowering you on their list of importance. They're unconsciously losing respect for you. They're unconsciously feeling they have more power over you because, more and more, they're able to see right through you. You're losing cool points. The big image they have of you becomes smaller and smaller. When you keep your feelings to yourself, the opposite happens. I've heard it called "expectation". In their mind, they feel in the blanks with positive things, even if they aren't true. Then what they're imagining about you grows bigger and bigger and they gain more and more respect and admiration for you. The less others know about you, the better off you are. Let them create their own story about you in their mind. Unlike AA, which everyone seems to know about, SMART is not well-known, which is unfortunate. It can be a desirable alternative to a spiritual approach to recovery from substances, while also being highly useful, accessible, and free. If any of the interventions offered here meet the standard of universality, this one does. Motivational interviewing is nonjudgmental. There are no moralistic judgments about a person or his or her behaviors.

Nor does it allow a person to self-flagellate with negative, abusive comments. Quite the opposite: MI starts by recognizing that an individual is doing something for powerful reasons. MI is a cognitive technique to help people overcome their internal ambivalence to change, to appreciate they will gain more than they will lose by changing a habit; with MI, changes first occur internally before they appear in behavior. MI also appreciates that letting go means losing something, and none of us tolerates loss well. But we can better bear change when we know that something we want lies ahead. That something may be looking good for a wedding or a reunion, not spending $150 a week on marijuana or alcohol, and not having to sneak around to have a smoke. What matters is not what the doctor wants, but what the patient wants to achieve. Every (small) step is important. Behaving differently is incremental. And we all need ongoing support from people who understand it is hard to let go of what has served our needs. The following example may illustrate the effectiveness of MI. One more difference between the casual and the habitual procrastinator can be found in the areas of self-hate and anger. Remember, after leaving the dentist's office, Stan thinks, "What a relief," while Charlie berates himself with, "Why did I put that off for so long? I'm such an idiot!" Indeed, while Stan is relatively proud of himself for handling an uncomfortable situation as best as he could, Charlie leaves the dentist's office not only angry at himself, but angry at the dentist as well for his comment. Of course, the dentist didn't mean to embarrass him, but, like many of us, Charlie doesn't like facing the consequences of his inaction. Another reason behind Charlie's anger is that with so many uncompleted tasks in his life, Charlie didn't have time to visit the dentist. Not that Charlie ever gets around to those tasks--he doesn't; however, that never stops him from using his burden of undone tasks as an excuse for not having the time to get around to dealing with any of them. While casual procrastinators usually visit the same dentists on a relatively regular basis, many habitual procrastinators may believe it's been so long since they've seen one that they feel as if they no longer have a regular dentist. Other procrastinators grow concerned after a long absence from any dentist's office that their teeth will either look so bad, or require so much work, that they might face the same sort of comment that Charlie received. To counter this, some habitual procrastinators resort to making emergency appointments with dentists they've never been to before.