My name is ______, and I'm a "real" drug addict!
My name is John and I'm a "real" drug addict. Can you say that? Do you mean it? Do you believe it with every fiber of your being? If so, this admission can help protect and save your life. Why? Like a worn river bed, our brain is permanently grooved for relapse. Think about how many times each day that smoked nicotine satisfied wanting for more. We can no more erase those groves, those memory cell connections and associations, than we can forget our name. It's who we are.
First, it doesn't hurt one bit for this recovered drug addict to remember the consequences of allowing nicotine back into his brain. Frankly, free since May 15, 1999, other than dreams reminding me of my grooves, I have not had anything you'd consider a crave since November 2001. And even then it'd been months since my last urge. I live and work here on Easy Street, where my addiction's conscious daily chatter ended more than a decade ago.
Dependency science has discovered that the common link between all chemical addictions is that the brain's dopamine pathways are activated (stimulated) and eventually taken hostage. While the sensation accompanying each drug is different (alertness, drunkenness, euphoria, numbness, hyper-stimulation), our common bond is the wanting we feel for more. And let's not kid ourselves, satisfying wanting to smoke more nicotine is by far the deadliest addiction of all, killing more each year than all other drugs combined, including alcohol and prescription drugs.
My name is John and I'm a "real" drug addict. So, how is this admission protective? First, for the new ex-user, it destroys the need for the long list of lies we invented to try and justify that next fix. It wasn't about flavor, taste, love, friendships, boredom, coffee or alcohol, or because "you have to die of something!" It wasn't that we liked smoking, but that we didn't like what happened when we didn't: the onset of sensations of early withdrawal.
Acceptance also greatly simplifies recovery's rules. Like the alcoholic being unable to handle a sip, just one puff and up to half of our brain's a4b2-type acetylcholine receptors - the receptors that activate our dopamine pathways - become occupied by nicotine. We're not fighting a whole pack or even an entire cigarette but just that first puff. While true that most who lapse walk away feeling like they have gotten away with it, like saying your name, millions upon millions of brain cells associated with a lifetime of nicotine use memories, associations and wanting were just jolted, juiced and revived. And, sadly, it won't be long before your brain is wanting or even begging for more.
Most protective in admitting who I am is the protection afforded against complacency. Try to remember that little poem or song you memorized as a child or teen, one that you may not have recited or sang for years. Think hard. Did you find one? Just like our dependency grooves it's still there. Still remember the words? And that is exactly what happens living here on Easy Street. Eventually our dependency fades out of sight and, if allowed, out of conscious mind.
But remembering and admitting that I'm as much a recovered drug addict as I am John isn't a happy thought. Again, although it doesn't hurt a bit, it is rather sobering. It's also a reminder of what to expect should I relapse and use.
If a newbie, why tease yourself with the lie of "just one," "just once!" An educated turkey, you're smarter than that. As an oldbie, I pray that complacency never arrives, that I never forget who I am, that one equals all, that lapse equals relapse, that one puff would be too many, while thousands are never enough. Albiet a recovered one, my name is John and I'm a drug addict!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John - Gold x13