I’ve been asked why, if this page is called What…Me Sober?, I post stuff about smoking and other issues such as sexual addiction. So, I guess it’s time for a bit of a policy statement, or whatever you want to call it.
The American Society of Addiction Medicine says that “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
“Pathological pursuit,” in layman’s terms, means chasing something even though it should be clear that it’s nowhere nearly in our best interest. In short, acting out on a compulsion.
As far as I am personally concerned, “Sober” means free of compulsion. I don’t care if it involves booze, other drugs (including nicotine), shopping, overeating or anorexia, prostitutes, excessive exercise, hours in front of the computer looking at porn, or taking care of people who need to be taking care of themselves (codependency). If it is clearly bad for me and I continue to do it anyway — if every time I try to stop it doesn’t seem to work, or I find a reason to wait until later, or make other excuses — then I’m not sober.
And if that shoe fits, neither are you. And we both need to look at not only the behavior, but whatever it is that our behavior is helping us to hide from.
Note that I don’t include therapeutic drugs such as antidepressants and other psych medications. There’s a huge difference between doing something that improves your quality of life, after consulting with experts and giving it careful, sober consideration, and in compulsively giving in to the desire to do things that aren’t good for you. I do include, however, benzodiazepines, some sleep aids, and many other abusable but so-called “therapeutic” drugs.
So this blog is about sobriety. Some of us (I was one of them) put down the obvious drugs and behaviors, but fail to deal with other compulsions that are just as devastating in the long run. I have all the compassion in the world for addicts, of whatever kind, but I’m interested in the place where the “rubber meets the road,” not the muddy river that’s called denial. I swam in that polluted stream for far too long.
As they say where some of my friends hang out, “A drug is a drug is a drug.” Like it or not. And if what I’ve just written makes you uncomfortable, or pisses you off, you’re the one who needs to take a look at the reasons why, not me.
I’ve been sober for about 6 weeks. My therapist suggested that I try AA, so I decided to give it a go. The first thing I noticed at the threshold was the large gathering of cigarette smokers, a habit I had managed to kick last July and now see as really disgusting. The sad thing? When people in a meeting mention so-and-so dying of a smoking related illness. “It kills a lot of us,” one man said. These people may be sober, but they are not healthy and not free of addiction.