What is addiction? How does it feel to be an addict? What does it look like? Is there a way out, a place BEYOND ADDICTION? These critical questions and the way we answer them make the difference between living a life enslaved to destructive behaviors and one of freedom and expansion.
Most people are familiar with addiction to drugs or alcohol, but addiction takes many forms and it is everywhere around us, all the time. At its very core, addiction is any behavior you continue to engage in despite the negative consequences it brings. If we take the time to really look at ourselves and at the world around us, we don’t have to look hard to see it. Addiction is the root of some of the biggest challenges our society faces today. For example, the medical pandemics of childhood obesity, type 2-diabetes and heart disease are preventable lifestyle diseases driven in large part by addiction.
As an addict you feel stuck, incapable of giving up that thing that you “need” to survive, to function. It twists your thinking, your experience of the world. Addiction leaves you lying to your friends, to your family, to yourself. Being an addict is like being in a small dark room where the only exit seems to be locked from the outside.
The truth is that there is a way out, a way BEYOND ADDICTION. Though neither easy, nor a road one travels alone, a life beyond the grips of addiction is very real. At one time I was stuck in that downward spiral, but after 21 years of recovery I am living proof that an expansive and vibrant life beyond addiction can and does exist.
In the east end of my city is a methadone clinic, a safe place where opiate addicts can ingest a less harmful substitute under the supervision of doctors and addiction specialists. This clinic is new, operating out of a pharmacy in a residential area.
Concerned residents, led by a university student who lives in the area, are outraged that a methadone clinic was opened without consulting the neighborhood, though it adheres to the city’s bylaw that clinics in residential areas serve no more than 40 people.
The group has taken to photographing the addicts as they come and go, which has, of course, created an environment of fear and shame among those who use the clinic, already prone, as addicts often are, to fear and shame.
These protesters insist that they’re only taking photographs so that “if crime increases,” they’ll have shots of the “likely criminals.”
The media story around this has inspired equal anger on the parts of many citizens, who have sent e-mails filled with threats and accusations to the protesters. An eye for an eye, it would seem.
Tommy Rosen is a California-based yoga teacher specializing in yoga for addiction and recovery. He has been on the path of sobriety for more than 20 years now, and he has found that the most powerful tools in healing from addiction are a combination of yoga, meditation and the 12-step recovery program. His biggest take-away for addicts is to reach out to their communities, as he believes that collaboration is the best method for healing. To learn more, visit TommyRosen.com.
Twenty years ago, as a freshly minted doctor, I swallowed the propaganda that doctors are invincible — that “MD” stood for “medical deity.” During my training, one of my surgical residents told me, “real doctors don’t do lunch.” I thought I didn’t need to follow the same rules of biology like everyone else. I believed sleeping, eating real food and resting were luxuries, not necessities.
In fact, even though I knew all about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle and had always exercised, I felt I could push the boundaries of my body. When I started my medical career, I worked 80-100 hours a week as a family doctor in a small town in Idaho. I delivered hundreds of babies, ran the emergency room, and saw 30-40 patients a day. Sleep was an afterthought. I ordered Starbucks coffee by the case straight from Seattle, bought an espresso machine and served up 4-5 espressos a day. I lived in a perpetual state of fatigue and pushed my way through on adrenalin.
We’re all programmed to like sugar, but new research shows that some people are genetically much more prone to sugar addiction than others.
As I noted in my previous blog on food addiction, science demonstrates that people can be biologically addicted to sugar and other foods in the same way people can be addicted to heroin, cocaine or nicotine. Bingeing and addictive behaviors are eerily similar in alcoholics and sugar addicts. In fact, many recovering alcoholics switch to another easily available drug: sugar.
Are millions of us born with a genetic defect that makes us produce too much stomach acid? Do we just have a major evolutionary design flaw that requires us to take powerful acid-blocking drugs to prevent heartburn and reflux?
I believe that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “no.”
At least 10 percent of Americans have episodes of heartburn every day, and 44 percent have symptoms at least once a month. Overall, reflux and heartburn (also known as GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease) affect a whopping 25 to 35 percent of the U.S. population! As a result, acid-blocking medications are the third-top-selling type of drug in America today. Two other drugs to treat reflux, Nexium and Prevacid, are among the world’s best-selling drugs and account for approximately $5.1 and $3.4 billion in sales annually.
Our government and food industry both encourage more “personal responsibility” when it comes to battling the obesity epidemic and its associated diseases. They say people should exercise more self-control, make better choices, avoid overeating and reduce their intake of sugar-sweetened drinks and processed food. We are led to believe that there is no good food or bad food — that it’s all just a matter of balance.