When we opened the Kiloby Center in Palm Springs, we quickly learned of all the regulations that apply to any addiction treatment or substance center in California. One of the regulations requires the Center to measure, in a quantifiable or objective way, the results or success of a particular program. The kind of inquiry we do is very organic, free-flowing, and intuitive. In general, while doing this work online, we have resisted any notion of “measuring results” because it can lead a person to believe that recovery is about getting somewhere, to some goal. The goal then becomes primary, instead of allowing the inquiry to be “living” and in the moment.
With these regulations in place, we have had to readjust our approach somewhat, including devising what we call the Compulsion Scale. We believe we have devised a scale that can be used as a guideline, rather than a goal.
The Compulsion Scale (which is used at the Center but not necessarily by facilitators working online) is a scale from 0 to 5 which allows a person to self-monitor his or her degree of craving for an addictive substance or activity in any moment. Here’s how the scale breaks down:
0-1 – “I have no desire or urge at all.”
2-3 – “I feel relaxed around the urge but it’s still there. At some point, I feel as if I will have to give in to the urge.”
4-5 – “I have a strong urge. I want to use right now.”
What the scale is really measuring is the degree of velcro in any given moment. With this work, the Velcro Effect is the experience of thoughts (i.e., words or mental pictures”) feeling stuck or velcroed to bodily energies (i.e., sensations or emotions). Essentially, the more bodily energy that one experiences with addictive thoughts, the stronger the velcro, and therefore the stronger the urge.
After some resistance to using such a scale, we have found at the Center that the scale can be helpful for several reasons. First, we find that many people who have been addicted to a substance or activity for a long time don’t even know what it feels like to be at 0 – 1. They live in a state in which the compulsion is almost always there to some degree (at a 2 or higher). Using the inquiries (especially the Compulsion Inquiry) we can fairly easily bring someone’s craving level down to a 0 to 1 so that they can feel what it’s like to not want to use at all. This helps them notice how Velcro arises in those moments of more intense craving (when they are at a 2, 3, 4, or 5).
Self-deception and complacency are very common with addiction. We have been able to use the Compulsion Scale to help someone notice self-deception when it arises (especially the self-deception or complacency that arises when someone is at a 2 or 3). For example, when one experiences a craving that is around 2 or 3, there is a bit of relaxation with the craving. It doesn’t feel immediately urgent. And that’s often where the self-deception sneaks in. For example, one might have the thought “I can take it or leave it now.” But, a 2 or 3 is not truly a “take it or leave it” experience. It’s more like the experience of feeling relaxed and non-urgent while the compulsion is still there, just a bit dormant. When this is noticed, a person can inquire more deeply into the urge, bringing it naturally down to a “true” take it or leave it, which is 0 to 1.
We’ve also been able to use the Compulsion Scale to help people notice that when the substance or activity is not available (e.g., the liquor stores are all closed) the brain produces less or no urges for alcohol. This can result in a 0 to 3 on the scale. But that 0 to 3 is not happening because the compulsion has actually been released. It’s just that the substance is not available. This helps clients see the self-deception happening when the mind tries to tell the story, “I have little or no urge right now” but the real reason there is little to no urge has to do with the lack of accessibility to the substance.
The Compulsion Scale has also been helpful to show people how to inquire when they are at a 4 to 5. These are intense cravings. There is sometimes very little openness to using the Compulsion Inquiry in these moments because the craving “takes the person over.” It’s like being on autopilot. Having the person notice that craving is at a 4 or 5 can help them wake up out of the autopilot trance for a moment and begin inquiring, and thereby reducing the craving to a 2 or lower.
We have found at the Center that when people finish our program, their craving level, on the whole, is around 0 to 1. This is ideal as they make their way back home to face all the usual triggers.
If you find this scale useful, you can begin using it. But the key is not to get lost in the measuring, not to bog yourself down with deciding where you are on the scale. You’ll get used to feeling what a 4 or 5 is like and what a 0 or 1 is like. If you use the scale, simply give your present craving a value from 0 to 5. When you are at 4 to 5, automatically go into inquiry right then. When you find yourself down to 2 or 3, watch for self-deception and complacency. Continue inquiring. People sometimes stop inquiring when they are at a 2 or 3 because of self-deception or complacency.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is not to use the Compulsion Scale as a way to keep reaching for the goal of 0 to 1. This is a subtle but important distinction. The Compulsion Scale is more like a guideline for how a present craving actually feels (i.e., “what is its intensity?”). When used as a guideline, it merely acts to help you have the openness to use the Compulsion Inquiry. Our work is primarily about presently looking into your experience in a way that naturally results in a reduction in cravings. Any time you are trying to force yourself down to 0 or 1, relax. Take a few moments of rest. Notice that there isn’t anywhere to go. The point, ultimately, is not to force yourself down to a 0 or 1. The point is just to remain open to looking with the Compulsion Inquiry at what is actually presently arising in terms of a craving.