The first casualty of addiction is the truth. First I lied to myself about my addiction, then I began to lie to others. Sometimes I even knew in my heart of hearts that I was lying. Lying, evasion, deception, manipulation, spinning and other techniques for avoiding or distorting the truth became natural.
So how does a person who values honesty do that, you ask? One of the most effective ways I managed to reconcile that was personal exceptionalism which permitted me to reference the unique, special considerations that at least in my own mind- happened to apply to my particular case.
The form of logic for this personal exceptionalism is:
- Under ordinary circumstances and for most people smoking is undesirable/irrational;
- My circumstances are not ordinary and I am different from most people;
- Therefore smoking is not undesirable/irrational in my case - or not as undesirable/irrational as it would be in other cases.
Armed with this powerful tool of personal exceptionalism that is a virtual "Open Sesame" for every difficult ethical conundrum I faced, I was free to take whatever measures were required for the preservation and progress of my addiction, while simultaneously maintaining my allegiance to the principles that would certainly apply if only my case were not a special one. This is the basic mindset of "I can quit whenever I wish. I’ve done it dozens of times" and "If you had the problems I do you’d smoke, too!" plus “ I don’t smoke that much and it’s my only vice!”
My personal exceptionalism, along with my willingness to lie both by commission and omission in the protection and furtherance of my addiction, placed a severe strain upon my relationships with the people I cared about the most - my Wife and my Sons. It didn’t take them long to conclude that I simply could not be believed in matters pertaining to my addiction. I may have sworn that I was Smober and intended to stay that way when in fact I was planning to smoke at my first opportunity; I minimized and concealed the amount of Sickerettes consumed; and I made up all manner of excuses and alibis whose usually transparent purpose was to provide me the room it required to continue smoking.
Is it any wonder that my Family who first responded to my sincere sounding promises of reform with relief, hope and at times even joy soon became disillusioned and bitter? I managed to consider myself the victim of the unfairness and unreasonableness of those who were forever harping on my addiction and the consequences that flow from it. "Leave me alone," I would snap. "I’m not hurting anybody but myself!" I had become almost totally blind to how my addictive behavior did in fact harm those around me who care about me; and I had grown so confused that hurting only myself had begun to sound like a rational, even a virtuous thing to do!
As the addictive process claimed more of my Self and my World my addiction became my primary relationship to the detriment of all others. Strange as it sounds to speak of a dead leaf as a love object, this is precisely what happened. When my Family sensed their own secondary "less than" status in relation to the addiction - and despite my passionate and indignant denials of this reality, they were right: I did indeed loved my addiction more than I loved them!
The day I came to BecomeanEx I was desperate! I had virtually no computer skills, no experience with such things as My Space or Facebook, no knowledge of what I might find or if it would even help! All I knew is that I had a chronic, progressive, incurable smoking related illness. The thought that I might need education on Nicotine Addiction struck me as ironic! Who might know more about Nicotine than me, an Addict? And I already had decided what Recovery meant to me.
Recovery meant life-long deprivation. I envisioned year after year of desperately wanting but being unable to smoke. It ought to be no surprise to anyone that I chose to pass up the chance to embrace it. Thanks - but no thanks! Had I not been diagnosed with COPD I might still be lying to myself about Nicotine Addiction and Recovery.
It turned out that I had a lot to learn! First I had to learn to be brutally honest with myself. I had to admit that I would say or do just about anything just to get to that next puff! In other words, I had to admit that I am a hard core Addict!
I became aware that taking away isn’t the answer. The more important question is, “What will you do instead?”
I had to know that I wasn’t “hopelessly addicted” nor was I “able to quit (for awhile) whenever I want!” I had to make the tough knowledgeable decision that the physical withdrawal was just the beginning – the deepest hook was/is the psychological withdrawal and that doesn’t happen in a few days – it takes ….however long it takes!
As for personal exceptionalism, Yes, I am EXceptional but my Addiction is not. In fact, it’s rather ordinary, routine, predictable. You may even relate to most or all of it. And like all Addicts I have to follow the one governing Law of Addiction:
“Administration of a drug to an Addict will cause reestablishment of chemical dependence upon the addictive substance.”
I can be blindly led by this Law like the Law of Gravity which allows me to sit in this chair and type this Blog or I can learn to honor it in all of it’s complex ramifications.
I had to admit that I had put Sickerettes first before my Wife, before my Sons! I had to make amends – and sincerely mean it! No more “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” lies! I learned that if Sickerettes are my Best Friend, then people can’t be, now can they?
And little by little I reclaimed myself – one TRUTH at a time.
For awhile there, maybe even a long while, I thought of Tobacco as my Enemy. I don’t think that way anymore. Tobacco isn’t my Friend and it isn’t my Enemy. It’s simply a dead leaf wrapped in paper and dipped in thousands of chemicals. PERIOD. Nothing to Romance and Nothing to Fear! Nothing of Value whatsoever!
Here it is 5 Years later and I’m still learning because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH, To guide our feet into the way of peace. ( Luke 1 78-79) Recovery is truly the Gift from on High that gives more and more each Day, each Month, each Year – as long as we say, “Yes, Lord, Here I am!”
We all know the saying, The TRUTH will set you FREE! (John 8:32) And that’s EXactly what happened! Little by little I shined the light of Truth on all of those deceptions and replaced them with a fresh way of living. Recovery became nothing more or less than the recovery of LIFE itself. It is about reclaiming my God-given Self, not merely giving up Sickerettes. Addiction by its very nature is a form of bondage, even slavery. Recovery is the recovery of life, MY LIFE, and of freedom.
“FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' "But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.” (Matt 13:15-16)
I have been truly Blessed! Who needs a Dead Leaf?