Lately I’ve talked to a few people about giving up an addiction: a woman who smokes and another who drinks too much. While I was chatting with them about it, I realized one of the things that makes giving up the addiction even more difficult.
I remember my late wife, Claudia, had to take major pain killers, Vicodin and two triple prescriptions, for years to fight chronic severe pain. When that pain was gone, the underlying issues handled, she couldn’t kick the pain killers. I talked with the doctor and we came up with a plan. For 3 months I have her placebos, worked her down off the drugs until she was free from pain killers. She had not a single symptom of withdrawals, other than mild anxiety and some flu-like things. For 3 months after that, Claudia was free from all pain killers, at which time she told me perhaps it was time for her to get off the pain killers. I smiled and told her she had been pain killer free for months. At that moment, she went into severe withdrawals that lasted weeks… there was an emotional or mental addiction that kicked in.
Yes, there is the physical addiction, and that can be very difficult indeed to handle. The body kicks back and make you, and everyone around you, miserable for a time. But eventually the chemicals fade from the body and it goes away.
There is the mental addiction, the feeling that you’ve got to have it. As I found with Claudia, this can be very power indeed, and much more difficult than the physical addiction.
But what occurred to me as I was talking to my friends is there is what I shall call a “Social addiction”. You hang out with friends who drink, you go to places where people drink, and a lot of your life revolves around drinking.
So when you have to give up drinking, you find you may have to give up friendships, belongings, habits and other things that have very deep meanings to you, but you cannot continue doing them if you want to stay free of the addiction.
I believe social addiction is the reason why many people are able to kick their habit for a while, then go back to it.
And the loss of friends, of things and places treasured, may make the addiction very, very difficult to handle.