The OPEN Path
Relapse is common because we are all vulnerable to the Soul Illusion: During high-risk situations we will not be as motivated to avoid lapsing as we are now. This is not a problem for followers of the Impeccable Path, because they do not have to make plans. They have no choices other than rigid adherence to their commitment. The OPEN Path is more complicated.
To follow the OPEN Path you would develop an Implementation Intention such as, "When I encounter high-risk situation X, I will execute tactic Y." You have to exercise your will to carry out your plan, and then, like a scientist, you would observe what happens. If you get the expected outcome, you are on the right track. Congratulations! However, if things did not work out as you expected, nature is telling you that cause-and-effect play out differently than you thought, and you must modify your plan to account for this new knowledge. Then, you would execute the new plan and be open to the feedback nature gives you, and so forth. Over time you will develop a more sophisticated understanding of cause-and-effect in your universe and a progressively more realistic and effective set of coping tactics.
The OPEN Path refers to: Outcome, Plan, Execute, Nurture:
1. Choose an Outcome you want.
2. Develop a Plan to achieve it.
3. Execute the plan.
4. Nurture your understanding through observation and modify the plan accordingly. Go back to step #3.
Example of H's plan: "At the wedding reception, whenever I think of drinking alcohol, I will take a sip of club soda and focus on my family." Later, he will review his observations, asking himself: "What can I learn from this experience?" "What helped and what did not?"
The Truth Will Set You Free!
The objective of the OPEN Path is to improve your understanding of cause-and-effect through observation. If your predictions were good enough for you to create a plan that worked well, congratulate yourself, and note what you did that was effective. Success has a lot of information value: There are many ways to fail, but few ways to succeed.
However, if things did not go as predicted, nature has taught you something you did not know before. The task now is to appreciate that you received something of value, rather than a rebuke, and use this new information to improve your understanding so you can modify your plan accordingly. You might make some adjustments or abandon the tactic completely in favor of a different approach. As you continue to accept natural feedback and use it to improve your coping abilities, you will become progressively more effective.
The follower of the OPEN Path seeks truth as revealed by observation. Personal experiments are conducted primarily to ask a question of nature and receive an answer. These experiments are risky. Unexpected results are common; if we knew what would work we would not have to do the experiment.
Performing these experiments requires courage. Unfortunately, many people with addictive disorders are relentless promoters of self-hate. The inevitable setbacks and hard times are taken as proof of their intrinsic worthlessness or of the hopelessness of their situation. The solution to this problem is presented in the next blog entry.