I call the subconscious the tape recorder because it makes it easy to start understanding what that part of our consciousness is about. I say “start understanding” because we still do not have much of an idea about what really goes on up there. We know that we can recall events that the tape recorder stored from our past. We know that we can program the tape recorder, fill it with whatever we choose. Want to be a musician? Fill up with all the information that is needed to play the instrument of your choosing. Learn to read music, for example, and you have that stored forever. There are multitudes of examples. Ride a two-wheeler twenty years after the last time, and what do you know? You still can! We are also capable of changing old programming that no longer works for us. With addiction, changing the programming is critical. If we do not change the way we have programmed or conditioned our behavior, we are unable to begin to recover our lives, our souls, our control over ourselves. It is crucial to reprogram, for we live the effects of our thinking. Old thinking keeps you in old ways. We must be committed to this most important challenge. We must save ourselves. Whatever it takes, commit to changing the behavior you programmed to get you where you are, where you do not want to be, where you do not deserve to be.

You programmed your tape recorder to feel pleasure with each time you repeatedly ingested alcohol or drugs. Repeated programming puts you on autopilot, and autopilot is another name for automatic. For example, pay attention next time you are dressing. You put the same leg in your jeans, the same foot goes first into your shoe, and you start brushing your teeth on the same side. Automatic, autopilot. If you decided to change the way you put your clothes and shoes on, at first it would feel strange, but at some point in time after daily repetition, the new way would become automatic.

Now along come triggers or reminders, and the programmed autopilot wants (actually, desperately wants) to feel that good feeling again.

The trigger just hits the play button, and you do whatever you have done: you use. It is autopilot, which is automatic, mindless, thoughtless, and urgent. Some people think they have no control over these urgent and irresistible urges. They are wrong. True, a tape recorder does have a play button that can be activated by any number of reminders, but it also has a pause button and a stop button as well.

You might not be able to prevent the play button from being activated (that’s reality), but you can choose (here’s that word again) whether or not you will activate the pause button. The pause button can be activated to change the programming, and you must activate it to prevent you from helping this disease to progress, and this is done by interrupting and disrupting the conditioning you have programmed into your brain. How do you create this interruption? Glad you asked. You will become mindful, aware of how you think. You will start to pay attention to your thoughts. You will then be able to recognize the kind of thinking that has this power over your ability to choose what is good for you and instead pushes you to the irrational thinking that has you doing self-harm. You need to begin to replace these proaddiction thoughts with prorecovery thoughts. So the first crucial step is thought recognition. When you recognize a craving thought, and you will, then you must, without hesitation, take a few really slow, deep breaths. Awareness is needed here; this is not just sucking some air into those two holes at the bottom of your nose. This is a real, measurable physical event. You are oxygenating your body and your brain. This is measurable in the slowing of your pulse rate, the lowering of your blood pressure, and most definitely, the uptake in the amount of oxygen in your blood. Every cell in your body and your brain absorbs oxygen for nourishment. It stands to reason, more oxygen means more nourishment. But that is not all a deep breath does. Another thing is that it tends to be calming, yet that is not all. The next thing that deep breathing does is it gives you a nanosecond in time when you can hit that pause button to come off autopilot. When you take those deep breaths and at the same time start programming yourself by saying silently in your head “I control me, I control me,” an interesting thing starts to happen, and hopefully, you already started this lesson from chapter 2. You have created an interruption, and that interruption of the autopilot sends a little shock wave to the tape recorder. Whoa. What just happened here? What happened was you exercised a bit of control. Yes, you controlled you. If you do that over and over again, a whole new programming takes place. This new programming, learning to recognize, learning to take control, takes time and perseverance. But do not wait for a trigger to do this. Start programming. Several times during the day, take a deep breath and silently say “I control me” in your head. Do it five times, six times a day. Just do it. We are programmable, so program!

An interesting fact is, whether you breathe shallow or deep, 40 percent of the oxygen you bring in is used by your brain. Send more of that oxygen upstairs. You will make wiser decisions because you can. You can control your respiration, your relaxation, your thoughts, and your programming. You are amazing! Know it.