Someone at a meeting last night mentioned the “magic pill” that every addict has contemplated at some time, and it got me thinking. What if there really was a pill that could make our cravings go away instantly, never to return?
At first grin, that seems like a great thing — and, rest assured, there are a lot of people in labs all over the world who are looking for a way to do just that. What a wonderful thing for addicts that would be: a pill that takes our addiction away instantly, just as our addiction took away all our cares, worries, feelings and “stuff”!
But wait, there’s more! Just what would we do with all those “cares, worries, feelings and stuff’ then? We wouldn’t be able to cope with them any better than we could before we found our various ways to turn our brains off! The low self-esteem, lack of healthy coping skills, social anxiety, uncomfortable feelings and all the other stuff would, in time — most likely a very short time — totally overwhelm us. Our Magic Pill might be able to take away our cravings, but it wouldn’t make us any more able to deal with life. Life would suddenly reappear full force, and we’d be the same people who weren’t equipped to handle it, hauling along a PhD in Messed Up from our years of addiction.
As an old sponsor of mine used to say, “When I got sober, things didn’t get better right away, but they got real damn clear!”
Where would we be if all that repressed anger, fear, sorrow, abandonment, hate and the other feelings we deadened by our acting out came out of the closet and from under the bed without our having any way to deal with them? It’s not like coping skills appear out of nowhere when we get clean and sober; we have to learn them. They are what we develop in treatment, therapy and the first 9 Steps, and then “practice in all our affairs” with the help of our sponsors and other supports. Our busy monkey minds hate a vacuum. If we don’t have what we need to get past those old stumbling blocks, we’ll trip and fall. In order to lose the habits and behavior of addiction, we have to replace them with the habits and behavior of sobriety.
The problem with the pill would be the basic problems of addiction: (1.) we don’t like to work on all those uncomfortable things; and (2.) we want fast results. If we had a pill, we’d just take the pill. To hell with AA, NA and all the other A’s! We’d opt for the quick fix, and it wouldn’t fix us! Addiction is much more than physical craving for a drug or mood-altering behavior: it’s an unmarked path wandering through a maladjusted life.
The Magic Pill would be a help in the beginning, but it couldn’t be the whole answer. Unfortunately, many addicts and their physicians would likely assume that it was — with disastrous results. We need the tools and skills of recovery in addition to any other help. They’re finishing school. They get us ready to face “life on life’s terms.”
Without them…well, let’s just say it isn’t all that magical.