Saturday, August 1, 2015

Coping with Craves for Smoking in Recovery: A First Person Account by a Recovery Addict

On a warm October day, I hurried to class, manoeuvring around groups of slower-moving students. I checked my phone – fifteen minutes before class started, enough time to buy myself a cup of tea. Approaching the entrance, I smelled the faint scent of fresh cigarette smoke from a passerby. Then my eyes caught the posters featuring cigarette brands on the tea stall. All of the sudden, pleasurable memories wafted over me. I could feel the cigarette between my fingers and taste the hot smoke. I was experiencing a smoking crave.

What is a Smoking Crave?
The dictionary definition says a craving is a powerful desire. For me, craving an addictive substance. is a little different. I have a powerful desire, for example, to be able to support my family with the music I write and perform. But that desire is deep and unchanging. It is a life goal and a fundamental part of my personality and identity. The tobacco craving, on the other hand, is temporary, impulsive and extemporaneous from the rest of my existence.
We know that smoking is highly addictive. Mainstream science holds that cravings are a physiological phenomenon related to dopamine, the reward circuit of the brain and hormones. These powerful urges are also linked to memory and hunger. In fact, recent research suggests the same parts of the brain are active in food cravings and drug cravings.

Fighting the Craves for Smoking in Addiction Recovery
Fortunately, acute cravings do not last long – usually a matter of minutes. Distraction is a crucial tool when fighting the urge to give in. I experience alcohol and nicotine cravings, although the nicotine cravings are stronger. This does not mean it was harder for me to quit smoking (it was not). But for some reason, the short-lived, visceral desire to smoke strikes me more often than the desire to drink. Although I can’t explain the brain mechanisms behind this, to me, smoking felt more like an activity, whereas drinking was a way of life (and nearly death).
In addition, drinking for me was more about escaping and checking out than it was a source of pleasure. Smoking, on the other hand, had pleasurable effects. Perhaps that’s why those pleasant memory-laced thoughts of cigarettes return, even though I know smoking is deadly.

How I Cope With Smoking Craves
When a craving hits me, I like to address it. I take spiritual approach to recovery, but there is a secular corollary to the way I deal with cravings. When I start to think that a cigarette or a beer sound good, I pray to have the craving removed and for that thought to be replaced with a positive thought. In early recovery, when my cravings were more severe, I practiced a lot of distraction too. In effect, I employ a combination of prayer, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and distraction.

Shafa Home is a residential treatment facility and nasha mukti kendra offering complete and holistic treatment for Smoking Craves. We encourage you to contact one of our counsellors today if you are concerned about tobacco addiction..

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Alcoholism and Blaming

Whose Fault Is Alcoholism
When something goes wrong, when someone gets hurt, when we make a mistake we often look for the reason why or the cause of the problem. If you trip on a shoe when you walk into the house it’s natural to get frustrated with the person who left the shoe in the doorway and so we say, “I tripped because of what you did. It’s your fault.” If you are running late for a meeting and there is a slow car in front of you it’s not uncommon to get angry and blame the person in front for “making me late” or to take it personally and feel like they are driving slowly on purpose.
The same thing happens with alcoholics: they say they drink because of someone or something else. But the truth is only one person is responsible for their actions, for their drinking, and that is the person who is actually doing the drinking.  

I Drink Because…
Many children of alcoholics hear something like, “I drink because you do [blank].”
Whatever ‘blank’ might be in your house, when you hear something often enough and for long enough it is easy to start believing that it is true. Especially, when you’re young. Alcoholism is a disease with a great deal of denial, and so you are not going to hear an alcoholic say, “I drink because I am out of control,” or “I drink because I have unresolved pain and I’m self-medicating,” or “I drink because I just can’t help it and I don’t know how to stop.” Instead it’s easier to blame someone else, to make someone else the cause of the problem and that is exactly what happens.
Tripping Over the Shoes…Again And Again
Imagine again the situation where you keep tripping over the shoes that get left in the doorway. The first time it makes sense to be upset with the person who left them there. The second time maybe you are frustrated and irritated. The third time you probably need to remember to turn on the light so you don’t trip. You know the shoes are there, it’s your job to avoid them. The same thing is true for the alcoholics, their behavior, their actions, their choices are their own and the decision to drink belongs solely to them. No one can make someone else drink no matter how annoying the behavior or frustrating the situation.
But Alcoholism Is Not Your Fault
Just like with the shoes certain situations may be annoying, but we can ask people for what we need or we can learn other ways to cope with bad situations. You can tell the person who the shoes belong to that, “Every time I come home I trip over your shoes, please put them somewhere else.” You can go around the shoes, you can turn on the light. You can make a choice about how you deal with the circumstances in the same wayalcohol abuse in the family can start to become a pattern.  Maybe you got into a fight with your father and after that he had a drink to calm down. Now everyday when he has a drink he says it is because of you, he gets drunk because he doesn’t like your friends, your grades are not good enough, and you fight with your siblings – whatever. But your father, your mother, whoever it is has a choice in how they deal with the situations that are frustrating to them. If the choice they make is to drink, that is their decision, their action and only they can make it.
We Can’t Control another’s Start or Stop of Alcoholism
People often say that alcoholism is a baffling disease. There is so much that we don’t understand about preventing, treating or curing alcoholism, there is so much we don’t understand about what makes someone continue to drink when even they know that it is hurting them and the people around them.  And growing up in an alcoholic home can take years, decades, or a lifetime to come to peace with.
But we do know that it is a disease of the person who has it – no one but themselves is making them drink, no one but themselves can make them stop. We may feel bad when we have a fight with someone, we may feel like we are not doing the best we can do with our life and our choices, but what they do with their frustration, their anger, or their irritation is up to them. Sometimes it might feel good to think that if we were just a little bit better in whatever way we were supposed to we could make them stop, but we can’t; we can’t make them stop drinking, just like we can’t make them start!

Shafa Home is a residential treatment facility and nasha mukti kendra offering complete treatment for Alcohol Addiction. We encourage you to contact one of our counsellors today if you are concerned about Alcohol Addiction.