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4 PILLARS OF RECOVERY AND A GREAT LIFE

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery /
None but ourselves can free our minds.

–Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”

How to Have Success with the Four Pillars:

You’re reading this because you want to take action in your life. Your time is your most valuable commodity. You came to me for help, and I want you to get as much from this document as possible. So please do yourself the honor of focusing your attention solely on this now.

 

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Give yourself the gift of truly focusing on an area of your life where you want and need to initiate big changes.

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The four pillars of recovery and living a great life are based on everything I have learned over the last five years spent working with people all over the world just like you.

These four pillars are the starting point for your recovery journey. Use the knowledge you will gain here to create the sustainable change that has eluded you for so long. In this document, you will find tools, teachings, and techniques that will help you explore your relationship with yourself and shake yourself free from the shackles of sex addiction and porn addiction.

The tools you will learn are tested and proven to work. Your success is dependent on action, so take action on these tools immediately!

The following four pillars of recovery will empower you to create healthy sexuality.

PILLAR 1:

You must cultivate a practical response to your biologically hardwired triggers.

Your triggers are biologically imprinted. The thoughts that come with them are a result of decades of programming. Neither triggers nor thoughts will go away, so you must use them, put them to work for you instead of against you.

PILLAR 2:

You must energetically connect with the negative parts of yourself to uncover the programming that drives your actions and understand your unmet needs.

Understand where your addicted self came from and connect with that part of yourself. When you are triggered, all the broken parts of yourself take over. Talk to them, find out where they came from and what they need, and then you can begin to plan how you can get those needs met in a healthy, constructive way.

PILLAR 3:

You must practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness comes with understanding your triggers (see pillar 1). You can also practice mindfulness through meditation. Mindfulness counterbalances your negative programming. It gives you back control over what you are thinking and what you are doing, allowing you to step back and take space from your triggers and thoughts so that you can manage them on your terms. The science is overwhelming – mindfulness is life changing.

PILLAR 4:

You must create a personal infrastructure that’s guaranteed to produce the outcomes you seek.

Once you are aware, connected, more mindful, you can dive deep into what you really want in life, how you’re going to get it, and what to do if you hit challenges and roadblocks along the way. You are your most important project—always remember that!

Now it’s time to dive deep into each of these pillars so you can begin to take action toward full recovery.

PILLAR 1:

You must cultivate a practical response to your biologically hardwired triggers.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

–Viktor E. Frankl

I recall driving home from my therapist’s office in the San Francisco Bay area to my home in Rocklin, and passing by the old “exits” and feeling that old “pull”—you know the pull I’m talking about (the pull to drive off the highway for sex and drugs). Consider that I had just gotten out of an inpatient drug facility. I was also about to get fired from my job. In my head, I was thinking,

My wife is gone.

My kids hate me.

I am a shitty father.

I’m not living up to my obligations.

I had tried to kill myself only weeks before.

And there I was, getting triggered to do all the bad shit I didn’t want to keep on doing.

What kind of sicko gets triggered when his life is crumbling all around him?

The thing is, this just proves how much our triggers are hardwired into us.

They aren’t going away. So you must change your relationship with them.

Stop feeling hopeless or sorry for yourself.

It’s not all doom and gloom from here. That is absolutely not the case. When you learn and practice mindfulness, you become hyperaware of what’s going on and how your triggers, thoughts, and resulting actions are all linked.

When you get triggered (and you will, again, and again, and again—that’s just how triggers
work), you will know not to feel like a piece of crap, because you’re human.

Your triggers are part of who you are, so you have to quit the shame. They are carved into your
biological makeup and have been wired into you over most of the course of your life.

Since they aren’t going anywhere, you’re going to have to learn to use your triggers and make them
work for you instead of against you. I’m going to teach you how you can use them to drive positive
results when they hit you.

I’ve been really successful in my recovery and in my life, but I still get triggered. There is no magic immunity pill. We just have to do the work. I was recently on the Steve Harvey Show. Biggest platform of my life, two million people watching. I’m being escorted onstage to my seat. I’m feeling important, significant. I am rehearsed and ready to go. I’m on. I look out into the audience and I spot this blonde woman and I say to myself, “Oh, there’s a prostitute.” What? Where did that come from? Now, the old Craig Perra would have felt like garbage. This compulsive sexualizing behavior would have tainted the whole event. But I had the tools, saw exactly what was going on, and was able to diffuse it. We’ll talk more about this soon when we get to pillar 2. But right now, the important thing is to understand that even if you’re “recovered,” the triggers stay with you. Always.

So how to address these triggers and where they take you? As I said earlier, your triggers lead to thoughts, which lead to actions—these are inextricably linked. Trigger (energy shift in the body from positive to negative) > Thought (that voice in your head) > Action (what you do in response) equals something I call your habit cycle. Your habit cycle is the same all the time. It repeats again and again. The only way to hack it and change is it to get inside it and fully understand how it operates.

Think of a trigger that you’ve had recently. Maybe you’re walking down the street. Thinking you’re not gonna be triggered, not gonna do “the thing.” Boom! There it is, and you feel that energy shift in your body from positive to negative. Then the thoughts come. “You piece of shit. You’re worthless.” “Look at those tits. Look at that ass. How many dicks has she sucked?” Sorry for being crass here, but you’ve got to connect and be real with the voices in your head, no matter what they’re saying, no matter how crude or negative they are. You’ve got to pull that part of you from your subconscious into the light of consciousness. We’ll get to that more in pillar 2. Once these thoughts come, and these voices speak, you are moved to take action. Usually this means engaging in the addictive/compulsive behavior you’re trying to stop. But starting right now, you’re going to hack your habit cycle and learn from it so you can begin to make a shift.

Trigger: I trip on the sidewalk outside walking into the coffee shop (energy shifts in the
body from positive to negative).

Thoughts: You clumsy idiot. Moron. Stupid. Everyone’s looking at you, you fool.

Then action: For addicts, this is usually more self-deprecation that ultimately leads to
acting out.

Over the next seven days, you’re going to write all of this down as it applies to you. And each time you have a negative thought, you are going to declare it wrong, and replace it with the “right” thought. I call this exercise Wrong Thought Right, and this is a key component of cognitive behavioral therapy. The goal is to interrupt the negative thought and create “space” around it so that you can see it objectively and change it. Wrong Thought Right is your space-creating tool.

By using this exercise, you are in fact practicing mindfulness. You will mind and record your triggers and your responses and actions, and then deal with your negative thoughts in a positive way. If you can do this to the best of your ability for seven days, you will start to become successful in hacking your habit cycle. This isn’t going to get rid of the triggers or the thoughts that drive your addiction—we’ve already established that these aren’t going away, and the more you try to push them out, the more power they will have. But by acknowledging your negative thoughts and creating space between those thoughts and your actions, you can achieve In-the-Moment Mindfulness™, through which you can then make healthier choices about how you act on these things.

You’re going to use your triggers and negative thoughts to wake up instead of allowing them to consume you. You will see how your triggers and thoughts plug in to your addictive habits. When you begin attaching the “right” thoughts to your negative ones, you will be able to make a new choice about which habit follows your triggers. This is how you cultivate that practical response to your hardwired triggers—what this first pillar is all about.

Will this work 100 percent of the time? No. Are there other tools you need to learn and master? Yes. We cover this in incredible detail in our One on One Coaching and the Mindful Habit® Online Group Coaching Program for Sex and Porn Addicts. But this will definitely help you to interrupt your habit cycle. Don’t focus on your addiction during the seven days you’re doing this exercise (or at all, really—the addiction is just a symptom of something broken at the root). Rather, focus on your thoughts, that self-deprecating voice in your head telling you that you’re not good enough to do better or telling you to act out. Who is that voice in your head, exactly? Asking this question brings us to pillar 2.

l
Two books really changed my outlook and I would like to highlight them here. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg is a great read on the science behind habits. What really got me about this book was seeing in print, in front of my face, that my triggers won’t ever go away, and the science to back that up. The other book is Breaking the Cycle by George Collins. George was at one point my therapist, and he was the first therapist I saw who did not subscribe to the disease-based model of addiction. He is one of the people who introduced me to mindfulness and the accompanying tools. His book profoundly changed the way I viewed my porn and sex addictions. I highly recommend reading both books.

PILLAR 2:

You must energetically connect with the negative parts of yourself to uncover the programming that drives your actions and understand your unmet needs.

No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.

–Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

We’ve gone pretty deep into Trigger > Thought > Action in pillar 1. Now we are going to focus on the negative thoughts in your head. Who exactly is behind that voice crapping all over you and telling you to act out in ways that you know will make your life worse? Where did those thoughts come from—or more specifically, from whom? Because you’ve got to realize that we are all made up of different influences, different characters that come out based on our experiences. When you are triggered, a part of you that psychologists label as your subpersonality is awakened. This subpersonality has needs, wishes, and desires that are sometimes in conflict with what you believe you want and even who you believe you are.

Sometimes the power of this subpersonality to get his/her way outright destroys you—this is the secret undercurrent of addiction. To address this, you must connect with the parts of you (there can be more than one subpersonality) that you can’t control, can’t stand, wish you could do away with—the worst versions of yourself. These are the parts of you that you need to love, because love’s absence is driving your addiction.

As you begin to record your triggers and your thoughts these next seven days, start to ask yourself, Whose thought is that? Who said that? Where is this voice really coming from?

Your subpersonalities are fractured parts of yourself that were born to help you to cope with some sort of pain or difficulty at some point in your life. Generally speaking, subpersonalities come out to ask that our unmet needs be met—to find a way to meet these unmet needs, even if you’re not aware of them or what they might be. Your ”addict self” is a subpersonality, trying to grab hold of whatever it is he or she can through porn, sex—you name it—to fill this emptiness where certain needs have never been met.

And as much as you might love to murder that addicted part of yourself and have been trying everything in your power to put him down, ignore him, disown him, I am here to tell you that you must do the opposite. Only by connecting, listening to, accepting, honoring, and loving your subpersonalities can you hope to find your way to recovery. This journey is not about being at war with yourself, but about making peace and building awareness.

So how do you connect with your subpersonalities and their unmet needs? I’ve already asked you to record your thoughts, triggers, and actions and use Wrong Thought Right as described in pillar 1. Now, with this pillar, I’m going to give you another exercise: the Voice Dialogue. (I didn’t say this would be easy!) You are going to use the Voice Dialogue exercise to essentially talk to that part of yourself that is driving your addictive behavior. Let’s call that aspect of yourself “Addict” for now. This is the part of you who cannot stop doing “the thing” that you so badly want to stop doing. Think about it this way—if you and all of your actions were self-contained into one “you,” there would be no issues of addiction or self-control; you are here reading this document because you want help, because there is another part of you that you cannot control—your addict subpersonality. Now, you are going to learn from him, understand him, instead of fight him or stuff him down. I want you to close your eyes and picture Addict. I want you to get as clear a picture in your mind’s eye as you can muster. Once Addict is in sight, you are going to have a conversation. And in this conversation, your mission is to answer two vital questions:

 

1. Where did you come from?

2. What do you need?

Most people hate the addict within them, but when they start to track their thoughts and triggers and personify and speak to this fractured-off part of themselves and ask these questions, they are invariably taken back to childhood. Because Addict came from somewhere, he grew, he evolved. Yet you hate this part of yourself. That has to change.

The unmet needs I mentioned earlier are imprinted into the child who is always with you, part of you, wherever you go. I’m not here to play shrink. We’re not here to blame your parents. But we are here to uncover where Addict came from. We’re here to look at your programming and become fully aware of what’s really going on when you cannot stop watching porn or engaging in other compulsive sexual behaviors.

What you are doing is not nearly as important as where it comes from. Psychologists call this your family of origin, or root cause. This is where you will find the keys that will set you free. Maybe you’ve experienced some form of physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse. Maybe you were neglected. Maybe there were other incidents in your early life that invoked guilt or shame. Something at your root broke you down.

Ask yourself, ask Addict,

 

Why are you not good enough?

Why do you need to numb out or escape to cope?

Why can’t you be a better version of yourself?

 

Every time you have a trigger and the following negative energy shift and negative thought, Addict pushes you toward the thing you don’t want to do. If you look closely, your triggers are related to those feelings you had as a kid—they invoke the same emotions.

You can’t handle them, so Addict takes over the reins and helps you escape with whatever substance or activity is your thing.

Well, now you are going to get to know Addict, and know it’s his voice chiming in when you are triggered and you have those thoughts. You’re going to dialogue with yourself to learn what Addict needs so that you can begin to bring all of the tools I teach you together to create a new path toward getting those needs met—one that doesn’t involve the addictive behavior that’s ruining your life.

I do the Voice Dialogue exercise often, repeatedly responding to that voice in my head, stepping back and becoming mindful of what that part of me really wants and needs.

The more you do this, the more you will be able to cultivate a healthy response to your triggers. Remember, the voices aren’t going to go away. The triggers aren’t going to go away. I am living proof of this.

Even when things are going awesome for you again (and they will get back on track if you do the work!), you will still get triggered.

Ultimately, when you use the Voice Dialogue and appeal to your Addict self, you will find that Addict is simply a mask worn by that little boy or girl inside you who is unable to practice or feel self-love. You won’t attach to the triggers anymore, because you’ll know that at the heart of them is that little boy who was abused, that little girl who was never good enough or smart enough, that piece of you that felt hurt or inadequate.

Going forward, we’re going to talk about how you can operationalize and begin to practice love for yourself so that these hidden needs can finally be met in a healthy way.

PILLAR 3:

You must practice mindfulness.

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.

–Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

We’ve already talked a fair amount about mindfulness, and it’s part of the exercises you’ve learned in pillars 1 and 2, but it really is a pillar of its own.

Mindfulness has become one of the most effective behavior change modalities on the planet. It is changing the way we are being treated for depression, anxiety, PTSD, compulsive behaviors, and even chronic pain.

In the Mindful Habit® System, we promote three kinds of mindfulness.

1. In-the-Moment Mindfulness™

2. Walking Mindfulness

3. Mindfulness Through Meditation

1. In-the-Moment Mindfulness™

The first is In-the-Moment Mindfulness™, which you learned about in pillar 1. You can accomplish this by using the Trigger > Thought > Action formula and the Wrong Thought Right protocol—when you are observing and shifting your thoughts, you are in fact practicing this kind of mindfulness.

The more you do it, the better at it you get, the easier it gets, and the more you are able to mindfully change your thoughts and the subsequent actions.

2. Walking Mindfulness

The second form of mindfulness we teach is called “walking mindfulness”—essentially, this means paying attention in an acute way to what you are doing.

When you walk, just walk. When you talk, just talk. When you eat, just eat. And so on. The idea here is to learn to be present with whatever you are doing. I teach lots of techniques in this area and if you want more information I encourage you to check out my online program.

3. Mindfulness Through Meditation

The third form of mindfulness we teach is mindfulness through meditation. In my opinion, this is mandatory and it will change your life. Every mindfulness study that pops up online talks about creating a “sitting mindfulness practice,” or what’s commonly known as meditation. This form of mindfulness is changing the way we treat mental illness in this country and is fundamental to any recovery plan. Period.

Many people struggle with meditation and feel overwhelmed by it, but we are going to get you meditating!

The key is really very simple. All you have to do is breathe.

You’re thinking, Really, that’s it? Come on! Yeah, really, that’s it.

The concept of sitting and focusing on the breath as a way of relaxing, emptying the mind, and focusing on the present has been around for thousands of years. It is a scientific fact that cultivating the habit of sitting and meditating, following the breath, will profoundly change your life. Literally, this practice changes the gray matter in your brain.

Here are two suggestions for how you can begin a very simple meditation practice starting right now:

1. Practice the Mindful Minute™

I want you to take one minute—that’s it, just one minute—and cease all other activity. For 60 seconds, you are going to count your breaths. That’s all you have to do. We call this the Mindful Minute. It’s designed to be ridiculously easy, so that it can support your building a mini-habit, which will eventually become a more substantial habit. It’s all about you and your breath for that one minute, nothing else.

When you first try this, you might not even be able to reach a count of 5. Your mind will wander, but I want you to try and fight through and see if you can count your breaths for the full 60 seconds without losing focus. You are going to be surprised at how quickly and aggressively your chattering mind will try to take over. Let this be a barometer for where you are in terms of mindfulness. If you can’t get to a 2 or 3 count, you’ve got a lot of work to do, my friend. But you can do it!

Cultivating this practice can change your life. I know that it can be very difficult to sit with yourself and your breath and nothing else, especially when you have that self-loathing Addict inside of you, the voice you try to push away and avoid listening to. But these four pillars and the Mindful Habit® System are all about becoming more connected with yourself, and therefore more whole, instead of fighting an internal battle that you will never be able to win. That’s why you need to do this. You will thank me if you keep at it, I promise.

2. Download a Mindfulness App

Recently there has been a groundswell of apps and other tools that are centered around learning and practicing meditation. Some are free, and some cost a few dollars a month for a subscription. If you are intimidated by meditation and struggling with it, or even if you want to learn more and go deeper, I encourage you to explore and use some of the amazing tools that are just a few mouse clicks or phone swipes away.

Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer are all great apps with solid people who run them. They offer great guided meditations and intro meditations to help get you practicing with more confidence. These apps can definitely help if you’re having a tough time with the Mindful Minute. You can also use YouTube as a valuable resource for learning more about mindfulness and meditation and finding guided meditation practices, too. Dr. Jon Kabat- Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is often seen as the master of bringing mindfulness to the Western attention span. He is all over YouTube. Do a search for him, and see where that takes you.

When it comes to mindfulness and meditation, you’re going to get frustrated at first. But remember, there is no such thing as failure here. There are no judgments. There is no “doing it wrong.” It is a journey, a process. Have a little fun with it. Make it a friendly competition with yourself to see if you can progress a little further than you went yesterday. If you commit to working on this even for just a few minutes each day, practicing mindfulness and meditation will change your life. Mindfulness is an absolutely critical pillar of your success. Once again, I will tell you that I “walk the talk”—I am living proof of its efficacy. I have triggers, negative thoughts, and medical issues that require a high level of personal infrastructure (see pillar 4, below). But if I use the concepts in pillars 1 (cultivating a practical response to my hardwired triggers), 2 (energetically connecting with the parts of myself that lack control or feel they aren’t good enough), and 3 (practicing mindfulness through the exercises in pillar 1 and through regular meditation) I can counterbalance the crazy. And so can you!

PILLAR 4:

You must create a personal infrastructure that’s guaranteed to produce the outcomes you seek.

A clear vision, backed by definite plans, gives you a tremendous feeling of confidence and personal power.

–Brian Tracy, The Gift of Self-Confidence

The actions you take are the life you make. If you want to be healthy and kick ass in life there are absolutely certain actions that you must perform if you want to be successful. Remember, to break a habit you have to make a habit, and building positive habits around self-care is critical.

When it comes to the stuff you’re learning as you go through these four pillars, you’ve got to make sure you follow the rules.

So how can you ensure success in your recovery journey?

By taking action, over and over again, and by insisting on making yourself accountable by using what I call a system of personal infrastructure.

The Mindful Habit® System’s “action” phase begins with the creation of four important documents:

1. Strategic plan (What do you want, and why?)

2. Tactical plan (How do you get there? What milestones are you looking to reach, by when?)

3. Dashboard plan (Includes the Fundamental Five—eating, sleeping, drinking, exercise, mindfulness. This is your checklist for how you are going to honor yourself. Also part of this are the six key life areas—career, finances, health, hobbies, relationships, and spirituality.)

4. Risk management/trigger plan (How are you going to manage difficult challenges? How will you respond to your triggers? What will you do if you fall off course?)

Consider the four documents together as a sort of “life portfolio.” This is your personal infrastructure—the input that you need to create the output you seek. If you are at all familiar with project management, you know that big projects require significant human capital, financial and company resources, etc. Certain documents have to be prepared and cleared before work commences so everyone knows what direction the project needs to take. Your “life portfolio” is the equivalent of this, except becoming the best version of yourself is the project! Without a plan, you are doomed to fall back into tired old habits. It’s not your fault, that’s just how habits work.

Your personal infrastructure acts to counterbalance the facts that your triggers are biologically hardwired; your negative and addictive thoughts are the product of decades of programming and aren’t going away; and life is fucking hard. There’s no getting around it—if you want to be successful, you must have a personal infrastructure. All of this is covered in step-by-step detail in the 175-page workbook that is included as part of the Mindful Habit® Online Group Coaching Program for Sex and Porn Addicts and our One on One Coaching.

For our purposes right now, I’m only going to delve into the first of these documents, the strategic plan. Believe it or not, this is one of the hardest exercises for my clients.

To stare yourself in the face and realize you’re not where you want to be in your life is hard, my friends. And it brings the fear. But you have the tools to tackle this. So you’re going to create your strategic plan by asking yourself these questions:

1. Look at your life and ask yourself, What is it that I want to accomplish? What is it that I really want in this life? What do I want my life to look like 6 months from now? A year from now? Five? Ten?

2. Why? Why do I want this? (This is a tricky one, because it often triggers people. But
when you are aware and connected and you’ve connected with your subpersonalities and cultivated practical responses to your triggers, you can answer truthfully why you want what you want out of this life.)

When you know what you seek to accomplish and what you want your life to look like, and understand why you’re driven to do it, you’ve got your strategic plan. From here you can begin to take action and be accountable.

SUMMARY:

PILLAR 1:

You must cultivate a practical response to your biologically hardwired triggers.

Your triggers are biologically imprinted. The thoughts that come with them are a result of decades of programming. Neither triggers nor thoughts are going away, so you must use them, put them to work for you instead of against you. Use Wrong Thought Right to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Anchor new habits to the new thoughts to free yourself from your old addictive habits. Break habits by creating new ones. If you continue buying into your negative thoughts and hating yourself when you are triggered, you will continue to fail.

PILLAR 2:

You must energetically connect with the negative parts of yourself to uncover the programming that drives your actions and understand your unmet needs.

Understand where your addicted self came from and connect with that part of yourself, with all the broken parts of yourself that take over when you are triggered. Talk to them, find out where they came from and what they need, and then you can begin to plan how you can get those needs met in a healthy, constructive way. All of your negative behavior, your addictive behavior, is a function of these unmet needs. Often, at the root is a lack of self-love.

PILLAR 3:

You must practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness comes with dismantling your triggers as described in pillar 1. There is also mindfulness through meditation. Learn to sit and breathe. Use the Mindful Minute exercise to count your breaths and try to stay with yourself in the present. Once you can do a minute, do two. Add more as you get comfortable. Use the apps available to you, too—Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer are all good ones. Mindfulness counterbalances the negative programming that brought you to this place. It gives you back control over what you are thinking and what you are doing in those weak moments. It allows you to have space from your triggers and thoughts so that you can manage them on your terms.

PILLAR 4:

You must create a personal infrastructure that’s guaranteed to produce the outcomes you seek.

Once you are aware, connected, more mindful, you can dive deep into what you really want in life, how you’re going to get it, what to do if you hit challenges and roadblocks along the way. Ask yourself what you want and why, and come up with your strategic plan. Build an actionable life portfolio that you can follow and tweak as you go. You are your most important project—always remember that! And as you measure your successes, you will gain confidence, which will lead to more successes, snowballing you into becoming the best version of yourself you can imagine.

Craig's Bio

I’m a former executive, an attorney to billion-dollar U.S. companies, and I have served in legal, compliance, project management, and other business positions. My successful executive career helped me as I transitioned into becoming a life coach and the founder of the Mindful Habit® System six years ago. The Mindful Habit® System revolution is now spreading like wildfire and I am honored and privileged to be a part of it. I’ve been on the Katie Couric Show, the Steve Harvey Show, Good Day Sacramento, Lifetime, and more. I’ve currently got clients in over 24 countries—executives, pro athletes, musicians, actors, men and women seeking real and quick results. I’m also a certified and registered yoga instructor—if you wish to cover mind, body, and spirit all at once, yoga is your ticket and I can’t recommend it enough. You’ve probably seen from my website and/or my TrustPilot page (kind of the Yelp for service providers) that I have an “Excellent” rating from people I have coached, and I now have a program for training other coaches, counselors, and therapists as well. All this is to say that I must be doing something right, and that it’s ok for you to trust me.

But the most important thing you should know about me is that I am an addict, too. I’ve struggled with drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, to the point where I came close to losing everything. Six years ago I was unemployed, hooked on sex and drugs, having an affair with a prostitute, a shitty father, and on the brink of divorce. I had lost hope, because I had tried literally everything that’s out there that claimed to be able to fix me. I tried twelve-step programs. I tried EMDR. I tried more traditional psychotherapy. Nothing ever completely worked, and I felt like I was a failure, like it was my fault, like I was doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

I had tried to kill myself. I went to an inpatient mental health addiction facility. I was out of my mind. And eventually, of course, I got fired from my job.

When I called counselors for help, they told me to go back to twelve-step meetings. At this time, I also started to learn more about addiction treatments, and found some information that shocked me and changed my life. There is a large body of evidence that programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have a success rate as low as 5-10 percent. Dr. Lance Dodes documents this in his groundbreaking book The Sober Truth: Debunking the Bad Science Behind 12-Step Programs and the Rehab Industry, which I highly recommend if you want to learn more on the subject. Did you know that Bill W., the founder of AA, struggled with addiction until the day he died, when in fact his nicotine habit killed him? Did you know that Bill is called the original “13 stepper” (one who sleeps with vulnerable women who are struggling through a twelve-step program)? I was shocked that AA didn’t even work for its founder and first adopter. Can you imagine? How could I stake my wife and kids and our future on 5-10 percent?

I continued to do my research, and found that there is a movement toward challenging the disease-based model of addiction that programs like AA adhere to. I read Mark Lewis’s The Biology of Desire, which addresses how addiction is in fact NOT a disease. Lewis tells us that there is actually long-term harm that comes from identifying one’s addicted self as someone having a disease. I learned that surrendering to this so-called illness and feeling powerless against it wasn’t what I needed, and that that there was plenty of evidence to support that this simply doesn’t help people.

Studying the science of habits changed everything for me and led to a cascade of “aha!” moments. According to scientists at Duke University, we repeat 47 percent of our thoughts and actions in the same way we did them the previous day. We cannot function without habits, so based on this theory of repetition, you can’t break a habit unless you replace it with a new one. You have to do something else. Learning the intricacies of how habits are formed completely opened my eyes to a whole new series of tools and techniques.

Discovering the impact of habits on our lives naturally led to me to the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness plus action equals behavior change. This is what I now teach and what I have built my coaching success on. When you stop and really see yourself and what you are doing in the moment, you can course-correct and choose an action rather than doing the same ones that have been running your life into the ground. Breaking habits is about taking action—new action chosen from a mindful vantage point.

Figuring this out is what changed everything for me. For decades I was taught that to fix my behavior I had to focus on not doing the negative things I was doing. This only made the bad behavior into something to demonize and avoid and it made me feel like a failure when I was helpless to not keep going back to it. When I shifted the focus from “bad behavior” to “habit” and used mindfulness and everything I learned about the science of habit, I was able to change and I broke free of the addictive behavior that it seemed nothing could cure. And I broke free of the “addict mindset” as well—a hamster wheel of self-loathing that only results in you going back to your old addictive bullshit time and time again. At the other side of this journey I realized I could help others like me, and that felt far more in line with my current passions and sense of purpose than my old corporate-exec life. So in my desire to be the best life coach on the planet, I built and produced the Mindful Habit® System, which is what brought you here.