One month sans cigs, and the addiction cure bookSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Thu, 01/13/2011 - 19:51
How time flies! It has been one month to the day without a cigarette for me. I smoked my last one on December 13th, 2010 after the Boston Tea Party. But thinking about them now awakens a faint craving within me. Just beyond the stretches of my imagination, I can almost feel the rush that a hit of the legal drug nicotine would cause to bloom thoughout my body and mind.
On any number of my past several dozen quit attempts, a feeling such as this would be my ruin. On one such quit attempt many years ago, I felt as if there were an unconscious force driving me against my conscious will. Almost like an out of body experience, I watched myself putting on my shoes, lacing them up and walking out the door like a zombie after a pack of smokes, all the while thinking to myself, "I don’t want to be doing this." Yet the actions of my body betrayed me. This is the powerlessness that people with substance abuse problems feel. That substance can be any number of things. For me it is nicotine. For others it is alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, shopping, sex, television, food, other people or even work.
I’ve been through this nicotine cycle dozens of times, and I was quit for 6-1/2 years, then let my guard down at the RNC in Minneapolis. After living the last 2-1/2 years as a nicotine addict, I finally got tired of myself, tired of the ups and downs, tired of being out of control, and tired of being a slave.
When I made quitting nicotine my New Year’s resolution , DPer takeaction recommended a book called The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure: A Holistic Approach to Total Recovery Even though I didn't think I would need it, I ordered a copy anyway, based on his enthusiastic recommendation. Having recently finished it, I concur. This is a great book.
The book is a father & son project of Chris and Pax Prentiss. The son, Pax, was addicted to heroin for a full decade, and his father, Chris, stuck by his side though the ordeal, searching for a way for his son to be healed. The stories Pax tells of those years are harrowing. At one point, he runs out of money and realizes that there is only one way to continue to feed his heroin habit: by jacking the hulking, tattooed, ruthless heroin dealers. In Chapter 3 he writes, "I knew what would happen if they caught me. I had seen people try it...they beat one guy I knew until he was unrecognizable, and then they shot him eight times. But in my mind, I thought this was a great idea."
Long story short, after jacking dealers three days in a row, he is caught and nearly killed. He gets his face smashed and jaw broken. Since he cannot afford the hospital bill to get his face fixed, he reaches out (once again) to his father for help. He is ashamed, and even more so when, immediately after arriving home from the hospital, he decides to do his last little hit of heroin that he had kept hidden. Just at the moment he lights his hit, crouched over a piece of aluminum foil, sucking in the smoke through his wired-shut jaw, his father walks in and sees him.
Amazingly, his father does not give up on him. He holds in his mind a vision that his son will be cured. Each time his son relapses, Chris asks him, "Do you know why you are using heroin?" Pax comes up blank every time, with no better an answer than, "Because I like the way it makes me feel." Eventually, after many more years of hell, and much more therapy, Chris discovers within himself the underlying issue and as a result, is cured of his addictive behavior.
Cured, you might ask? According to the modern medical definition of addiction, there is no cure. In 1956, the AMA declared alcoholism a disease, one for which there is no cure. This modern paradigm for alcohol is set in stone, has been transferred to other addiction treatment regimens, and is the basis for 12-step programs like AA.
The authors acknowledge that AA was revolutionary - for its time - and has helped millions of people. But they take issue with the idea that alcoholism is an incurable disease, and that those who quit are still branded as addicts forever (discussion pp. 134-37). This widely held belief, they claim, is responsible for the stagnation that has existed in the treatment of addiction for the last 70 years, and it is precisely this definition with which the authors beg to differ. Their philosophy is stated clearly on p.14-15:
You are not an alcoholic or an addict. You are not incurably diseased. You have merely become dependent on substances or addictive behavior to cope with underlying conditions that you are going to heal, at which time your dependency will cease completely and forever.
In other words, and what now seems almost obvious, addictive behavior of any kind is just a symptom of a deeper underlying issue. It is a coping mechanism. Alcohol (or, fill in the blank ____ [shopping, food, sex, gambling, nicotine, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, caffine, work, etc.]) is simply a quick, easy, self prescribed way to change ordinary, unbearable reality into something bearable. Dependency is a crutch for the reality challenged.
The key to curing whatever dependency one suffers from is addressing the underlying root cause, which the authors claim, are limited to just four:
- A chemical imbalance
- Unresolved events from the past
- Beliefs you hold that are inconsistent with what is true
- An inability to cope with current conditions
Identifying and treating the root issue won't necessarily be easy. You’ll have to do some digging, some self observation, and some serious soul searching. It took Pax 10 years. Chapter 7, the longest chapter in the book, is titled "Creating your Holistic Recovery Program," and makes for an excellent starting guide.
* * *
If you look around honestly, you may discover that most Americans suffer from some form of dependency. Obesity is a visible reminder. The Starbucks / Dunkin' Donuts on every corner is another. Caffeine may seem like a harmless addiction -- until one day you find yourself without your morning cup. In my neck of the woods, the drugstores on Massachusetts Avenue occur at intervals of approximately every mile. It is a profoundly sick society we live in, and as Krishnamurti put it, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
This being said, all mass social changes begin with the individual. In fact, it is the only way that such change is ever effected. Before thinking about spreading freedom, one must first ask the question of oneself. Are you yourself free?
And if you’re one of the lucky few (or at least think you are), who suffers from no dependent behavior whatsoever, Chapter 8 alone, titled "Your Personal Philosophy" is worth the price of the entire book. Not only does Chris give you the third simple step in the three step process of recovery, the personal stories he uses to illustrate this are incredibly memorable and I dare say life changing.
If you have been, are, or know someone who is suffering from an addiction or dependent behavior, and are looking for ways to change, I cannot think of a book that I would recommend more highly than this one.
As for me, I understand that urge for a nicotine hit is fleeting and temporary. With the passing of just a few moments, it is gone.
- - -
*Thanks to Qwerk, for suggesting the title of this piece. :)