Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the Subject of Addiction

This was written on July 15th 2010

First I find it necessary to define what "addiction" is. defines Addiction as;
  1. A physical or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, such as a drug or alcohol. In physical addiction, the body adapts to the substance being used and gradually requires increased amounts to reproduce the effects originally produced by smaller doses. See more at withdrawal.

  2. A habitual or compulsive involvement in an activity, such as gambling.

webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines "addiction" as;
  1. The quality or state of being addicted <~to reading>

  2. Compulsive physiological need for a habit-forming drug (as heroin) - compare HABITUATION

Now the reason that I have decided to write on the subject of addiction is my own personal observations on the matter and this conversation that I've been having with my family members. It is my personal belief, and I do not mean to change anyone's mind by presenting my thought processes nor is it my intent to bring this subject forward to discussion, that addiction does not exist outside of the mind. I find that in saying that I must explain that the mind is not the brain, not the chemistry that makes the brain function. So to be clear I am not speaking of chemistry or body needs, I am speaking of the "mind" that can only be seen or spoken of as being metaphysical.

Once again, to be clear this is not being written to change anyone's mind, but mainly to further my own understanding of my thought processes and possibly enlighten some of those around me as to how it is that I think of things.

Now that is out of the way I must once again say that addiction, in my mind, is a false diagnosis. Not to say that the studies out there on addiction are a wasted effort or that people don't get "addicted" to substances or other habitual activities. Instead what I am trying to say is that everything in life is a choice, and it is my belief then that if addiction is to be describes as a physiological plague. Something that sucks you under and leaves you with little to no control I cannot find myself believing in the addiction. To me everyone has a series of choices from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep. You can choose if you wish to smoke cigarettes or if you think that because it's bad for you then you don't need to smoke them and don't want to.

There is no, "I'm addicted so I can't stop." You're using something that somebody else has defined to you to persuade your mind to work in a way that you believe it should. Or rather, as you have been told that your physiological needs should function. People all of our growing life tell us things about substance abuse and urban myths exist around every corner. It is your job as a human being to decipher these myths and find what is true for yourselves. There is something within your body, call it gut instinct if you will, that tells you when you should be trusting another person's "truth." For some people this feeling is stronger than for others I'm sure and I'm certain that for everyone you have to open your mind to this feeling rather than dismissing it regardless of how strong the feeling is.

Blaming your unwillingness to give up a substance or a course of action on "addiction" is hiding from yourself and your own truth. If you wish to believe in addiction that is your choice, but when you come to me and tell me that you're addicted to something, don't expect me to feel sorry for you at all. "You made your bed and you've got to sleep in it too." This is something my Uncle Chris said to me when I was six or seven years old and I'd been badly sunburned while at the waterpark and so I was to sit under the parasol and stay out of the sun for the rest of the day while everyone else had fun. I made the decision, consciously or subconsciously, to not put on sunscreen. Because of that decision I was unable to continue and enjoy the waterpark. This may seem unrelated at first but it is one of the things that I use for the basis of explaining decision making. It is my belief that nobody can reasonably argue with the idea that my decision to not put on sunscreen was my own decision and that that decision had consequences.

Now to things that are directly related to addiction; smoking and drinking. My first experience with alcohol was when I was rather young and my Uncle Chris allowed me to taste wine for the first time. I can still remember the taste burning my nose, the sip brought the bitter liquid into my mouth and for a moment it felt as if I'd inhaled water as the bitterness seeped into my nostrils as a burning sensation and burned slightly down the back of my throat. I didn't particularly enjoy the first sip but after a moment or two I could feel the pleasant tingling of the alcohol reaching my system. My next experience with alcohol was not nearly so intense, at least not in the vivid memory that I have of it.

At one of my best friend's birthday parties we had two kegs and a couple 5ths of alcohol. There was Jagermeister, Hennesy, Captain Morgan and a few others I don't remember. I drank enough that night that I was buzzed for the remainder of the night and all the way into the morning. I don't remember much of the burning sensation as the drinks slid down my throat, nor do I remember ever throwing up. I remember sitting on the couch that was supposed to be where I slept and all I could think about was how beautiful the stars above me were. Since that occasion I have drank, though never quite as much as that night, and I have never myself had a problem with alcohol being addictive. It is my personal experience that I was in control of whether or not I drank more, nobody could force me to drink more and I wasn't drinking more because I couldn't stop myself. Now certainly I haven't ever drank every day all day for a week nor do I party often enough that I've drank nearly as much as most of my peers, but still have yet to have any occasion where I couldn't say no to more alcohol. In fact, every time, other than the second time, I've ever drank I made the conscious decision to stop once I was buzzed and only on two occasions did I extend the length of my buzz by balancing my alcohol intake.

I'm not some miracle that can't get addicted to alcohol or has the willpower to refuse everything because I know that it's wrong. I've made my fair share of mistakes and I've dabbled in things I probably shouldn't have. But the fact of the matter is that I have made my decisions. Including my decision that when I turned eighteen I wanted to pick up smoking tobacco out of a pipe.

Now certainly how I'm going to explain this needs to be clear as two of the main reasons I decided I wanted to pick it up may be suspect. The first being that I enjoy the smell of pipe tobacco, it brings about a positive nostalgia for me which reminds me of the days when I was a child playing with Legos and nearby either my father or my grandfather was smoking their pipe. Of course they weren't always smoking when I was playing with Legos and I wasn't always playing with Legos when they were smoking, but the two together is what comes to mind when I smell the sweet burning of pipe tobacco. Now the second was the appearance of smoke itself, the thicker the smoke the thicker the curls. Smoke has always been aesthetically appealing to me, the way it softly floats, carried by the breeze slowly diluting and becoming wispier as it disappears.

So I picked up smoking my pipe when I turned eighteen, legally able to buy tobacco and I set out with the idea that even knowing smoking was bad for me, I wanted to do it. I know that cigarettes are more addictive as well as being worse for you according to many studies. The reason behind which is the high you receive, or rather the nerve stimulation and the amount of additives in the cigarettes in comparison to pipe tobacco.

Now, after having been smoking for one year two months and ten days, I have to once again say that I see no addiction appearing in front of me. I have gone many weeks at a time between smoking my pipe and on occasions I've also smoke my pipe for two weeks straight one or more times a day. Not once have I had the experience of inability to stop smoking or even have I had the experience of craving the nicotine. It has always been a conscious decision to pack my pipe and smoke the tobacco. I didn't start packing my pipe and then realize what I was doing, every time there was a "Do I want to smoke right now?" Then I would battle with myself for several minutes deciding if me wanting to smoke was because I was addicted or just because I wanted to smoke. Now pipe tobacco is not the only thing I've smoked. On occasion when I didn't want to make the trek all the way to the store where I buy my pipe tobacco from but had the want to smoke I would pick up a pack of cigarettes. I would smoke a cigarette, enjoy the aesthetic appearance of the smoke floating in the breeze and then toss the rest of the pack without a second thought.

Now maybe I am addicted and maybe my assumption about addictions are all wrong and I'm willing to listen if anyone wishes to persuade me on this matter. To be clear however, it is still my belief that addiction is a choice and that every time you pick up some substance that may overwhelm your nerves and create some sort of vortex that makes you always crave that experience again, you are making a choice.

No comments:

Post a Comment