Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thoughts on addiction

I finished reading Jennifer Weiner's book, All Fall Down, last night.  She isn't an author I would have picked up if not for my book club.  I think I had sorta stereotyped her into "chicklit-lite," although this was based on nothing other than her novel title, Good in Bed.  Until now, I'd never actually read her stuff.

Anyway, All Fall Down brought up some interesting things to consider, especially in light of recent NPR broadcasts about the rate of suicide and drug abuse among white people ages 40-54(ish).

I jokingly refer to drinking on Facebook at times, which might give someone the idea that I imbibe often, especially during summer when my kids are with me or on snow days.  The truth is that I usually have 1-2 glasses of wine per week.  I buy 6 bottles of wine at a time (to get a 10% discount) and those bottles last about 3-4 months (since D will also have 1-2 glasses of wine per week).  If I go out and purchase a drink at a restaurant, I have 1 drink, and I always have food with that drink.  I know what I can handle, and it is not much.

When I think about why I am able to "control myself," I might like to think that it is because I've got such strong willpower, but it is probably just good fortune.  My dad's dad was a violent alcoholic, and I know that is why my father will not have more than 2 drinks.  For me, having a 5-day hangover at age 21 helped me realize that getting too far gone isn't fun.

But I also think I probably just don't have that addictive disposition.  Genetics are working for me, which is nothing I can control.  I never became addicted to cigarettes because I didn't like how they revved me up and made me feel jumpy.  It wasn't willpower.

My OCD, in a strange way, I think, helped/helps keep me off cigarettes and alcohol.  I am scared to death to get sick and die, so doing things that could lead to getting sick and dying aren't appealing.  My fear is greater than my need to numb myself, perhaps?

All sorts of thoughts ran through my head while reading this book, like

*why do some people refuse counseling?  (like Allison's husband, which if he had agreed to it, might have resulted in her doing things differently.)

*why didn't Allison ever think she might have anxiety (she seemed to worry an awful lot about fitting into uppity Haverford society), and if she had, could an antidepressant have kept her off painkillers?
(Of course, we learn something about Allison's mom that explains Allison's own choices a little better and helps us see a pattern.)

*overcoming addiction is a full-time job
(Although I personally know people who have become addicted to painkillers and gone through rehab, reading this novel helped me see how hard it must be to get off and stay off these highly addicted drugs.)

*addiction and stigma
I wish Allison had told people she was in rehab because this helps destroy the stereotype that addicts are poor, lazy, weak, uneducated, etc.  It is easy for someone without the genetic addictive disposition to think it is simple to quit, just as it is easy for someone without anxiety to tell me "Don't worry."  If I could just tell myself to stop worrying and stop, why wouldn't I have just done that????  The same goes for addiction.

Although fictional and probably a "lite" depiction of what addiction actually looks like in the real world, I liked how it made me consider my views of a life I am fortunate not to know.

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