a) the way you’re feeling now,
b) the way you felt this morning,
c) the way you felt some other morning, or even
d) all of the above
for the last
And while you
might not think you’re chemically dependent, you are prone to
overdoing it. In fact, you’ve spent a big part of your life already
overdoing whatever’s been available to be overdone.
the substance you overuse is
c) pills, or
d) caffeine, sugar, and other dietary cheap thrills,
a lot lately about changing — scrapping the junk-food, junk-feeling
lifestyle you’ve gotten strung out on, in favor of something
simpler — and more real.
You’re exactly where
you need to be to create some value out of this pamphlet.
detoxifying from everyday chemicals — “hard” drugs
and “soft,” controlled substances and the ones that
plop out of machines in cans. Even the one(s) you’ve been using
for a while now.
In the sections
that follow, we’ll talk about ways to get off what you’ve been
on, and how to keep your spirits up and your defense mechanisms
down for as long as it takes for you to become yourself again.
What you do
from there is up to you — the real you. You remember him/her,
Sure you do.
The first step
in overcoming dependency is recognizing it for what it is. That’s
as true for a six-cup-a-day coffee habit as it is for a 12-pack-a-day
continual beer buzz or a 60 mg a day Valium addiction.
isn’t any different.
If it creates
problems in your life — in your relationships or job or feelings
about yourself — the substance you’ve been doing is really doing
The point we’re
making has nothing to do with the pharmacological properties
of specific substances.
And it’s not
meant to imply that dropping Drug A (say, crystal meth) is no
different than stopping Drug B (Jolt® Cola) in terms of risk,
nor is it intended to minimize the hazards linked to detox from
[In fact, we
strongly urge people with serious dependency issues — particularly
long-term use of alcohol, cocaine, depressants, or narcotics
— to consult a physician or treatment program before starting
any detox regimen.]
Still, we think
that there’s a lot that’s potentially useful in looking at substance
abuse as a generic problem: generic solutions, for one thing.
And see if any of the solutions we uncover are generic enough
to cover you.
recognition is a first step in getting your life back on track,
it’s worth noting that simply noticing a problem doesn’t make
it go away.
The next step
in resolving chemical dependency is to bring your use under control
— if you still can — or to quit using altogether.
And while there
are ways to contain a dependence on a psychoactive drug, there’s
only one way that’s guaranteed to erase it, and that’s to quit.
forms that quitting can take can vary, depending on a user’s
biological and psychological make-up, the substance(s) involved,
and the duration and extent of use.
high-octane coffee drinker might actually increase his or her
prospects for recovery by withdrawing gradually, while a cigarette
smoker or crystal freak might find it impossible to quit a little
at a time.
An easy way
to discover which way works best for you is to just quit.
interested in cutting your use down or cutting it out altogether,
it helps to discover the full extent of your involvement. And
the only real way to do that is to stop doing what you’ve been
doing and see what happens.
you go cold turkey or slip into abstinence a little at a time,
the ultimate outcome of detox is usually to stay off a substance
And doing that
takes a lot more than willpower.
It takes a
revolution — a real revolution of the body and mind and heart
and soul. And it’s aimed at a single goal: transforming the behaviors
and beliefs that became a habit which eventually turned against
..Deconditioning the Mind
The main battlefield
the revolution plays out on is in the hills and valleys and jungles
of the mind.
Your goal here
is simple: To become aware of the terrain and begin to reverse
the processes that contributed to your dependency.
linked to “serious” drug and alcohol abuse aren’t that
different from those underlying “ordinary” dependencies,
especially the tendency toward compulsiveness and a low tolerance
character traits doesn’t explain addiction or help much to stop
dependency once it’s started. That takes commitment and patience
— and intentional change.
Here are some
issues you’ll probably want to focus your intentional changes
Avoid situations that trigger
automatic responses, like hitting the bars during happy hour,
if you’re a problem drinker, or making detours past candy stores,
if you’re a chocaholic. Don’t think of it as a life sentence.
Think of it as the period on a life sentence.
Learn new ways to deal with stress.
Almost everything from biofeedback to meditation and visualization
techniques have been tried as anti-stressors and just about everything
works, if you do. Don’t know how? Check the public library for
books or video- or audiotapes on stress management, then get
busy at getting un-busy.
Develop a social support network.
Get tight with new people who can reinforce and support the changes
you intend to make. Rethink the role of drug-or-drinking buddies,
and decide whether they’re going to help or hinder your commitment
to change. If not, you’ll need to make changes there, too.
name for all this is deconditioning — breaking the stranglehold
of conditioned responses learned in the past, in favor of self-generated
choices more in line with the person you intend to be.
Yes. Easy? No.
simple truth is that deconditioning involves a conscious shifting
of focus from past to future, from what we were to what we will
be, from automaticity to awareness, from habit to choice.
It’s not always
easy — or comfortable. In fact, it could be the hardest thing
you ever do.
who’ve succeeded — and created major changes in their lives
— swear that it’s worth the effort.
when you consider the alternative.
..Reconditioning the Body
it is, deconditioning the mind is only half the story. Just as
important are the changes you may need to make to recover your
substances can wreak havoc on the body, and total recovery almost
always requires havoc de-wreaking. Here are some places to start
Vitamin supplements can play a huge role in the early stages
of detox to counteract nutritional deficiencies or metabolic
problems linked to an addiction.
though, are dietary changes aimed at correcting long-term nutritional
of what you may think (especially if your thinking on the subject
is defined by junk- and convenience-food TV ads), what you put
into your body has a real impact on how you feel and relate to
coined a word to describe the process in computers: “G.I.G.O.”
— garbage in, garbage out.
It’s the same
with any machine — and your body is a machine. Stop the flow
of junk that you load up with and you’ll see a similar halt in
the flow of junk out of your life — in the form of scattered
thinking and the roller-coaster emotions that come with the typical
high-sugar, high-fat American diet.
A diet better-suited
to recovery from almost anything is one that’s low in fat, low
in sugar, and high in complex carbohydrates. Other recommendations:
- Drink lots of water and avoid
coffee and soda.
- Lighten up on processed foods
and red meats.
- Eat natural foods, especially
fresh vegetables and whole grains.
Still not convinced?
If you heed
our earlier advice and head to the library for resources on stress
management, check out the nutrition section, too. Two great overviews
are Sugar Blues, by William Dufty, and The Hidden Addiction (&
How to Get Free), by Janice Phelps, M.D. and Alan Nourse.
activity is another key element in detox, since exercise conditions
the body at the same time it reduces stress and enhances mood.
Any type or
combination of activities will do the trick, but jogging, especially,
works wonders at dispelling detox-related anxiety.
your exercise program, start slowly and build up to a daily schedule
that you can live with — and stay with. Start each session by
stretching and end with a “warm-down” walk or more
If you’ve never
been particularly body-conscious, you may be surprised at how
much fun getting physical can be after a period of inactivity.
And if you’ve
been laying off jogging or working out for a time (while wreaking
all the aforementioned havoc on yourself), you may be surprised
at how far (and how fast) physical exercise goes toward getting
you back in the pink — and back in charge of your life.
beaten your addiction for a while, you may be tempted to prove
how far you’ve come by “handling” what you couldn’t
This is the last obstacle in the path of recovery and the place
where thousands of cool, smart, no-longer-recovering people went
down before you.
Why stay straight?
To develop your commitment to mastery in your life. Chemicals
— coffee or cocaine, ephedrine or ecstasy — are a mirror-image
of that mastery. Because they work fast, they make us think they’re
the magic in our lives, and the problem is that just isn’t true.
What is true
is that the last stage of detox and recovery involves making
the changes we’ve discussed part of who you are — not just some
of the time or whenever you feel the bottom’s about to drop out
of your life, but as a normal part of everyday life.
have to be a burden. In fact, it won’t be as big a burden as
some of the problems you’ve been through already. And it can
give the rest of your life the meaning you sensed was missing
Why not give
it a try? After all, you really don’t have that much to lose
— only a few
c) insecurities, or (more likely)
d) all of the above.
How many reasons
do you need?
..Sidebar | Wake-Up
Want to get
out of the rut you’ve been stuck in? Then get into a new rut
— one that you consciously choose, one that will even make the
world a better place. It may still be a rut, but you’ll like
it better than your old one. Just don’t forget to ask the desk
clerk in your head for an occasional wake-up call, at least until
you get over this darned amnesia.
Stuck for ideas?
Try some of these:
- Do what needs doing. Remember that candy wrapper you kicked
on the street the other day? Pick it up next time, and throw
it in the trash. When you do, you will have made the world a
better place by exactly one iota. It sounds small, but it adds
up. (Score 10 iotas for a broken beer bottle.)
- Smile. You’ve got bills to pay, bumper-to-bumper traffic
to contend with at rush hour, and a cold sore, but that’s no
reason to scare people with your face. If you really want to
change, start by smiling at how ridiculous and wonderful and
precious life is. It’s another small thing, but if you take care
of the small things, the big thingsyou know.
- Volunteer. Feel strongly about the spotted-owl?
Legal access to medical marijuana for AIDS patients? Saving the
rain forest? Connect with a local group that’s trying to do something
about it. If your interests are more general, call a local nursing
home or shelter-care facility to see who needs you. Somebody
does, and helping them will help get your attention off yourself
and onto something — or someone — who needs it more.
And it’s nice to remember, at
least once in a while, that life pays us back for the good that
we do with interest.