The Doctor Speaks: Addiction
  

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By: Henry N. Williams, M.D.

Question: What is Addiction?

Answer: We all have a tendency to become addicted if we are human. Addic­tion to routine is common enough and saves us the need to think what we are going to do next. To turn to routine or ritual is to make the unknown future more bearable. And then there is our insecurity as to who we really are and what we should be doing. At one time psychologists ex­pressed it as a "sense of inferiority" but now we view it as not recognizing the power potential that each of us carry as children of God. Then there are those who seek the spiritual world through `wheatski' and other contributions of

Bacchus, and not our own spirit. Drugs may also be explored as a source of insight rather than looking into the depths within. Of course there is also peer pressure, and individuals we can blame, and the deeper and more pervasive curiosity that is not limited to our cats.

Question: How do you know if you are addicted?

Answer: Frequently the greatest problem is that we do not recognize our own addictions. 'The unexamined life is not worth living' has been attributed to Thoreau. We, like Narcissus, are en­tranced by our mask (persona) and have no desire to look for the underlying real­ity. There are cases where people recog­nize they are addicted and pull themselves up by they own boot straps. Most of us, however, need the help, reassurance and love of others to become balanced enough to face ourselves.

Question: If we are addicted, what can be done about it?

Answer: When asked about the pos­sibility of our being addicted, we tend to go through the same stages that Elizabeth Kuebler-Ross lists that those facing the specter of death pass through: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Ac­ceptance. Each addiction has its own small keys of healing. For many the Twelve Step Program of Alcoholiics Anonymous is applicable.

There was the farmer who loved to chew tobacco (and spit rust) who contin­ued to carry his "plug" in his pocket. When tempted, he would pull it out and ask, "who is stronger, you, plug, or me?" and put it back in his pocket.

However it has been pointed out that changing habits must be accompanied by changes in spiritual outlook and activity. Substituting chewing gum for a cigarette is not helpful for long.

This brings us to the fact that addic­tion is frequently associated with physi­ological changes. Our body, as the tem­porary cloak of our soul and spirit, gradu­ally modifies itself to accommodate the times we choose to eat or to sleep. Even our stomach enzymes change to handle the food we habitually take. Our pliant body even modifies itself to accommo­date our use of alcohol, drugs, and to­bacco. But it has limits in how far it can adjust, and tells us with symptoms when it has been pushed too far. In breaking any habit there may be physiological readjust­ments that give rise to "withdrawal symp­toms." Here, supporting personalities or groups play an essential role, and profes­sional help may be needed. Sensitive alternative practitioners may be most help­ful.

The tendency to become addicted is human, born of the challenge that life brings to replace our weakness with the strength inherent in us as children of one Father. May we become conscious of our potential, exercise it, and help others to do the same.

Ref: Invitation to a Great Experiment (Exploring the Possibility that God can be Known) Thomas E. Powers, Doubleday & Co. 1979





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