BESOCHEMPS: The Five Headed Dragon

Aspects of Addiction

The reason more people aren’t more successful at quitting is that nobody told us that there are five distinct aspects of our addiction that we need to address in order to get free and stay free. If we handle one or two aspects (like most people do) we will get free but we won’t stay free.

Ask yourself how many times have you tried to quit before? Did you focus mostly on the chemical addiction and perhaps the behavioral triggers, and manage to stop? After a few days, a few weeks, or a few months did you slip, cheat, or just cave in? To use the imagery of the five-headed dragon, by defeating a couple heads of the beast, you wounded your foe, but didn’t defeat it. Fear not! This quit attempt can be different. This time you’re going to learn how to deal with all five heads of the dragon so it won’t come back and get you.


First we have to memorize the dragon’s name. Look at it again… BESOCHEMPS. The dragon’s name helps us remember each of the five heads.

The five heads are:

         BEhavioral     SOcial      CHemical    EMotional   PSychological.

A stunning version of BESOCHEMPS, created by the brilliant Santiago Bautista

We call the dragon BESOCHEMPS to help remember all five heads.

We all have a “dragon” if we drink to excess, use illicit drugs, smoke, gamble, etc. Even activities like going on spending binges can create a release of endorphins, which can cause a chemical dependency for some of us.
Your mission is three-fold:

1.) Can you see all five heads of your dragon?

2.) Which one (or two) of the heads are most dominant or prominent?

3.) Can you learn the tools and tricks that give you back your freedom?

Let’s take a closer look at each of the heads:

BE havioral 

The things we do just before we use or while we are using—the triggers—become cues ti use. (Example: Pouring a cup of coffee can trigger a smoker to light another butt, not because they’re addicted to the chemical, but because the ritual or habit has become familiar.)

How you can respond: Starting today, call this kind of want a “trigger.”

• Disassociate the partnered behaviors from using before quit day so that they cease to be triggers to use. For instance, if you’re a smoke and you tend to smoke while drinking a cup of coffee, leave your coffee cup inside when you go outside to smoke. Isolating the using behavior from all pleasurable activities until quit day means that you don’t have to stop the pleasurable activities (coffee) in order to stop smoking.

(Note: Some addictions don’t lend themselves to gradual weaning and must be halted completely and immediately because of imminent danger of a single use.)

• Data collection can help you better understand your using. Try to figure out which head of the dragon is behind each desire to use.

• Doing it differently can help you avoid some triggers. Getting your morning coffee at the drive-thru window can help you avoid the familiar routines that were associated with smoking.

• When you discover that you want a cigarette because of a behavioral trigger, be delighted! Don’t despair. This want is just a trick and you don’t have to fall for it!

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SO cial 

Many social situations (the places and faces) can become triggers that make you want to use.

How you can respond: Starting today, call this kind of want a “trigger.”

• You may need to completely disconnect from some of the people you’ve been spending time with. If you’re going to try to stay in touch with them, some things will need to change. This will disrupt social patterns and you might even inspire your friend to try to quit!

• Change the place where you and your buddy meet, at least for a few weeks, to disassociate the social situations from smoking. Perhaps going out to the movies would be an easier substance-free night out to replace your dart night at the club.

• Distract yourself by doing some new healthy activities with your buddy.

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CH emical

Your body may have a discernible physical response to the reduction or absence of a chemical in your bloodstream or craving for a dose. This state of withdrawal can be uncomfortable, and depending upon the substance, may be relieved with medications.

How you can respond: Starting today call, this kind of want a “craving.”

• If you’re gradually weaning before quit day, delay every use. (You’ll end up skipping some of them!)

• Decrease your dependence by gradually reducing your smoking. 

• Drink water as a way to help detoxify your body and give your hands and mouth something to do.

• Deep breathing is a great way to give your brain a fresh supply of oxygen and change the way you feel.

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EM otional

Intense emotional feelings or the absence of emotional stimulus (boredom) can cause urges to use. We’ve trained ourselves to use when we are stressed or want to avoid unpleasant emotional states.

How you can respond: Starting today, call this kind of want an “urge.”

• Deep breathing can help defuse these brief periods of anxiety, anger or even boredom.

• Distract yourself until these episodes pass—and make it fun! Try a crossword puzzle or handheld electronic poker game. Change radio stations, take a brisk walk or learn how to hula-hoop.

• Daily disciplines such as prayer, meditation and yoga can help you manage stressors in healthier ways.

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PS ychological

To some extent, anyone who knowingly participates in a behavior that causes harm has decided to allow harm to come to him or her. For some reason, we have compulsions to either cause harm or allow harm to happen to us. Smokers (as well as overeaters, alcoholics, etc.) might ask themselves why it’s acceptable for harm to come to them.

How you can respond: Starting today, call this want a “compulsion.” • Certain daily disciplines of a spiritual and/or emotional nature can sometimes help restore a healthier sense of self-worth.

• Dig deep within yourself to find answers and strength.

While it’s not necessarily comfortable to discuss and share personal spiritual beliefs, a focus there may be a way we can hope to become “slip-proof.” Some find that when they learn to see themselves differently it becomes easier to treat themselves differently.

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Good luck. This is hard work and you’re worth it. You deserve to be free!

 has helped countless individuals break out of the prison of addictions.

You deserve to be free.

You don’t need to do it alone.