Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Nature of Addiction

My mother quit smoking twenty years ago. Last month she quit Nicorette Gum. She always told me that nicotine was more addictive than heroin. She also told me that if I ever used heroin it would end up killing me. These cautionary words discouraged me from ever trying heroin, but parent modeling is stronger than words of wisdom; so for a period of my life I did smoke.

I fancied myself a social smoker; I smoked when I was out drinking with friends. I also smoked when I felt down or depressed, which made me feel even worse, both physically and emotionally. It allowed me to wallow deeply in a smoky cavern of self-loathing.

Call it denial, but I never considered myself a real smoker. I could get away with it, because whenever I felt myself getting sucked into the addiction, I quit. It usually took a few days with a migraine headache, but I was able to quit repeatedly without too much torture.

I would know it was time to quit when one of two things happened. One was when I started to have asthma attacks. I know you probably think it is crazy that a person with asthma would smoke in the first place, but the allure of that modeled bad/cool girl behavior was too tempting. I think that kids’ brains get subconsciously hardwired to do stupid behaviors like smoking when they are teen-agers if they have grown up around it. Of course peer pressure is huge, but I think parent modeling is even stronger.

The other way I knew it was time to quit was when I noticed my every thought being taken over by plans for having my next cigarette. I realized that I was expending an exorbitant amount of mental energy thinking about smoking. When was I going to have my next cigarette? Where was I going to smoke it? Will other people be able to smell it on me if I do it? Should I change my clothes or brush my teeth? Do I need to buy some more? Should I have just one or two? How about just one more? Etc, etc, etc ad nauseum, literally!

I realize now that this is the thing with addiction and I don’t care what the addiction is to; it could be to heroin, to food, to nicotine or even as the song says, to love. The thing with addiction is that it takes over your mental life. Ultimately, I found that fact more disturbing than the physical manifestations of addiction. I just thought that there were so many better ways I could spend my thoughts. Even if I didn’t actually smoke that often, I didn’t want to use up anymore mental space thinking about it.

So when my mom was agonizing over chewing her last piece of Nicorette Gum, I shared with her my thoughts on addiction and the mental space it takes over. She found this perspective illuminating and helpful and she suggested I blog about it. So here it is. I just hope that the cycle of addiction in my family is now broken, for my daughter’s sake.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

That's It!

Okay, that's it! After viewing those poor sick cows being brutalized on their way to the slaughter house on the Today Show, I am giving up red meat! I can longer bury my head in the sand, because of my love of steak or salted pork product. I can not consider myself a vegetarian yet, because I do not think I am ready to give up chicken or fish, but for now I will not let beef, pork, or sheep pass my lips. I have always known it was the right thing to do, but we do not always eat with rationality. If that was the case I would never finish a pint of Haagen-Dazs in one sitting. So for the sake of the environment, for the sake of the prevention of animal cruelty, and for the sake of my health; I am pledging to not eat red meat for the time being, until further notice. Care to join me for some ice-cream?