Sunday, May 15, 2011

Addicted to addiction

I currently spend time in 12-step houses needling patients who are recovering from addiction. Some come because they want to, some are sent by the courts to get clean. They come to receive 5 needles in each year; 5 points that help reduce cravings, detox their bodies, calm their nerves, quiet their minds, and help them sleep through the night.

What I'm not sure they realize is that we are the same. In the moment when I'm bringing each needle to a patient's ear, neither of us are using, and both of us are addicts. It doesn't matter that I have no drugs or alcohol in my system. We're all on a spectrum of addiction, and none is better or worse than the other. Whether it's heroin, crack, coffee, exercise, food, twitter, gambling, alcohol, sex, work, cigarettes, attention or approval, pick your poison. Addiction is a coping mechanism; we're all trying to cope with life (suffering: change, pain, boredom, depression, uncertainty), to understand it, to process it, to go on living with it. 

What addiction creates is a love-hate battle within ourselves. We love the way we feel when we "get our hit", and we hate ourselves for being weak, for not being able to control ourselves from giving in. What I think addiction does is remind us of our humanity, and that we are not in control of life. We have all the choices in the world, and yet we are not running this planet, and we can't survive on our own. Life is living us, rather than we are living life.

I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by German physicist Hans Peter Durr, who explained there is not a single atom that came into existence on its own, or for its own sake. Every single thing exists in relationship to something else. Day cannot be day unless there is night. Cold is not cold unless you know what hot feels like. I am not me unless you exist. We're designed to be connected - to be intertwined - with our babies, our mothers, with our lovers, our food, with the earth we live on. It's in our nature to create habits and patterns. When you feel satisfaction from an experience, our brain chemicals (serotonin, dopamine) say "that was nice, let's do it again", connecting pathways to remember it next time. As my friend says, "It's part of my personality and part obsession." 

If you come to me saying, "Can acupuncture help me quit _____?" I can show you the research supporting the evidence that it can help you quit, and craft a treatment plan designed for you. My ultimate goal in treating you, however, will not just be to end your addiction to X. My goal is to help you end the battle within yourself. I know that when I stop resisting and opposing myself, then I am more at ease in my body, I can see more clearly what I need and don't need, and I can surrender to the life that is living me.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for thinking of this, and putting it to not only words, yet beautifully articulated, and thoughtful language.

    The world of addiction, in my opinion, while greatly misunderstood, does as you have said live in all of us in our own unique way. Maybe if we could all take a moment to respect that this lives in each of us, we could connect more deeply to the connectivity you speak of here, and ease up not only on those around us, but ourselves as well.