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Addiction Recovery Strategies: The Ulysses Contract

It’s nothing new that staying sober is much easier than getting sober. When you go to treatment, you’re given many coping skills to manage triggers and cravings, but a great way to develop better habits is to create what’s known as a Ulysses Contract. This is something that’s discussed in best-selling books like Atomic Habits and many others. Not only do best-sellers write about how this strategy works, but it’s been proven time and time again in various psychological research studies on willpower and habit formation. 

What is the Ulysses Contract?

You may have heard of the Greek myth The Odyssey, which is about the adventures of Ulysses. In one part of the myth, Ulysses and his crew are going to need to sail pass Sirens. These mythical sea creatures sing a song that hypnotizes whoever hears it, and then the ship ends up crashing into the shore. Ulysses knew they were going to have to do something. So, Ulysses had his crew put wax in their ears, but Ulysses wanted to hear the Sirens. He had his crew tie him to the mast, so he couldn’t jump into the sea, and he told them to not change course under any circumstance. 

Ulysses survived this potentially fatal voyage by putting obstacles between him and what could take control over him, and that’s how they came up with the name of the Ulysses Contract. Psychologists, therapists, and habit experts have people come up with their own Ulysses Contract when they’re trying to form new habits and break old habits. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier, you don’t keep any sweets in your house, so it would take additional effort to eat unhealthy food. When it comes to addiction recovery, you can do the same thing. 

The Science of the Ulysses Contract

Dr. Roy Baumeister is a leading psychologist due to his breakthrough studies on willpower. He found what is now known as “ego depletion”, which means that we lose willpower when we’re regularly tempted. This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to have a Ulysses Contract in your recovery so you can put obstacles between yourself and drugs or alcohol. If you keep alcohol in your house, it may be fine for a while, but over time, your willpower will begin to be depleted. You can also set up Ulysses Contracts by making it more difficult to contact your old dealers by deleting their numbers out of your phone. Without the ease of access, you’d have to take more steps to get drugs than you would if you had the number readily available in your phone. 

Build a Strong Support Group

At Enlightened Solutions, we know the importance of having a support group in your recovery. A great way to maintain your Ulysses Contract is to work with others in recovery who are doing the same. You can help hold each other accountable while also checking in on one another. Part of your contract may be separating yourself from old friends who you used to get high or drunk with, so it’ll be extremely helpful to have a strong support group by your side. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact Enlightened Solutions today at 833-233-7336.

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