My guest John Flaherty is an is an expert in the field of addiction and considered an experienced teacher of emotional and spiritual wellbeing. He has helped and inspired many people in different parts of the world to be free of their addictive behaviours and to live a more fulfilled existence. After 11 years as a Catholic priest, John made a decision to leave and start his own journey of self-discovery. Further academic studies gained him a B.A Honors in Theology from Leeds University England and a Masters in Drug & Alcohol Policy from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.
”We don’t need to stop at dependency to get back to who we areJohn Flaherty
In our discussion, we spoke about discovering your true self. But before we get onto this I wanted to mention a theory that John introduces on the show. This is a theory about how our brains develop when we are born and how the development of our brain affects our dependence. He suggests before a baby reaches 2 years old they have around 10 billion neural connections that when stimulated exchange information. That’s around 1.8 million synapses being formed per second. But then a critical process of pruning occurs which takes place when the child is between 2–4 years old. In this process, 50% of the neurons and the synaptic junctions begin to break away or strengthen; within a negative environment, the pathways that are formed tend to be unfavourable, unlike positive environments where healthy neurological pathways would be created. This factor contributes to how our reality is formed. So if you think of a child that has grown up around the chaos addiction causes, it goes without saying that the neural pathways would be unfavourable. For children, the world is either marvellous and wonderful or scary and unstable.
John goes on to explain that no matter our background, status or class, we as individuals know deep down that there is more to life than the current experience that has led us to the use addictive substances. “Even the substance use itself is a longing for more.” But often we don’t have anyone to give us the affirmation and validation that show us we are more. John’s book helps you discover your true self and what you desire. John contests that we have been programmed and conditioned to adopt limiting beliefs. But we have to understand that addiction is not a fight or battle; if we frame it like this it becomes so much harder work. I feel like our dependency on a drugs is merely a stop off on our journey to finding and then becoming our best self. It’s actually understanding we have got lost and need to reclaim the fullness and completeness of ourselves.
”Numb the pain of being kept so smallJohn Flaherty
We can complete this journey by using many of the tools we talk about on this show such as meditation, journaling, and therapy. We can learn to rewire any neural pathways that have been formed around addiction. This process is called neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. It allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate and to adjust their activities in response to their environment.
But I’m afraid to do this?
As we have spoken about this before on the show, it can be a scary process. Sometimes we feel if we go and develop self-awareness or look inside there is bad stuff there and the reason I am using this substance is to hide the bad stuff. This is why therapy can be extremely effective because it is nonjudgmental and when you unwrap your “demons” or the bad parts of yourself within the counselling environment and another person (the counsellor) accepts those traits (unfavourable neural pathways), then you may start to forgive and accept yourself. You become less dependent as a result of this and move towards greater emotional independence. After a high dosage of patience and courage, you can start to grow from here and develop your inner confidence.
”Life does not judgeJohn Flaherty